Google Cardboard is a virtual reality (VR) platform developed by Google for use with a head mount for a smartphone. Named for its fold-out cardboard viewer, the platform is intended as a low-cost system to encourage interest and development in VR applications. Users can either build their own viewer from simple, low-cost components using specifications published by Google, or purchase a pre-manufactured one. To use the platform, users run Cardboard-compatible applications on their phone, place the phone into the back of the viewer, and view content through the lenses.
The platform was created by David Coz and Damien Henry, Google engineers at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris, in their 20% “Innovation Time Off”. It was introduced at the Google I/O 2014 developers conference, where a Cardboard viewer was given away to all attendees. The Cardboard software development kit (SDK) is available for the Android and iOS operating systems; the SDK’s VR View allows developers to embed VR content on the web as well as in their mobile apps.
Through March 2017, over 10 million Cardboard viewers had shipped and over 160 million Cardboard app downloads had been made. Following the success of the Cardboard platform, Google announced an enhanced VR platform, Daydream, at Google I/O 2016.