Google’s Cardboard Camera lets you capture immersive photos from smartphone hardware you already own. The app has now launched on iOS, letting you snap 360 degree 3D photos from your iPhone.

Cardboard Camera launched on Android late last year. The ingenious app uses the parallax created by the rotation of your phone, along with some computer vision processing, to capture a 360 degree panorama in 3D—all with the camera that’s already on your smartphone. That’s particularly cool, because even dedicated consumer 360 degree cameras like the Samsung Gear 360 and Ricoh Theta can’t shoot in 3D.

Today, Google launched Cardboard Camera on iOS, bringing the magical 3D capability to the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

google cardboard camera

The app captures what Google calls ‘VR Photos’, panoramic views up to 360 degrees along the horizon (sadly, not fully spherical) that also have 3D depth. To use it you just hit the capture button then slowly rotate in a complete circle. Google then assembles and renders the photo, which you can share easily across the web with a link. You can also opt to record the sound of the scene to be played back during viewing for added immersion.

google cardboard camera app (4)
A panorama captured and viewed with Cardboard Camera’s VR mode

Of course you won’t be able to see the 3D effect without a Cardboard headset, but even if you don’t have one yet, you can still snap and share panoramas easily with the app (even to friends who don’t have a headset themselves), and you’ll get the added immersive benefit of 3D later when you decide to pick up a headset.

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Viewing the photos through an iPhone reveals the same impressive depth capture we saw in the Android version. With the iPhone’s display lacking in pixel density compared to flagship Android phones, the Cardboard Camera photos don’t look as sharp, but this is balanced out by the quality of the iPhone’s camera compared to phones in the same class.

Cardboard Camera is free on both Android and iOS. On Android, the app is rated 4.3 out of 5 across 11,000 reviews, and has been installed more than 1 million times.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Great work!Google is a very focused company, when people are defined as VR project porn, Google has been focused on VR academic research.
    As this article:

  • Flamerate1

    Do the pictures actually have depth perception? I would immediately assume no, but I’m taking a chance at asking this question.

    • Fletch

      Yes they do. I just tried it on my iPhone. The left and right images are different. One thing I noticed is that you have to hold your arms outstretched when you’re taking the panoramic photo (the help section says you should). I held my arms in to my chest the first time I tried, and the left and right images didn’t quite line up. I think the outstretched arms helps with the parallax. This is kind of the opposite to taking a normal panorama where you try to keep the camera as close to the center as possible.

      • Flamerate1

        Well this is great then.

    • Yes, it’s really very impressive…. I played with the Andorid version over the last year and captured some great holiday snaps in Norway… admittedly I’ve not revisited it since, but still very cool… We had a Theta S in the studio for a while and that was super easy to take 360º stills without the depth.. just a click of a button and its done (or start of a timer and run out of shop).

  • Leyla

    I tryed this camera and processed photos here –
    Finally the result surpassed my expectations.