Google Cardboard is already cool, but throw Star Wars into the mix and suddenly you got something unbelievably awesome.
As a refresher: Google launched Cardboard in 2014. It gives you a rich virtual reality experience without the big price tag. It's a cardboard do-it-yourself kit that folds into a VR headset. Your iPhone or Android smartphone provides the cardboard headset with a display and processing power as well as VR content from app stores. The Star Wars Cardboard headsets are, as you likely guessed, Star Wars-themed editions.
Google partnered with Verizon to create limited edition Star Wars: The Force Awakens Google Cardboard headsets. If you were in the US earlier this month, you got the chance to pick up one of the 200,000 units made at any Verizon retail store, free of charge. You had four designs to choose from, each based on characters from the upcoming film (premieres 18 December): Kylo Ren, Stormtrooper, BB-8, or R2-D2.
Also, on 11 December, Google offered all four designs through the Google Store. Again, they were free, including free shipping, so naturally they "sold out" fast. Of course, this is all just a smart marketing ploy on both Disney and Google's behalf, but we're total fans of the film series as well as virtual reality, so we couldn't resist trying out all four designs. And like we said earlier, they're unbelievably awesome.
Each headset comes with a sleeve that you slide off, and then you're free to unfold the headset itself. Underneath the main face design you'll find directions on how to bend the kit into a shape for viewing virtual reality. You have to fold out the center piece and affix it to velcro on the sides to create a visor, and then you fold over the main face and affix it to velcro on the top. Your phones slides behind the main face.
Make sure your phone's display points toward the glass lens holes that you look through to experience the virtual reality. These headsets launched alongside VR-based teasers - called "messages" - for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. New messages will come out every few days, leading up to the film's premiere. They're all available under a "Jakku Spy" section found in the free Star Wars app for iOS and Android.
The first message is a minute-long opening based on the iconic Star Wars opening. When you view it through the headset, you get a closed-in, movie theatre-style experience as well as the ability to pan your head around and view the universe surrounding the scrolling text. It's pretty basic but also immersive and fun. Keep in mind you have to download each message beforehand, and sometimes that can take a while.
Also, prior to experiencing these VR-based teasers, you have to open the Star Wars app, then tap Jakku Spy, and point your phone at a QR code on the headset in order to calibrate it with the Star Wars app. This whole process takes less than a minute. From there, you can download the messages. There are five messages available now, with four more arriving over the next week.
Oh, and you'll notice a silver-fabric button the top right of each headset. You can press it during messages to take screenshots and more.
If you weren't able to get your hands a Star Wars Cardboard headset this month, you can still experience the messages in the Star Wars app but in a flat mode that's viewable with your smartphone. Although it's not at all the same, at least you won't feel left out of the loop.