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Virtual reality headset for €20

French researchers develop their own Oculus ‘Thrift’ kit in Paris and open up a whole new world for users

GOOGLE has come up with its own virtual reality headset that, made from cardboard, Velcro and a rubber band, costs just €20 compared to the wallet-bursting Oculus Rift headset at $350.

Developed by two French researchers at Google’s Institut Culturel in Paris, David Coz and Damien Henry, the Google Cardboard kit uses an Android smartphone, cardboard, Velcro and two lenses and can be bought online for self-assembly (smartphone not included!).

Users navigate through menus by turning the head and the field of vision follows their view, allowing them to walk round objects or follow stairs etc.

The headset will allow users to enjoy experiences they could not otherwise have had – such as a virtual reality tour of a museum or exhibition on the other side of the world; a different view of a cityscape when combined with Google’s Street View or Google Earth... or piloting an armed drone over the Iraqi desert.

David Coz also highlights a commercial use where an estate agent allows users to view a house for sale in another country without a site visit.

Ironically, he did so on his Google+ page – a rival to social networking giant Facebook, which earlier this year paid $2billion for Oculus VR, the company behind the $350 Oculus Rift headset.

Coz and Henry developed the project as part of the 20% of free time that Google gives to all employees to work on their own ideas. Once they had a full working model it was presented to Google co-founder Larry Page at the internet giant’s I/O seminar and hailed a success.

They say the headset can even be made out of an old pizza box ("buy extra large", they advise).

See for yourself what is involved on the Google Cardboard page (which has links to buy some of the items needed, such as the lenses), David Coz’s Google+ page – which is full of ideas – and Damien Henry’s Twitter account with details of some of his new ideas.

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