LG joins the VR bandwagon with plastic fantastic

Samsung isn’t the only company eyeing off the mobile VR space, with LG chiming in this week to show that it too can play that game, and while it’s not quite the same, it could offer people a similar experience.

LG is jumping on the mobile virtual reality bandwagon with a surprise announcement that some how got in their after LG’s presence at CES and before what we’re expecting will be a few more announcements at Mobile World Congress next month, and it’s doing so with a bit of plastic it calls “VR for G3”.

If the name doesn’t give away what it is immediately, the picture will, with a set of glasses inspired by Google’s Cardboard project made with plastic and designed to accommodate the LG G3 specifically.

LG tells us its VR gadget was designed alongside Google, and that it will make use of the rear key on the back of the G3, but we’re not sure how as of yet.

The magnet on the side of the headset typically controls a Cardboard headset, and that’s still here, so we suspect this will make up the majority of how you will use the VR for the G3, with the gyroscope built into the phone used for positioning and targeting things, much like it is on other uses of Google Cardboard.

Interestingly, no strap will be included with the headset, even though there is clearly a slot for one in the pictures. We suspect this will be a bit of BYO as applied to the gadget.

Two obvious question marks for LG’s VR for G3 are content and availability, and for the first, LG is pointing us to the amount of content already available for Google Cardboard, including Google’s own demos, as well as the numbers of videos and games you can already find on Google’s Play Store.

It’s not the same type of content you get on the Oculus-built Samsung Gear VR, and that’s because Oculus has been building a different type of system with its own virtual reality interface, complete with a built-in cinema, 360 degree experiences, and games.

That said, it’s best to think of this as what many in the tech world call Google Cardboard: “Oculus Thrift”, a name that pokes fun at the idea of making an Oculus competitor on a budget.

If you’re starting on a budget and already have a G3, and you hate the idea of a cardboard headset, VR for G3 will at least bring a dose of virtual reality to a phone that runs the same resolution as the Note 4 needed to use the Gear VR, 2560×1440, a resolution that guarantees a 720p picture per eye.

The other question mark that needs to be answered is availability, and this is one with a very large question mark over it.

LG has so far told GadgetGuy that it will come to Australia in a “limited quantity” and made available to “existing and new purchasers” of the LG G3 smartphone, with “selected new purchasers” of the handset receiving the VR headset as a gift. We’ve asked LG what the qualification is to be a “selected” purchaser, and the company has told us that will be confirmed soon.

If you can’t wait, Google’s Cardboard can be found online through plenty of players, while Samsung’s major competitor, the Gear VR, is available now and requires a Galaxy Note 4 to work.