Google Cardboard was one of my favorite things to come out of Google’s I/O conference held earlier this year. While it was obviously outshined by announcements of Android L, Android Wear, Android Auto, and others, the cardboard goggles given to this year’s attendees were a pretty clever idea, born from a 20% project of two Google employees in Paris. The kits given out unfolded and could be assembled into a headset utilizing your smartphone as a stereoscopic display, giving the user a virtual reality (VR) experience. With the downloadable Cardboard app, users could view Youtube on a massive screen, view cultural artifacts in a 360° view, and enjoy other VR material. Google also offers an SDK for download that enables developers to easily create VR software for Android handsets.
Volvo appears to be the first major company to take advantage of the great potential for brand advertising here and is releasing a new app that will take advantage of the Google Cardboard headset. The Volvo Reality app offers users an immersive virtual test drive of Volvo’s newly redesigned XC90 SUV. The Swedish auto manufacturer is releasing VR test drives in “episodes” showcasing what it’s like to drive the XC90 in varying conditions and environments. If you don’t already have a Cardboard headset, DODOcase sells a nice kit you can assemble. Volvo will also be offering their own specially-branded version of the headset, so users have several ready-made offerings to choose from, in addition to simply making their own.
While Cardboard certainly isn’t Glass, it’s at a much lower cost of entry to virtual reality development, utilizing smartphones that are already in people’s hands, and relatively low-cost materials. It’s not quite at the level of other VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift or Sony’s Project Morpheus, but it does offer users a pretty good glimpse into the world of immersive content. We’ll undoubtedly begin to see more companies take advantage of emerging VR technology, especially on mobile devices. It’s interesting to see what other uses the Cardboard headset and other VR platforms will develop as the technology matures. Do you think VR technology as an advertising platform is viable now, or in the future? What other uses for mobile VR technology like Google Cardboard or Samsung’s Gear VR are you interested in? We want to hear from you!