Google's vision for the future of VR will soon arrive. At Google I/O back in May, the company unveiled an intriguing new VR project called Daydream, and it’s quite unlike anything we’ve seen elsewhere. But what's it all about? Here we take a closer look.
WHAT IS DAYDREAM?
Fittingly enough, given its name, Google Daydream isn’t a physical stand-alone device as such. It’s a platform with a set of VR hardware standards for manufacturers to follow, which combine with a new piece of hub software from Google itself.
It’s all intended to improve the VR experience on Android phones, and make VR apps and VR video content more accessible to more people.
Google Daydream won’t just provide yet another VR platform in an increasingly fragmented market. That’s not the point. Rather, the intention is that it will pull together all of the content that already exists in some form on the internet.
The hardware side of things includes a set of guidelines for a VR headset and a motion controller, both of which Google has said it will also manufacture at some point in the future.
DAYDREAM VIEW HEADSET
Google's now announced the first Daydream VR headset, the Daydream View. It's made from breathable material, which Google says was inspired by what we wear.
It will come in three different colours, including slate (grey), snow (white) and crimson (red). Like Gear VR, you slot your phone into the headset and use a provided controller to interact with games and other content.
In addition to a headset, Google is also offering a reference design for a remote control device, one of which must ship with every Daydream headset. It looks a bit like a Roku or Apple TV remote, but it had motion sensors built in.
Thanks to this feature, the remote will respond to your hand movements much like a Wii remote does. In this way the Daydream moves slightly beyond Samsung Gear VR – which relies on awkward physical headset controls for navigation – and closer to the territory of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
It will be used in navigation of the Daydream UI to physically point to and select content, and can also be used to pan through 360-degree video content when you don’t want to physically spin around.
Daydream isn’t just about the headset and controller, of course. There’s also a dedicated Daydream Home UI, which will enable you to browse and boot up VR content in a nice interface. It’s a bit like the Oculus VR app.
It will also include a tweaked version of the Google Play Store to provide VR content, complete with 360-degree preview images. You can expect to find the likes of Google Photos, YouTube, and Gunjack VR to be in there.
Google Street View and Play Movies will also be present, and there’s confirmed support from Ubisoft and Electronic Arts on the gaming front.
Daydream will only run on brand new Android smartphones that meet Google’s specifications. Google has said that it’s unlikely it will work with any currently available hardware.
That should tip you off to the kind of power we’re talking here, if even heavyweights like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the HTC 10 are doubtful. Google will also enforce strict standards on the quality of the sensors and the speed of the display's refresh rate.
Google claims to have offered up some design guidelines to manufacturers, and it currently has eight confirmed hardware partners: Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, Asus and Alcatel.