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.


“Shockingly realistic” virtual cooking technology to revolutionise food

A technology that allows users to accurately simulate preparing food from scratch in remarkable detail is set to change a multitude of industries and activities around food.

Developed by Starship, the digital entertainment studio founded by games industry veteran Martin Kenwright that is also developing wearables for dementia sufferers, the technology allows users to interact with and cook virtual ingredients just as if they were using the real thing.

“We’re making cooking real – virtually real,” said Starship CEO Martin Kenwright. “It’s got all the interactions you can see with real cooking… using gesture control, there are people throwing things up in the air.”

With the technology, known as CyberCook, virtual ingredients behave in the same way as their real counterparts, with the same cooking behaviours as in real life, meaning users can accurately experiment with techniques and recipes without food waste.

“It’s so real, it’s accurate: look, feel – stuff burns, stuff cooks,” Kenwright explained, describing how users were “able to interact with hundreds of ingredients and [create] infinite arrays, just like real food without the mess.”

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With such a prestigious gaming background, creating next-gen graphics has been an important part of Starship’s development of CyberCook.

“People thought it was out of a magazine. No, some coder’s just stirred that up and poured it in a plate from raw vegetables,” said Kenwright.

“We’re using some of the best rendering techniques in the world – stuff used in Lord of the Rings – like sub-surface scattering and texture and all physical-based lighting.”

However, Kenwright is holding back on some CyberCook details at present, and said that the “full reveal” would happen within a month or two.

“The real secret of this is we want to keep under wraps what the platform is, but it’s the biggest jump in the sector since CD-ROM,” explained Kenwright. “You’re not looking at something, you’re not watching the video, you’ll actually be doing something that’s never ever been done before.”

“When you see the magic secret you’ll get it straight away,” he said. “There’s not one single kind of proposition like this in the world, in that let’s just create the first cooking platform that can allow people to make things and share them.”

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Kenwright believes that the technology will have a major impact not only within the consumer space, but across a range of industries as well.

“It will change the way education is done, it will change the way the format is done of teaching people – and that’s the real clever bit, it’s not the 3D simulation, which everyone thinks is amazing, it’s actually the structure of what we allow people to do with it,” he said.

He also believes the technology will have uses within the health and retail sectors.

“At the end of the day, food underpins all of the health sector – you are what you eat – and the same with retail: it’s all about food,” he said. “So the idea is creating this five-year vision; Starship being one of the biggest players in these sectors.”


Images courtesy of Starship Group.