Daydream is here,Google’s virtual reality platform for the Android Eco system is at last here in the form of the $79 Daydream View headset. And it’s a much more fine product then we have been used to seeing in the very young VR industry. Daydream is an effort to take a step back and uncomplicated virtual reality. First things, first Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL are the only smartphones that work with this headset now.
But as more and more devices become Daydream ready you’ll be able to use this headset with them because of the Daydream standards that Google is mandating across the board. If you spend a few minutes foolin’ around with Google Cardboard you know its limitations. Mainly, that experiences lasting more a few minutes tend to make you feel a bit queasy.
Most of this is because of the head tracking latency, you move your head and the phone display follows but just a bit too slowly. Google has fixed this thanks to some software wizardry in Android Nougat and thelow persistence OLED displays on the new Pixel phones.
In practice it’s actually really noticeable how much better it is, definitely on par with the Gear VR and the rest of the VR headsets out now. The View itself is very approachable, the fabric is really soft and it’s honestly a great balance between comfort and portability hat no other headset on the market has right now.
You just pop your phone is the headset, the phone auto-aligns and it launches the Daydream App. And you’re good to go. In terms of content it’s still all about the games there really aren’t aton of other use cases that have proven themselves so far. Appropriately, the new Daydream controller is a lot like a tiny Nintendo Wii mote,it’s not positionally tracked so it’s still a bit quirk yin terms of what you can do.
But it’s far more full-featured than anything we’ve seen on mobile from the big players. You can use it as a laser pointer to make selections instead of having tobobble your head around. You can swing it like a tennis racket to register movements during games.
It’s basically a Wii mote,so expect to see a lot of the same use cases and concepts getting dug up by game makers. A lot of the big expensive virtual reality headsets you’ve been hearing about like the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR aren’t what you should be comparing this system to. All of those are significantly more high powered and offer richer overall experiences. Samsung’s $99 Gear VR isa much more comparable piece of hardware.
Google and Samsung really took different approaches to these products. The plastic Gear VR definitely feels more like a serious semi-clunky gadget. The View feels a bit more friendly and less geeky. While you’re stuck needing the Galaxy or old Note for the Gear VR Google is going to benefit from its much wider reach as more and more phones become Daydream compatible. Oculus has an early leading terms of courting developers and exclusive content for the Gear VR.
But many of devs those will be sure to embrace Daydream as well once it grows beyond the Pixel phones. Google was always going to Bethe one to beat on mobile VR. The Android infrastructures a natural home for virtual reality. They definitely know this and have been careful to make approachable moves that have the long term vision of VR at Google in mind.
The Daydream View is ultimately about as perfect as VR headsets get right now. Its only shortcoming is its stunted ambition, Google could have done a lot more in terms of input or positional tracking, but it’s clear the Daydream View isn’t a product designed with the people who have other VR headsets sitting on their desk. It’s for the people who haven’t had a reason to try one out yet.