Daydream Headset: Reviewing Google’s Virtual Reality
Google’s Daydream headset was released in mid-2016 as the conglomerate’s latest dive into virtual reality. It was only a matter of time before Google moved on from Cardboard and started taking VR seriously.
- Motion controller makes VR immersive
- High-quality VR experiences
- Not many apps yet
- More Daydream phones are coming, but aren’t here yet
Much like Samsung’s Gear VR, the device is powered by Android, but the big difference is that this $79 headset supports a variety of Android phones, as long as they can use Google’s Daydream platform.
The View headset has to win over two different groups of people: the consumers and the manufacturers. It’s achieving this so far by making some of the most interesting hardware choices since VR device production began.
It’s molded shell accommodates a mobile phone, with a one-handed control scheme- in this case, a small bundled remote with limited motion tracking capabilities. For now, the View is Pixel-only, but it’s designed for any Daydream-compatible phone that’s released down the line. Beyond that controller, there are no flashy new features on Daydream.
It doesn’t include innovations like inside-out cameras or eye-tracking and it doesn’t mimic real-world motion like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, with room-scale tracking and full-fledged virtual hands. Hooking up a phone to Daydream View is simple. You just need to open up the front latch, drop the phone in with the screen facing the lenses and then close everything up and secure it with an elastic band on top. It looks a bit clunky but it’s pretty secure. After that, tighten the headband around your head and adjust as necessary. Best of all, you can actually remove the eyepiece for hand-washing. Which is a good thing: you can bet it’s going to get sweaty and grimy quickly.
Once you launch the daydream app, you’re presented with a fairly typical home screen. It features recently used apps and your own shortcuts up front, and a button on the bottom of the screen leads to your entire library. At launch, Google has a handful of its own VR apps to explore: With YouTube VR, you can view normal videos on a flat or curved plane, or dive right into immersive 360-degree videos. Street View lets you take virtual strolls around famous locations. Play Movies allows you to use the Daydream View like your own personal home theater. Third-party apps include the Wall Street Journal, Star Chart VR and games like Fantastic Beasts and Twilight Pioneers.
While the Daydream View doesn’t completely reinvent mobile VR, it’s a solid first step for Google. It’s ideal for testing the waters of virtual reality without being locked into Samsung’s ecosystem. But it’s success depends on more Daydream phones being released, consumers being willing to pay for a headset and developers jumping on the platform.