Update: Ready for the next phase of mobile VR? You can now purchase the Daydream View, Google’s official headset, straight from the Google Store right here.
Do keep in mind that you’ll need either the Pixel or Pixel XL smartphones, but even more compatible phones will be coming to store shelves later this year.
Original article follows below.
Daydream is Google’s latest attempt at bringing VR to mobile devices, and it’s quite different than , to say the least.
Unlike Google’s previous, somewhat-disposable VR headset, which aimed to get people in the VR door with a low cost and low smartphone capability requirements, Daydream is a more robust vision that has its sight set on providing higher-quality experiences to users.
Daydream will bring even more exciting and absorbing VR experiences to those who can’t afford a HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Google’s next mobile VR platform
- When is it out? Right now
- What will it cost? The Google produced and controller will cost $79 (£69, about AU$104)
Daydream View headset
Google has announced its headset you’ll be able to use with Daydream-ready phones. It’s called Daydream View and unlike other VR headsets we’ve seen before it has a material design. There’s a latch on the front to slide your phone in and the controller for the headset is included.
It’s set to go on sale in November in the US at $79 (£69, about AU$104). There’s no word on when the UK or Australia will see its release.
Google Daydream release date
Google Daydream is baked into the OS on the Pixel and Pixel XL – these are the best phones to buy now if you want to be able to use Daydream when the headset launches.
Google has also confirmed Samsung, Alcatel, Asus, HTC, LG, Xiaomi and ZTE will produce phones that are “Daydream ready.” Huawei also confirmed it would be making Daydream-ready phones, headsets and controllers too.
The ZTE Axon 7 is the first smartphone announced to be Google Daydream-compatible along with its very-own VR headset, the ZTE VR. It just needs Android Nougat and Google’s necessary VR maintenance software update to pull it off, which will come in the Android Nougat 7.1 update.
The other manufacturers are yet to confirm that work has begun on headsets and controllers for Daydream.
What can it do?
Google Daydream will run apps and games downloaded from the Play Store making it easy to find experiences to use on your headset. According to Google, by the end of 2016 there will be over 50 apps and games available on the platform.
That includes a Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them tie-in experience as well as an app called Star Chart that allows you to explore the solar system as you look around. Google also showed off a shooter game from the makers of EVE called GunJack 2.
Netflix, HBO and Hulu will all have Daydream ready apps in the coming months, plus The New York Times will launch an app too for its VR videos.
Plus, Google will also make its own apps compatible with the Daydream platform. It’s including Play Movies, Photos, Maps and YouTube when the platform launches.
Unity and Epic also announced development support for Daydream on the gaming side of things. Here’s some early footage of a Daydream prototype developed my Epic.
The Daydream View headset shown off by Google is only one option for Daydream VR. It’s also letting other companies take hold of the tech, which will likely result in a variety of different looking headsets.
Google has divvied out a few details about its controller, which resembles a Wii remote, and shares some common physical traits from the latest Apple TV touch remote.
On its top, it will feature a clickable touch pad to bring native touchscreen-like gestures to the virtual world. Next down, there is an app button that will put your (you guessed it) apps within view. Lastly, the home button will return you to the home screen of Daydream.
There’s also an entire user interface within Daydream that’s ripe for discussion.
The Daydream hub looks refined and quite similar (OK, almost exactly the same) to the Oculus Home found within the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR. You’ll use the motion controller to navigate the menus and swap between apps, games and movies.
As Daydream will be deeply integrated into Android Nougat, it was a neat surprise to see that Google has put the entire Play Store within view while wearing a Daydream headset.
The Google Play Store takes on a familiar look in the VR space, with each individual app having its own rating and description. Google has also added the level of motion that you’ll experience within each app, just so that you know what sort of immersion you’re about to get yourself into.
Daydream requires these three pillars in order to be a viable VR option: smartphones that are optimized for VR, with a high quality system on chip (SoC) to maintain 60 frames-per-second playback, low persistence displays to eliminate ghosting and lag, and finally, top-notch sensors that operate with minimal latency to boost the sense of presence.
So, what sort of performance can we reasonably expect out of it? Well, you’d be right to think that it really depends on the power of the phone that’s inside.
Google’s new Pixel and Pixel XL phones pack a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and 4GB of RAM as well as running a FHD (1080p) screen on the Pixel and a QHD (2K) screen on the Pixel XL. You can bet that these devices will be primed to push high-quality VR experiences.
But, let’s say that you have one of the upcoming Daydream Ready phones and power isn’t much of an issue. Sources have suggested that Daydream will provide better performance than the Gear VR, but (understandably) not as good as what the Rift or Vive can push.
As time goes on, bringing more powerful systems on a chip (SoC) and pixel dense screens along with it, Daydream will begin to play ball on the same court as PC-tethered headsets. But that’s not to say that it won’t be showing some serious promise out of the gate.
Unity and Epic each announced their support for Daydream, which will open the door for game developers to push their next projects out for Google’s new VR platform.
Google is making Android Nougat as VR-friendly as possible. To do that, the Daydream team worked closely with the core Android team to build VR mode, consisting of some new features that will help squeeze high levels of performance out of your daily driver.
First off, low latency support is coming to Android Nougat to help your actions, like head or controller movements, appear onscreen with minimal delay. Next up, there’s a new sustained performance mode to help phones stay at that high level of performance for a longer duration of time than we’ve seen previously in Cardboard, a notorious battery sucker.
Nougat will take full advantage of your Daydream Ready phone’s sensors with new head-tracking algorithms. And, to keep you in the viewer when a call or text comes through, Google has ported several elements of N’s user interface into Daydream.
Daydream + Project Tango
Project Tango is Google’s ambitious VR/AR technology that packs all of the fanciest features you’ve seen in the Microsoft HoloLens into a tablet, or in Lenovo and Intel’s case, some very large phone. It relies on a multi-camera and multi-sensor setup to detect three-dimensional depth and motion, which can digitally map the space around and find your location in it so you can run amok. The end result brings your reality into a virtual one, which holds a ton of promise.
Current applications for the technology include helping you navigate through a museum and getting way more interactive with the art. If that sounds boring, trust me, it’s not. Expanding off of that, will there be games made for Project Tango? You bet. Will Project Tango-enabled phones work with Daydream? Google has confirmed it, but as of yet, hasn’t shed any details on the plan.