Daydream, Google’s high-quality virtual reality platform for Android, is here — and so is the search giant’s headset, Daydream View.
The platform is Google’s strongest attempt yet at muscling into a market that competitors like Facebook’s Oculus, HTC’s Vive, and others have already begun to corner. And more broadly speaking, it’s a show of confidence in a burgeoning medium that some say has the potential to upend entire industries.
Wondering what’s up with Daydream? Not to worry. We’ve rounded up all the pertinent details and fresh-off-the-press news for your perusal. Bookmark our handy guide to Google’s VR and never wonder again about which phones and headsets support it, or which apps are debuting on it.
Daydream 2.0 Euphrates
At Google I/O 2017, the search giant announced a new category of Daydream devices: Stand-alone VR headsets. They run Daydream 2.0 Euphrates, the upcoming version of Google’s Daydream platform.
Stand-alone Daydream headsets are entirely self-contained, Google said, thanks to new WorldSense positional tracking, which uses two wide-angle cameras to track all objects within the environment to build a virtual “blueprint.” The company partnered with Qualcomm on hardware that doesn’t require any external sensors.
That’s not the only major change coming with Daydream 2.0 Euphrates. It includes a new VR window manager that supports non-touchscreen devices — the operating system interface is accessible in VR. There’s a new cascading list of content consisting of media, app, games, and more in horizontal tiles. And a new dashboard will allow users to send their experience to Chromecast, take screenshots, and capture video.
“These devices build on what’s already great about smartphone-based VR, and make the experience even easier and more comfortable with WorldSense,” Google explained.
A new rendering technique — named Project Seurot, after the French pointillist painter — aims to bring desktop-grade graphics to Daydream 2.0 headsets. It’s able to compress a scene with 50 million polygons to 72,000 with little-to-no loss in quality, but it’s optional — Daydream developers who don’t build it into their apps and games won’t see a benefit.
The new headsets are fully compatible with Daydream’s other new component: Visual Positioning Service (VPS). Using the depth-sensing IR Tango sensors on phones like the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, Google-built software can map indoor locations so that devices can understand their position in real time.
The Daydream View is Google’s virtual reality headset, in which Daydream-ready phones can sit to provide a VR experience. The first Daydream-ready phone was the Google Pixel, but others have followed suit.
The whole Daydream setup is similar to Samsung’s Gear VR system, only Google’s Daydream View headset is not locked to specific phones from a specific manufacturer. Users simply open the front flap and insert their compatible Android phone. That makes the headset extremely inexpensive when compared to the PC-based Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, as the smartphone provides all of the hardware necessary for an engulfing VR experience.
Not only that, but users can now replace the Daydream View’s facepad, or the part of the headset that rests against your face. That’s helpful for those that use the headset a lot, and means you can do away with your old and dirty facepads without having to replace the entire headset. The facepad costs $15, and can be bought from the Google Store.
The design of the Daydream View is built around one thing — comfort. And, it’s the byproduct of a collaboration between Google and a number of clothing manufacturers. The end result is a product featuring soft fabrics and a 30 percent lower weight than competing products on the market. This should be great on the phone as well, preventing possible scratches on the screen.
On top of that, customers can also wear the headset over their glasses. There are also no wires getting in the way, as the headset connects to the compatible Android phone wirelessly. Three color variations are available: Slate, Snow, and Crimson.
In addition to the headset, there’s also the Daydream View controller. It is small, sporting rounded edges and only two buttons. The peripheral includes motion sensors so that users can interact with the virtual environment, such as draw, shoot aliens, and so on. This controller can be stored in the headset itself when not in use thanks to a little snap-based compartment built into the headset’s flap.
The headset is available on the Google Store as well as specific retailers. In the U.S., it will cost $79 and will be available at Verizon and Best Buy. In Canada, the headset will cost $99 and will go on sale at Bell, Rogers, Telus, and Best Buy. In the U.K., you can grab a Daydream at EE and Carphone Warehouse for 69 pounds. In Germany, it costs 69 euros and is only available at Deutsche Telekom, and in Australia, it will set you back $119, but you can grab it at Telstra and JB Hi-Fi.
You can read our review of Daydream View here.