Google Cardboard is a great, affordable way to experience virtual reality for yourself, but that cardboard material means it’s not exactly comfortable for extended use. Thankfully, there’s an alternative over on Kickstarter, where one company is offering a comfortable, portable VR headset that’s almost as cheap as Cardboard.
Created by Swedish designer Simon Josefsson, Viewbox uses your smartphone’s screen to display 3D images—like Google Cardboard. Unlike Cardboard, however, Viewbox features a nylon fabric neoprene design that adapts to the shape of your head for a comfy fit. It folds up for easy travel, and you can also wash it. It even works with glasses.
Another big advantage for Viewbox is the range of smartphones you can use it with. It should work with any device between 4-inches and 5.7-inches across. That includes most Android devices and newer iPhones. It even works with Windows Phone and BlackBerry, though Josefsson notes there’s not much you can do on those less popular operating systems.
Josefsson’s also solved another key issue facing virtual reality: what does one do with his or her hands while using such a device? In response, the company is also offering Ingot, a cheap paper or cardboard wand with a distinct pattern your smartphone’s camera can recognize. Developers will be able turn Ingot into anything from a Pong racket to a remote control for navigating menus.
So what exactly can Viewbox do? To start, it works with Google’s Cardboard apps, which includes Google Earth and Google Maps Street View. Beyond that, there are plenty of games and simulations to experience. The real fun will come one the device hits the market and people start creating apps designed to take advantage of Viewbox and Ingot.
You can pre-order Viewbox for as little $45 and it’s set to ship in April. There’s also an even cheaper do-it-yourself kit for $25, which includes everything but the glue needed for assembly. If you want to go all out, you can order four for units $170, or 10 for $350.
Are there any risks? Josefsson admits that the production process is slower and more expensive compared to something like Cardboard, which means delays are possible. In return, however, you’ll be getting a VR headset that’s comfortable to use for more than a few minutes at a time with some serious potential. Sounds like a decent tradeoff to us.