When Google first launched its Cardboard VR headset it was very much ‘dipping its toe in the water’. They didn’t invest loads of money in it, almost to the point of not taking the whole thing very seriously. They weren’t really that interested in it. It was little more than a side-project; the kind of thing that major tech companies do all the time to ‘fly a kite’ and do a very basic market test. Well, that is not exactly how it played-out. The ripples created by that little toe in the water have energized an entire industry. Google Cardboard has become THE go-to gateway virtual reality headset for anyone looking to check-out the reality behind the hype around virtual reality.
Google Cardboard- Simple by Design
It’s not that no thought went into Google Cardboard. It was always intended to be a low-cost, straightforward, unintimidating piece of kit. Basically, it pulled-off a pretty rare double; successfully marrying its intended market placement with the resulting reality. It is really easy and really cheap for anyone with a Smartphone or iPhone to try-out VR- and that’s thanks to Google Cardboard. Whatever phone you’ve got in your pocket, the chances are it will work with Google Cardboard- and you can get any number of compatible apps from the Google Playstore.
Further, in keeping with Google’s ethos of taking technology out to the masses, Google Cardboard’s design is open-source; so you could, literally make one on your kitchen table- they’ll even tell you how!
Now, when you look at the Samsungs, the most obvious and most immediate difference is that there are many phones out there in the marketplace that neither the Gear nor the Odyssey will actually work with. As in, if you’re not using a Samsung phone, then you can forget about using their Gear or Odyssey headsets.
That said, if you are using a Samsung phone, then the gear is getting right up there in terms of accessibility. Working with Oculus, Samsung packed the GearVR with great functionality. Zoom and volume functions are controlled via the headset, so there’s no fumbling around with the phone docked inside or some random remote control and it has a dedicated app via Oculus, which you can get in the app store. Of course, the more dedicated the kit is, then the less flexible it is. Also, there is the price, which comes in at over 5x that of Google Cardboard- and that’s without allowing for the preponderance of Cardboard freebies floating around.
Well, there is no denying the Odyssey’s place in the pantheon of ‘Virtual Reality Headset Greats’. Right at the top-end of the price scale, there are plenty of upgrades to justify handing the cash over. Probably the most significant improvement, which really does set it apart, is in terms of image quality. In the first place, they have increased the resolution markedly. When you’re talking about a 5 inch screen, adding another line of pixels is not anything to write home about, but when it’s right across your entire viewing field, the improvement is tangible. Along with that, they are using an OLED rather than an LCD screen. This increases colour definition and makes for smoother ‘motion’.
So, basically, not unusually, it all pretty much comes down to cost- and what brand of phone you’re using. If you haven’t got a Samsung, the Gear and the Odyssey are complete right-offs- unless you want to go out and buy a Samsung phone, so you can access their VR headsets, of course. For flexibility, it’s got to be Google Cardboard- it works with virtually anything. The better the phone, the better the output, but whatever you’re using you can give it a go.
In terms of cost, the Google Cardboard is virtually cost-free. Even its list price is just 20% of what the Gear would cost- and less than a tenth of what the Odyssey will set you back. There is added functionality with the Gear and significant improvements in output with the Odyssey; it’s just a matter of how much that is worth to you.
If you’re a business, of course, Google Cardboard is the only game in town for branding and promotional purposes; cheap and cheerful suddenly becomes cost-effective and eye-catching. But, if it’s all about cost v performance, then just do what everyone else is doing; check out virtual reality on Google Cardboard and then upgrade if you think it’s worth it.