The DodoCase Cardboard Virtual Reality Viewer.

Image: Mashable, Christina Ascani
By Chelsea Stark2014-09-13 04:55:47 UTC

Do it yourself virtual reality that harnesses the power of the smartphone isn’t a new idea. But Dodocase could be the first company ready to capitalize on the concept.

Google created a stir a few months back when it released Cardboard to everyone attending its I/O developers’ conference. Cardboard represented the cheapest virtual reality headset one could possibly build, either with a kit provided by Google, or with blueprints provided for free online.

Phone accessory maker DodoCase released its own version of Cardboard, a Virtual Reality Viewer, it created after collaborating with Google. DodoCase founder Patrick Buckley said the company was inspired by the idea of getting some form of virtual reality to more people.

“Everyone is thinking this high-end gaming experiences is what is going to bring virtual reality to market, but actually maybe it’s not that,” Buckley said. “There are 1.75 billion smartphone users in the world today. They can be turned into VR devices, but people haven’t realized it yet.”

The DodoCase viewer is made up of cardboard, along with adhesive, velcro and two convex lenses. Any modern smartphone can be fit inside, though phablets may require some modifications. Buckley points out the whole case can be easily hacked in the same DIY fashion, since it is just cardboard. The phone is placed horizontally inside, with the screen facing the viewer’s eyes.

Smartphone apps built for VR will generally display two slightly different images on the phone’s screen to simulate stereoscopic 3D, and the phone’s built-in gyroscopes can detect movement and move the scene to follow.

It’s important to note that a mobile phone on its own can’t provide a full experience like an Oculus Rift or Sony Morpheus headset, as the phones only offer a 45-degree viewing angle, while bigger headsets offer a 90-degree or wider viewing angle. The phone’s gyroscope isn’t quite comparable to positional tracking offered by an external camera either, but the experience is still unique.

Finding content is a little more tricky than constructing the headset, since the lack of available mobile VR experiences doesn’t encourage developers to invest time in creating compatible software. But Buckley said that could change after adoption. DodoCase has even created its own storefront to curate compatible apps in the Android ecosystem.

“There are not enough people using it, and that means people aren’t motivated to make content for it. Super affordable and accessible VR experiences will solve that problem,” Buckley said.

That problem could also be tackled now that Samsung has introduced its own high-end mobile virtual reality viewer, the Samsung Gear VR, which works by inserting a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 into a headset.

Keeping costs low — the DodoCase viewer costs $24.95 — could invite companies that hadn’t been able to enter the VR space before.

“An affordable viewer is something aligned with something they want to do. We’ve talked to museums that want to do tours, special effects studios, SoulCycle. The variety of things people come to us to talk about is exciting.”

Buckley said the company also plans to create more tools to familiarize people unacquainted with virtual reality. He said DodoCase has partnered with a publisher to create a printed beginners’ guide to virtual reality.

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