When Google released its cardboard VR holder, it also came up with downloadable instructions so you could make your own. It was a signpost to their corporate ethos of making virtual reality accessible to everyone. Now a whole load of major companies are getting in on the act.

Earlier in the year Coca Cola released a tutorial showing people how to fashion VR viewers out of old Coca Cola boxes. The video was shown as part of the Coca Cola studios programme, but that was about as far as it went. Now, though, McDonalds are getting in on the act. In partnership with an ad agency they are selling Happy Meals in special boxes which can transform into VR viewers. The offer is called Happy Goggles and will initially run in 3,500 boxes in around 14 different outlets across northern Sweden.

In many ways the Happy Meal box is the perfect vehicle for a VR device. It’s roughly the right shape and has to be made of sturdy cardboard to withstand greasy food. This makes it the ideal format for heavy duty use as a VR headset. It’s also not a bad idea from an environmental point of view. Boxes are destined for the trash so anything that keeps them out of landfill sites for a little time has to be worth the effort. McDonalds says it has always been trying to bring a more educational aspect to their Happy Meals and this is another way to do just that.

If you’re familiar with Google Cardboard’s instructions, these are a little different. Designers had to come up with a solution which could work as a box for food. However, you can still fold the box along its perforations. So although it’s not completely in tune with Google’s guidelines it is still something that works very well.

Those customers who buy one can also download an app on their phone which also takes them to a special McDonald’s VR game a basic skiing game which translates to English as ‘watch out on the slopes’.

This is of course little more than a marketing gimmick, but that shouldn’t necessarily detract from the value of the idea. When the New York Times experimented by sending out Google Cardboard sets, the response from parents was extremely enthusiastic.

This is a technology which is still in development but there are all sorts of ways it can be used to bring education and entertainment to life. With high-end systems costing thousands of pounds, this is a more cost-effective way for people get started with virtual reality.

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