LG's first step into mobile VR doesn't stray far from the current offerings, but G3 owners will still want one of these ASAP.
While the world of virtual reality gaming is heating up at an unprecedented pace, due in no small part to massive contributions from Samsung in Oculus Rift and HTC in Steam VR, there's a whole different kind of VR development happening in mobile. Games are a part of it, but not nearly to the scale of desktop-class systems. Instead, mobile VR is looking for ways to expand upon entertainment consumption. Samsung wants to put you in the middle of a live concert while you sit on your couch, while Google chooses to open up their platform to every idea — including a deep focus on inviting kids to the party.
Google Cardboard is an incredibly cool idea that grows in functionality every day, but if you've tried to stick a recent LG phone inside of these enclosures you might have noticed a slight design conflict. To resolve this, as well as test the waters for their own VR interests, LG has released VR for G3 as a free accessory to anyone who buys one of these phones from select retailers.
VR for G3 is little more than a plastic version of Google Cardboard that lets users more comfortably access the unique Rear Key and camera layout on the G3 when using VR apps. It's a three-piece accessory that snaps together to offer the exact same experience as Google Cardboard, complete with simple lenses and a magnetic ring on the left side to be used as an in-app button. There's a pair of slits in the forehead mount for straps to hold the rig to your head, but no straps are included in the box — which is probably a good thing since the hard plastic pressed against your face isn't any more comfortable than the rough cardboard.
Being plastic instead of cardboard, the design isn't particularly collapsible. The piece that connects to your forehead can be flipped over when not in use to store a little better, but you're still carrying around something larger than a battery backup around with you. On the other hand, you don't have to worry about adhesive wearing out like you do with Cardboard, and the design is significantly more durable.
LG didn't include any special software to drive VR for G3, but the packaging offers a QR code to download the Google Cardboard app and two other starter VR apps from the Play Store. Since there's no NFC tag in the backplate to launch the Cardboard app, you'll need to launch the app you want to use and then snap the phone into the casing. In our testing, every VR app that works well with Google Cardboard looked great in VR for G3, but because the backplate accommodates LG's unique design there's no limitations for things like Augmented Reality environments.
This little accessory is being given away to new G3 owners, but it's the kind of thing LG should probably make available to existing owners and early adopters for $15-20. VR for G3 looks nice, feels solid, and does exactly what it sets out to do — which is see whether or not VR in its current form is interesting to LG's users. With a new flagship on the horizon and a card in the VR for G3 box that reads "This is just the beginning" it's likely we'll see more from LG in the VR space soon.