Google Cardboard is an amazing idea for bringing virtual reality to anyone on the cheap. Unfortunately, wearing one looks ridiculous, and most versions are either bulky or too complicated to fold.
Dodocase, a company that’s primarily specialized in making accessories for Apple devices, wants to change that with its new SmartVR accessory. It folds up to about the size of an iPhone 5 and is the most practical VR headset I’ve seen yet.
The SmartVR is about the size of an iPhone 5.
That’s partly because it’s not actually made out of cardboard, and is instead constructed out of glass-filled Nylon and ABS plastic. It also uses a removable microsuede cover that keeps your lenses protected, and can be customized with a variety of colors and patterns.
Unlike many cardboard viewers, it doesn’t include a button for commands while using the headset. Instead you’re supposed to tap anywhere on the screen to interact – which is actually what those buttons all do anyway.
I was able to give it a go and I was impressed by the build and materials. While there’s generally a sense of either flimsiness or bulkiness with most cardboard headsets, the SmartVR suffered from neither. There was no flex in the body at all, and the device is easily pocketable.
There are gaps to the side but I didn’t find light leakage to be an issue.
The lenses used were also high quality, with less of the optical abberations towards the corners of the image that I’m used to seeing with most headsets – it was better than the one in my official Google Cardboard headset, and seemed at least as good as the optics in my GearVR.
The lack of a button also didn’t hinder the experience either, as it was just as easy to reach under the device to tap the screen. But perhaps best of all, the SmartVR has one of the more intuitive set-up processes of any compact Cardboard headset I’ve used. There are just three steps that you don’t need vexing illustrations to figure out:
Unfold the sides.
Drop your phone into the holsters.
Unfold the cover over your phone.
Granted, this set up doesn’t completely block out outside light the way some other headsets do, but I didn’t have any issues while using it in a coffee shop in bright daylight.
In any case, the Dodocase isn’t trying to provide the most high-end virtual reality experience; that’s what Oculus, HTC and Sony are for (and they have price tags to match).
Instead the company sees the average person carrying their VR viewers for quick five minutes stints they can share with friends, and that’s where the SmartVR’s size and convenience comes in handy. Meanwhile the customizable designs and high quality materials are meant to help the SmartVR feel personal and durable; it feels like it’s built to last.
It will retail for $40 when it launches, but Indiegogo backers can snag one for $28. That might seem like a steep price considering you can get cardboard headsets for less than $10, but Dodocase is banking on the idea that the SmartVR offers quality and convenience most others can’t provide.