Earlier this year Google blew our minds with Cardboard, a $25 do-it-yourself virtual reality headset that works using the display on pretty much any Android phone. We’re not expecting Apple to offer its own version of Google Cardboard anytime soon, but luckily there’s no need to wait. One new project on Kickstarter is offering an VR headset that works with your iOS device at an extremely affordable price.
For just $49 AirVR will turn your Retina iPad mini or iPhone 6 Plus into a virtual reality machine. The headset itself uses a simple design and some clever software for a totally hands-free and wireless experience. Just slide your device into AirVR and you’re good to go.
The design itself features ergonomic foam pads and a nylon strap. There are also three cutouts for your iPad or iPhone screen to shine through, including two main holes for your eyes and a third strip along the bottom of the screen with a series of buttons for controlling the virtual reality experience.
That’s it. Everything else comes from your iOS device. AirVR uses the GPS, digital compass, wireless networking, microphone, speakers, and cameras included in your iPad mini and also takes advantage of the iPhone 6 Plus’ barometer and proximity sensors. The design also leaves all your iPad or iPhone’s ports uncovered so you can plug in headphones, a gamepad or any other accessory. You can even fire up a virtual game controller app for your smaller iPhone or Android device and sync it up with AirVR.
The company behind AirVR has already developed three basic apps to show off the technology. PhotoVR offers a new way to browse through your photos, organize them and take new ones. MovieVR lets you watch 3D video, HD movies or even content off YouTube in a virtual movie theater. There’s also PanoramaVR for exploring 3D spaces, and you can even create your own with Apple’s panorama photo feature.
The real fun will start when developers start working on their own apps for AirVR. The company is also pushing augmented reality as a key selling point. Using your iPhone or iPad’s built-in camera and printable AR stickers any third-party developer should be able to get onboard. Another cool feature is the ability to use two apps at once with AirVR’s side-by-side view.
For just $49 and the price of shipping you can pre-order a copy of AirVR today on Kickstarter, though it won’t ship until December 2014. Starting early next year the company will start selling its VR headsets directly online, where you’ll be able to pick from a variety of colors. Even further down the line we might also see versions of AirVR for Android devices and Microsoft’s Surface tablet hit the market.
Considering how easy it should be to manufacture AirVR the company says there’s no real risk of delays for its Kickstarter pre-orders. The only thing worth worrying about is that there won’t be any cool apps to use beyond the ones AirVR already offers, but considering how many developers prefer working with Apple devices we’re not too concerned about that either.