Virtual reality is one of those tech dreams that always seems like it's just around the corner. My first experience with it was way back in 1995, with a VR FPS game that required wearing a heavy helmet to look at a computer-generated (and quite primitive) battle scene. It always made me semi-nauseous and gave me a minor headache. Fast-forward to 2016, and we have a lot of high-resolution VR headsets that are either available or to be released soon. For those who want to dabble in VR without the expense of one of those headsets, take a look at the DODOcase P2 Virtual Reality Cardboard Pop-Up Viewer ($25.00, on sale today for $17.50).
Yep, it's made out of cardboard. If you haven't heard of Google Cardboard, that's the low-cost VR headset toolkit that the P2 is based on. It works with just about any smartphone; I have an iPhone 6s Plus and it fit into the P2 although I couldn't use the top Velcro to "close" the top without turning off the phone.
Why my interest in virtual reality if it used to give me headaches? Well, it's been getting better for years, and it's now quite simple and affordable to create your own VR imagery. In this month's MyApple Magazine, I've published an article about the Ricoh Theta S camera (US$346.95, affiliate link). The Theta S snaps 360° spherical photos that can be viewed in the Theta S app, in Google Street View, or in a number of other VR apps.
When you're viewing a photo sphere in Google Street View, for example, there's a Google Cardboard icon that you can tap to get the split images that you need to view the app with the P2 Pop-Up Viewer or any other Google Cardboard viewer. Since I take a lot of those spherical photos, I was excited to try out the P2 and was very pleased with how it worked.
While you can't exactly call the P2 Pop-Up Viewer a "precision optical instrument", it's exact enough that you can -- with a few minor adjustments -- get an amazingly realistic view of whatever you or someone else took. By panning your head or body around, the image moves so that you can see what's around, above, or below you. It's surprisingly "real" and has a very 3D look. Best of all, the P2 Pop-Up Viewer folds down and can be stored in a tiny cardboard sleeve, so it doesn't take up space if you want to take it with you.
By the way, you don't need to have a $350 camera to take spherical photos -- the same Google Street View app lets you make your own photo spheres and upload them to Google Street View ... for free! However, the images taken with the Ricoh Theta S and other spherical cameras take the photo sphere in one shot, meaning that there's no chance of having "seams" in the images as you get with the stitched-together spheres done with Google Street View. With the investment in the DODOCase P2, you can start taking and viewing your own virtual worlds.