Google Cardboard brings virtual reality and pizza to the masses

Google caused quite a stir earlier this week when it announced its build-your-own virtual reality headset made of cardboard. Simply assemble the viewer using magnets, lenses, Velcro, cardboard and a rubber band and insert your smartphone as the screen that makes the magic happen.

Just a few days after Cardboard’s release, many people have already tried out the method and experienced VR in the comfort of their own homes.

However, Google Cardboard is not the first attempt to make VR accessible to a wider audience. Altergaze, a 3D printed VR headset, generated buzz through its Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.

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Though 3D printing makes the Altergaze headset much more affordable than high tech PC-based systems such as Oculus Rift, Google’s use of cardboard offers a whole new level of cheap.

Now that devices such as Altergaze and Cardboard are bringing VR technology to the masses, what can we do with it? How will the new availability of VR change our everyday lives?

Novelty factor aside (virtual reality in a pizza box!), Cardboard and other affordable VR headsets have many practical applications. Gaming is perhaps the most obvious use, as they have already been developed in conjunction with video game systems to fully immerse players in fictional worlds.

Beyond games, Altergaze creator Liviu B Antoni sees a whole new frontier of uses for accessible virtual reality viewers.

“360 degree films, immersive panoramic images from your holiday, virtual reality social networking, architectural presentations, VR experiences for public spaces like museums or social events are just a few examples of what the wireless and affordable VR headset has to offer outside the games industry,” he says on Altergaze’s Kickstarter page.

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Indeed, the use of VR in films, theatre, and other areas of the entertainment industry will be transformative.

Going to a cinema could become completely unnecessary as a film experienced in virtual reality would be the same on a home headset. Attending a theatrical performance could simply entail putting on VR goggles to watch the production as if you are actually sitting in the first row.

Not to mention the educational and medical applications that will arise from more frequent use of virtual reality. Children could study the cultures of other countries by exploring cities through a VR viewer.

Medical students could practice surgeries and gain experience before they ever operate on a real person. Doctors and patients could see the human body on a cellular level to decide proper treatments.

These various uses are just a starting point. The number of ways we integrate this technology into our lives will only continue to grow as more and more people order a pizza, fold up the box and realise the potential of virtual reality.


Featured image and first body image courtsey of Google, second body image courtesy of Altergaze.


DJI’s First Drone Arena in Tokyo to Open This Saturday

Consumer drone giant DJI will open its first Japanese drone arena in the city of Tokyo this Saturday, providing a space for both hardened professionals and curious newcomers to hone their flying skills.

The arena, which covers an area of 535 square metres, will not only include a large flying area complete with obstacles, but also offer a store where visitors can purchase the latest DJI drones and a technical support area where drone owners can get help with quadcopter issues.

The hope is that the arena will allow those who are curious about the technology but currently lack the space to try it out to get involved.

“As interest around our aerial technology continues to grow, the DJI Arena concept is a new way for us to engage not just hobbyists but also those considering this technology for their work or just for the thrill of flying,” said Moon Tae-Hyun, DJI’s director of brand management and operations.

“Having the opportunity to get behind the remote controller and trying out the technology first hand can enrich the customer experience. When people understand how it works or how easy it is to fly, they will discover what this technology can do for them and see a whole new world of possibilities.”

Images courtesy of DJI

In addition to its general sessions, which will allow members of the public to drop by and try their hand at flying drones, the arena will also offer private hire, including corporate events. For some companies, then, drone flying could become the new golf.

There will also be regular events, allowing pros to compete against one another, and drone training, in the form of DJI’s New Pilot Experience Program, for newcomers.

The arena has been launched in partnership with Japan Circuit, a developer of connected technologies, including drones.

“We are extremely excited to partner with DJI to launch the first DJI Arena in Japan,” said Tetsuhiro Sakai, CEO of Japan Circuit.

“Whether you are a skilled drone pilot or someone looking for their first drone, we welcome everyone to come and learn, experience it for themselves, and have fun. The new DJI Arena will not only serve as a gathering place for drone enthusiasts but also help us reach new customers and anyone interested in learning about this incredible technology.”

The arena is the second of its kind to be launched by DJI, with the first located in Yongin, South Korea, and detailed in the video above. .

Having opened in 2016, the area has attracted visitors from around the world, demonstrating serious demand for this type of entertainment space.

If the Tokyo launch goes well, it’s likely DJI will look at rolling out its arena concept to other cities, perhaps even bringing the model to the US and Europe.

For now, however, those who are interested can book time at the Tokyo arena here.

Commercial Human Spaceflight Advances Prompt Calls for Space Safety Institute

Commercial human spaceflight has been a long-held dream, but now it is finally poised to become a reality. Companies including Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are inching ever closer to taking private citizens into space, and there are serious plans for spaceports in several parts of the world, including Hawaii, the US, and Scotland, the UK.

But while the industry is advancing, the legal side of this fledgling commercial space industry remains underdeveloped, leading to calls for the development of an organisation to establish a framework for the safe operation of spaceports for human commercial spaceflights.

Writing in the journal New Space, Mclee Kerolle, from the United States International Institute of Space Law in Paris, France, has proposed the establishment of a Space Safety Institute recognised by the US congress and the United Nations.

This institute would “develop, enforce and adopt standards of excellence”, allowing the industry to develop while protecting it from liability and insurance risks.

“Currently, no international regulatory body exists to regulate the operation of spaceports,” he wrote. “This is unfortunate because while the advent of commercial human spaceflight industry is imminent, a majority of the focus from the legal community will be on regulating spaceflights and space access vehicles.

“However, the regulation of spaceports should be viewed in the same light as the rest of the commercial human spaceflight industry.”

The article focuses particularly on the establishment of a spaceport at the Kona International Airport in Keahole, Hawaii. At present, the spaceport’s development is subject to regulation by the Federal Aviation Authority, however there are aspects to spaceport development that do not apply to conventional aviation operations.

A spacesuit design for commercial flights developed by SpaceX. Featured image: SpaceX’s proposed spaceport for its conceptual interplanetary transport system. All images courtesy of SpaceX

The institute would be designed to first and foremost ensure safety within the industry, so it would be important, according to Kerolle, to ensure it was made up of individuals with expertise in the field, rather than bureaucrats.

“To make sure that this flexibility is inherent in a Space Safety Institute, the organization should be composed of individuals within the industry as opposed to government officials who are not familiar with the commercial human spaceflight industry,” he wrote.

“As a result, this should protect the commercial human spaceflight industry to some liability exposure, as well as promote growth in the industry to ensure the industry’s survival.”