Japan is known for its quirky trends that don’t always make sense to the rest of us, but this latest one might be a winner: the Cardboard Theater.
The set-up, designed to deliver a private, somewhat immersive movie-watching experience, consists of a large cardboard box and a tablet or smartphone. That’s it. It might not sound very technical, but it works well enough that a number of Japanese movie lovers are using the set-up to watch their favorite films.
By strategically cutting a display hole on the bottom of the box and a neck hole on its side, the user is suddenly afforded a private cinema of sorts that cuts out all light and ambient sound from the outside world.
Tracking the trend online, it’s unclear when the first one was created and shared, but there are examples dating back to 2013, with most of the activity around creating the contraption starting earlier this year.
Yes, it looks a little ridiculous, but remember, Japanese inventors have been behind a number of odd creations that ultimately turned out to be pretty popular outside of Japan: karaoke, sushi and, of course, the Walkman.
The Cardboard Theater seems to most closely share its creative DNA with is the capsule hotel, Japan’s coffin-like rentals that pack the privacy of an entire hotel room experience into a tiny box. But in this case, there’s no company behind the invention, just a bunch of DIYers who seem to understand how silly the Cardboard Theater looks, but nevertheless find it pretty useful.
Sure, this will never compare to the numerous head-mounted movie viewers available on the market, like Avegent’s Glyph or Sony’s HMZ-T3W. And, in the realm of immersive media experiences, we’d never compare this to the Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR or even Google Cardboard.
But if you’re living on a budget in a crowded roommate situation, and don’t mind a few derisive chuckles directed your way, the Cardboard Theater is actually a tiny stroke of genius.