Google I/O kicked off Thursday with a nearly two-and-a-half-hour keynote about everything from new Android features to Project Loon’s Internet balloons. Our sister site Greenbot has all the news, but a couple of the announcements should particularly interest us Apple users: two new iOS apps from Google are now live in the App Store.
Another app called Photos
The first is Google Photos, a free app that was described as Gmail for your photo collection. That is, you get unlimited free storage, and the app has machine learning and image recognition technology to help you find the photos you’re looking for, even if you didn’t meticulously tag and sort them yourself. Just dump everything in and search for specific people, places, and even things. Photos can find every image you’ve taken of a beach, or just the photos you took in Jamaica.
The other new iOS app is Google Cardboard. Think of Cardboard like an Oculus Rift crossed with that plastic ViewMaster toy you had when you were a kid. It’s a DIY virtual reality headset made of actual cardboard, into which you slide your phone running the Cardboard app, to see a stereoscopic 3D image.
The Cardboard app for iPhone works with the iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, and 6 plus, running at least iOS 8.0. It helps you set up your Cardboard viewer, and has a few demonstrations so you can see the effect in action. Explorer, for example, shows you a museum scene where you can gawk at a 3D-looking dinosaur skeleton, and Kaleidoscope mode is designed to make you go, “whoa.” (At least that’s what happened to me, before I got hopelessly dizzy and quit the app.)
My headset, courtesy our friends at Greenbot, is from Unofficial Cardboard, and has a magnetic button on the side you can press to select a demo from the menu. (The menu is navigated by tilting the headset with the phone inside.) Going back to the menu is proving to be a challenge, and part of the problem might be that my headset doesn’t have a QR code for pairing to the Google Cardboard app. But I was able to pair it anyway by opening the menu, selecting Sync with Google Cardboard, and pressing the magnetic button. Just be ready to force-quit the app if you get stuck, and be sure you’re sitting down! I wound up feeling motion sick after just a few minutes, but hopefully your mileage will vary.
Google announced today that Cardboard is part of Google’s new Expeditions kit, aimed at teachers, who can control the experience from a tablet while the students use synced-up smartphones inside Google Cardboard to take a virtual tour of the ocean, the Great Wall of China, or even the moon.
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