Tag Archives: Google

Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard are VR (Virtual Reality) goggles made out of cardboard using an android smart phone as the central processing unit and display via the Google Cardboard App. The cardboard shell can either be purchased for less than £10 complete with lenses and magnet button control or the cardboard design downloaded from the website and the other parts purchased separately.

The mobile phone provides you with orientation tracking using a gyroscope and accelerometer built into the phone which means that the the app can track the movement of the user’s head updating the imagery on the phone depending on the direction that the user is facing.

A magnetic trigger on the outside of the cardboard allows interaction with the VR environment by effecting the magnetometer in the phone. Although with calibrated magnetometers this can only act as a single button, with uncalibrated magnetometers incorporated in newer phone there is greater variety of abilities with the possibility of incorporating a joypad into the outside of the case.

The Google Camera App (On Android 4.4 and later) can record 360° Photo Spheres which can easily be viewed in the Google Cardboard App on the smartphone, other Photo Spheres can be viewed be editing their file names. The app can also view videos on YouTube including those designed for the Oculus Rift or other VR Gear with two separate views in the video. Integration with Google Earth and Google Maps Street View is also possible.

Two SDKs (Software Development Kits) can be downloaded from the website:

  • The first is the Cardboard SDK for Android which allows VR applications to be quickly created in OpenGL.
  • The second is the Cardboard SDK for Unity which allows an application created in the Unity 3D game engine to be viewed in the Google Cardboard Goggles or to design one from scratch.

Although designed for phones with the Android operating system, phones using iOS can also be used in the Google Cardboard using Durvois Dive (a plastic VR Goggle frame which also uses smartphones) apps.

Potential
Google Cardboard was designed to both allow the cheap and easy ability for almost anyone to view VR and to help push forward development of the systems.

It has the ability to both view virtual reconstructions of sites and view still 360° photographs and immersive videos of sites, these can easily be downloaded and viewed by anyone anywhere in the world using the technology. The fact that the phone can be used to create 360° Photo Spheres as well enables the both the recording and viewing of views of cultural heritage and excavations with technology that may already be owned.

Limitations
Because it uses a smartphone there are limitations to its abilities that would not be there with more powerful computer systems. The quality of the imagery is also completely dependent on the quality of the smartphone screen.

Although the control is limited to the one button on the outside of the Google Cardboard some wi-fi/bluetooth game controllers can be used with Android operating systems allowing much more interaction. There have however been problems with the button working, particularly on certain models, it is after-all a technical workaround to use a device for a function it was not designed for.

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News – Google Street View Trekker

Google has announced that their Street View Trekker backpack will be available to borrow by organisations including tourism boards, non-profit organisations, government agencies, universities or research groups. The Trekker bacpack was designed to enable the recording of areas of the world where the Google Street View Car could not reach, so that the imigary could be incorporated in Street View within Google Maps.

The Street View Trekker backpack consists of a dome of 15 5-megapixel digital cameras which record images every 2.5 seconds as a person walks forward, two GPS receivers which log the location data, two SSD (Solid State Drivves) which store the data and dual lithium batteries which allow 8 hours of recording. The images are procecssed into 360 panoramas when the system is returned to the office. The system weighs 42 pounds.

Potential
With a partnership with Google heritage bodies have the ability of recording walkthoughs of important monuments easily with advanced digital technology which can be incorporated into the free Google Maps system; and as of December 2014 Historic Scotland have taken advantage of this showcasing 16 of their properties.

The system provides quality site tours of important cultural heritage which can be viewed by anyone using the Street View system.

Limitations
As the system is ground based only views from this angle will be recorded, meaning that informaion from other angles is lost.

The cameras are only 5-megapixel, which work well for the intended purpose of creating web accessible 360° panoramas, but limits their usefullness for other techniques such as photogrammetry.