Google was recently granted a patent for a phone packaging box that can also act as a head-mounted display for virtual reality (VR) purposes. The Mountain View-based tech giant initially applied for the patent over a year ago and publicly released its contents last month. The documents describe a product that looks similar to the Google Cardboard, with the exception of also being able to serve as a packaging box.
The invention was presumably designed to provide an entry-level VR experience to people who purchase a compatible smartphone and are reluctant to invest in a more expensive VR headset like the Samsung-made Gear VR or Google's own Daydream View. The product seems to be an improved version of the inexpensive Google Cardboard headset that the Alphabet-owned company debuted back in 2014. Since launching its first VR headset, Google has seemingly been investing resources into somewhat more expensive solutions like the Daydream View headset, though the company still isn't abandoning its original product. While speaking at the latest iteration of Mobile World Congress (MWC), Google's Vice President of VR Amit Singh said that the company shipped ten million Cardboard VR headsets to date, thus almost doubling its total shipments in the last seven months. Singh also said that Google still plans to pursue its initiative to bring affordable VR hardware to as many people as possible in addition to its other related ambitions, and the patent outlined above seemingly gives more credence to that sentiment. Some sketches depicting Google's invention can be seen in the gallery below.
While interesting, the idea of turning a packaging box into a simple VR headset isn't completely novel, as even McDonald's has been experimenting with a similar concept for over a year now. Entry-level products like the Google Cardboard aren't particularly durable and can hardly stand the test of time, but they're still a viable option for people interested in experiencing this emerging technology without parting with a significant sum of money. Naturally, the fact that Google patented such an invention doesn't automatically mean the company is planning to commercialize it in the future, but more details on that front will hopefully be available shortly.