Google Cardboard Camera App Expands VR Experience - InformationWeek

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Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
12/4/2015
02:05 PM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Commentary
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Google Cardboard Camera App Expands VR Experience

Google has released its Cardboard Camera app, which looks to bring the company's VR experience to Android-based smartphones.

Google's Android Event: Pixel Tablet, Served With Marshmallow
Google's Android Event: Pixel Tablet, Served With Marshmallow
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Google is giving an extra dimension to its Cardboard VR viewer with the release of its Cardboard Camera app, which promises to turn the user's smartphone into a virtual reality device.

The Android-only app was announced on the Google blog Dec. 3 by Carlos Hernandez, a software Engineer for Cardboard Camera.

The Cardboard Camera app will capture a 360-degree view photo when the smartphone is rotated, and replay it as a 3D scene in the Cardboard viewer, according to Google. Sounds are also captured and replayed when the scene is viewed.

Images seem to range from about 4MB to 10MB, and are output in .JPEG format. There is no current way to share the output of the app.

The app only works from left to right in a portrait mode, with no up-and-down viewing possible.

(Image: AlexAndrews/iStockphoto)

(Image: AlexAndrews/iStockphoto)

The 33MB app requires Android 4.4 or higher to work. However, it requires no account signup to function. Right now, Camera is available on Google Play, and the company finds that it has been downloaded between 1,000 and 5,000 times so far, and it's only been available since Thursday.

Initial reviews for the app -- listed as version 1.0.0.109049836 -- on the website have been generally positive, generating a 4.6/5 rating.

One user, while giving it a five-star rating, wondered about its focus. As he put it, "I'm not sure how this is different from the surround shot mode on my S6 + Google cameras. They do 360° pics in 3D too."

Other users found glitches as well: "My only complaint is that it has some weird bugs, like sending my phone to the lock screen while processing as well as making my whole phone unresponsive until it's done."

Another said, "It hasn't completed a full 360 yet for me. It says so but cuts out part of the scene. S4 on 5.0."

Still, those users still rated it as five stars.

First introduced in 2014, Cardboard has always been focused on the low end of VR experiences. It has a very low cost of entry to it, compared to alternate systems.

Google encouraged development by providing an SDK for it based on OpenGL. The SDK deals with common VR tasks such as lens distortion correction, head tracking, 3D calibration, side-by-side rendering, stereo geometry configuration, and user input event handling.

[Read what Amazon is doing with AR.]

However, even though Cardboard looks to democratize the VR experience, it may also serve to give users a poor first impression of how virtual reality works, especially when the technology is paired with a much more sophisticated system.

Yet, there is a pull from businesses like the New York Times with its NYT VR app to jump on this low-end platform. The app uses about 150MB of images for a 5-minute movie, allows up and down viewing along with side -to-side, and can be used on a smartphone even if the Cardboard viewer is not present.

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Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet ... View Full Bio
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kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
12/21/2015 | 10:07:46 AM
Stumped on uses
I'm not sure of the potential uses for this on the low end spectrum. If it renders a 3D area, that's interesting, but to what end? If I want to see a 3D version of my living room I need a smartphone to do it. (Especially if I want up and down and not just left right viewing.) THe things that come to mind for uses are crime scenes and interior decorating. I would hope police departments would have more to spend on devices that help solve crimes and it's kind of overkill for design purposes. Has anyone used this or have a great idea they want to use it for? 
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
12/16/2015 | 7:27:48 PM
Re: Reviews are good
Yeah, the camera is the input for the viewer.
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
12/16/2015 | 5:06:31 PM
Re: Reviews are good
The Cardboard Camera app will capture a 360-degree view photo when the smartphone is rotated, and replay it as a 3D scene in the Cardboard viewer, according to Google. 

Ah, now I get it! I was wondering why it didn't make sense. This part didn't register in my brain. lol
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
12/7/2015 | 4:32:16 PM
Re: Reviews are good
It's made out of cardboard , that's why
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
12/7/2015 | 4:00:44 PM
Re: Reviews are good
And I wonder why it's called Cardboard. Seems banal and ordinary. Where do they come up with these names? Probably in production or creative meetings at which point they are a joke and then the joke sticks and they end up using the name....
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
12/7/2015 | 3:38:42 PM
Re: Reviews are good
Well, it wont add to a reality like AR does.

It replaces it. So, all the content is on the screen; not in front of your eyes.

I'm wondering where it's useful in this lowend form.
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
12/7/2015 | 3:22:45 PM
Re: Reviews are good
I would think it would have similar applicable uses as 3D printing. So, good for the medical, architectural, engineering fields. Maybe retail.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
12/5/2015 | 11:20:05 AM
Re: Reviews are good
OK, but what would you use it for? Business or personal pictures?
CookB
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CookB,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/5/2015 | 7:53:40 AM
Reviews are good
I have not used this Google Cardboard Camera App , but I have seen some picture on Internet and read some reviews which are quite positive, so I would love to use it myself.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
12/5/2015 | 5:23:13 AM
Re: May I have a try?
Not yet
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