Google’s new app transforms phones into VR cameras

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Google Cardboard Camera simulation
Like this, but you’re wearing a big thing on your face.

Google has unleashed a free app that will let anyone with an Android phone take panoramic videos and record sound. Later, you’ll be able to use your virtual-reality headset of choice to relive those moments in 3-D.

The app is called Cardboard Camera, after Google’s own build-it-yourself VR goggles, and it’s available now in the Google Play app store.

“With Google Cardboard, you can take amazing trips to faraway places and feel like you’re actually there,” Google says in a blog post. “But what if you could also use Cardboard to go back in time—to step inside personal moments like your favorite vacation or a holiday dinner with family? Now you can with the new Cardboard Camera app for Android.”

We aren’t sure — and Google doesn’t say — exactly how a single lens captures the different perspectives required to simulate three dimensions. We suspect that while you’re moving your phone around in a circle, it’s sorting pictures between left and right eyes alternately like a poker dealer divvying out cards. Later, it could just show those two stacks side-by-side to create the slightly different perspectives for each eye.

That’s our guess, anyway; it could also be a trick involving “automagic” or some similar nonsense.

While Apple products are compatible with Google Cardboard, and that company’s App Store has its own version of the device’s companion app, iOS users will have to wait to relive that time that they climbed a mountain and then walked around in a circle with their phone.