Google Daydream VR: The Android Virtual Reality Platform Explained

November 25, 2016 3 minute read
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Virtual Reality has been the buzzword on every gadget enthusiast’s lips for almost a decade now, and it’s finally starting to emerge in the mainstream market. Once a phenomena for only the most tech-savvy among us, virtual reality has become as commonplace as the iPhone since the Oculus Rift was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2012. Oculus, with $2,000,000,000 worth of funding, finally released their Oculus Rift project in March earlier this year. We’ve now seen virtual reality headsets emerge from a number of leading gadget conglomerates, including: Samsung, Sony and HTC. Now a $700 million-dollar market, Google’s entry in to the VR space was inevitable.

Virtual Reality

All eyes have been on virtual reality at recent gadget shows | Photo credit: Silicon Beat

Two years ago, Google released their first-generation virtual reality headset – Google Cardboard. Aiming to offer a virtual reality experience that anybody could buy, build and enjoy, Cardboard was to Oculus Rift as Microsoft Paint is to Adobe Photoshop. Built in cardboard, naturally – and as the name suggests – the platform is a low-cost system which encouraged interest and development in VR applications. First released at the Google I/O 2014 developers conference, Cardboard has now been shipped to over 5 million people.

Google Cardboard VR Headset

Google Cardboard is a great entry-level product for anyone interested in VR | Photo credit: Business Insider UK

Whilst Google’s Cardboard VR headset is a great entry-level piece of kit, the search engine and product development giant has always had it’s sights set on developing a competitive VR headset which would give its competitors a run for their money: introducing Google’s Daydream View.

Google Daydream View Headset (top view)

Google’s Daydream View headset boasts an impressive build with fabric finish

The Daydream View headset boasts an elegant design and repertoire of impressive features that positions the headset in a competitive place within the virtual reality market. We’re particularly taken with its washable fabric finish which helps to set this piece of kit apart from its competitors; unlike the Oculus Rift or the Samsung Gear, Google Daydream looks fresh and contemporary, and its clever build helps to take the edge off the gadget’s usual mechanical look and feel. The headset started shipping on November 10th, and you can currently choose from just one colour: Slate Grey. We’ve seen that Crimson and Snow (white) versions will be released soon.

Google Daydream View headset colours

The Daydream View headset comes in Slate Grey and, soon, Crimson and Snow

So, what is Daydream? Well, Daydream is basically the link between your smartphone and accessing virtual reality content on your mobile. Unlike full console headsets, Daydream is just a virtual reality platform, and it can be used in conjunction with Google’s Daydream View headset, retailing at just £69. Technically, any manufacturer could build their own headset to run off the Daydream platform, so long as their prototype meets Google’s standards. Daydream is designed to house content from all mobile VR developers, so all sources will be accessible through the Home hub.

The Daydream View headset includes clever pressure sensors which track the positioning and angle of your phone to offer intelligent adjustments to what’s filtered through to the lens view, so you’ll experience minimal difficulty when positioning your smartphone. The whole device is built to offer a simple and easy virtual reality experience. Google has also claimed that the headset is 30% lighter than its competitors, at just 220g (which is 100g lighter than the Samsung Gear headset).

Google Daydream with Pixel Smartphone

Google’s Daydream VR platform will currently work with its Pixel smartphones

As well as headsets that meet Google’s Daydream specifications, Android smartphones must also match optimal settings to be called Daydream-ready. Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, Google’s newest flagship smartphone models, the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL, are both compatible with the platform (and its corresponding headset). Other manufacturers who’ve committed to announcing Daydream-ready devices include: Samsung, HTC, LG, Huawei and Asus, among others. At present, no devices have been announced.

Google Pixel smartphones

Google released its line-up of flagship smartphones earlier this year, the Pixel and the Pixel XL

If you want to start using Daydream, the actual headset will only set you back £69, which is extremely good value for the piece of kit you’re getting your hands on. Unfortunately, the only phones which will currently run Daydream is Google’s own Pixel smartphones. With prices for the Pixel starting at £599, it could be a costly alternative to its competitors. We anticipate that Daydream will become more accessible over the next few years, as other Android manufacturers start releasing smartphones which meet Google’s specifications, and it’ll naturally become available to more consumers. As far as we can tell, the headset and platform won’t be compatible with iOS, so Apple customers will have to opt for a different virtual reality package.

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