What is Google Daydream?
Daydream is the next step in smartphone-based virtual reality from Google. Instead of requiring an expensive headset powered by a computer, Google believes more people would use VR if it was powered by something they always have on them — a smartphone. You put your phone in a box, strap that box to your head, and use a special controller to interact with the VR environments created by Google and their partners.
What is Daydream View?
Daydream View is the first headset built for the Daydream platform. It promises low latency, accurate head tracking and a comfortable fit, as well as three color choices to choose from: slate, snow, and crimson. Instead of the usual plastic exterior, View has been constructed from soft, breathable microfiber and other materials generally found in athletic wear. The result is a lightweight head-mounted display you can wear for extended periods of time. Even those of you wearing eyeglasses will have no problem thanks to its wide design.
A front panel folds down, you drop your Daydream Ready phone into the opening, and close the panel. The connection between the phone and the headset is wireless and the headset has an auto-alignment system to ensure you're getting a clear view of the display.
The controller included with Daydream View resembles a Rift remote, but really acts as a Vive Wand. Yes, you get full motion tracking thanks to a host of sensors inside — swing, aim, move, draw, and write with natural movements. As far as buttons go, at the top of the controller is a clickable touchpad and near the midsection a few buttons. When you're not using the slim remote, it slips into a holder on the inside panel of the View headset.
So it's replacing Google Cardboard?
Not exactly. Google is positioning Cardboard as the nearly free thing anyone with any kind of phone can use for "snackable" VR experiences. If you want to get a better experience from a 360-degree video or you're interested in adding depth to something like a walkthrough of a house you're interested in buying, Google Cardboard is still the go-to experience. It's fast, inexpensive, and runs on just about everything.
Google Daydream is going to be a more complex experience. More involved gaming and art concepts are going to exist for Daydream, encouraging users to be in VR for more than just a couple of minutes at a time. You'll be able to watch movies, play visually rich VR games with a motion-sensing controller, and explore stories being told by VR-focused groups all over the world.
I still need my phone though, right?
You will still need a Daydream Ready smartphone. The phone acts as the computer, display, and head tracking for all of the VR experiences, as well as the connection to a controller that you'll be able to wave in the air and see in the 3D world created by Daydream.
What is a "Daydream Ready" phone?
The release of Google's Pixel and Pixel XL heralds the first Daydream Ready phones, but there are plenty more coming in the near future.
Google wants every Daydream user to have the same experience, but doesn't want that to mean users can only buy one kind of phone to use Daydream. The compromise is to create a list of requirements any smartphone manufacturer can meet in order to become Daydream Ready.
This list of requirements includes a high-end processor like the Pixel's Snapdragon 821, display technology that guarantees a low latency for a good visual experience, and the inclusion of specific sensors to make sure head tracking is as smooth as possible. Every Daydream phone should be identically capable, even though they will be made by different companies and likely be sold at different prices with different features in the actual phone parts.
Will this really be worth it?
Google is promising a lot with Daydream, but so far seem to be backing those promises up with a lot of technology and experience. Daydream is the result of everything learned with Google Cardboard and everything learned by watching the other VR companies in the world today, and it's an impressive first step.
The inclusion of a motion-tracked controller that resembles the Rift's remote but acts like a Vive Wand is certainly an enormous boon. Play styles will open up now that you can use a hand in-game, as we saw with J.K. Rowling's World of Wizarding that lets users hold a wand and cast spells. This type of immersion for a headset that only costs $79 is certainly impressive.
Google has promised that over 50 partners will be delivering content for Daydream before the year expires. Expect educational experiences, hard-hitting journalism with you on the front line, and plenty of new games. This promise of content, if coupled with excellent battery life and a quality display, will make Google Daydream absolutely worth it.
When can you get your hands on one?
Google Pixel and Pixel XL are now available for preorder from the Google Store, and Daydream View will be available starting in November.