Virtual reality has come a long way since Morton Heilgi’s Telesphere Mask from 1960. Since its first announcement at the tenth Google I/O, it became clear Google’s push into VR with Cardboard was the start of a mobile revolution.
Back in May 2016, Google announced Daydream View and it will be available for the public to buy tomorrow, November 10th. Retailing for $79, Daydream is ready to compete against Samsung’s Gear VR, which also provided a premium offering for Samsung Galaxy users.
What is Daydream?
Daydream is more than just the fabric headset which has been seen in articles across the web. Daydream, as a whole, simplifies access to virtual reality content on a mobile device. The Daydream offering is broken down into three key components.
First, smartphone manufacturers must meet an optimal specification set out by Google for devices to be deemed ‘Daydream-ready’.
Secondly, there is the all-important headset; a fabric-covered device available in colours called ‘Snow’, ‘Slate’, and ‘Crimson’. It also comes with a motion controller.
To complete the holy trinity is Daydream Home, which is the all-encompassing hub for VR content. Essentially a little like Google Play, Daydream Home is the dedicated place where you can load up VR apps or view videos whilst wearing the headset.
Going Up Against Gear
As it stands, there is not one product that can give VR users an unfragmented experience. Many who have got their hands on a Samsung Gear have been shocked at the sheer lengths they have to go to watch something as simple as a 360-degree YouTube video. Also, having to use the touchpad on the side of the headset was an inevitable mood killer.
Although solely for Android users, Daydream has solved this issue with the aforementioned Daydream Home; a one-stop-shop for all you VR needs. The motion controller, with what appears to have two buttons and a trackpad, also takes away the awkward headset fumbling associated with the Gear.
The first thing Google emphasised about the Daydream View was comfort. Samsung’s Gear is quite obviously a gadget; plastic, matte finish, rubber mask against the face. At Google’s unveiling of Daydream earlier in the year, they made a point of stating that people wear clothes, not gadgets. For this reason, the Daydream is made of soft, lightweight fabric and comes in three colourways to portray itself as more of an accessory.
Furthermore, there is no fumbling around with wires. Gear users had to plug their phone in via a micro-USB connection, whereas those who purchase the Daydream will simply have to slide their phone into the headset and fasten the clasp.
One of the most appealing aspects of Daydream is that it can be used with any Daydream-ready Android device. Gear can only be used with Samsung devices which equalled an extra expense for those wanting to get their hands on the VR headset.
The first Daydream ready phones are already available to purchase. No comparison can be made in regards to resolution and refresh rate as of yet as Google have not released the specifications. But, ultimately, it will depend on the device. Google Pixel has a 1080p display, whereas the Google Pixel XL is amped up to 1440p. The Gear, which requires a Galaxy phone such as the S7 or S7 Edge, already uses a 1440p display. When comparing the S7 and Pixel, the memory and processing power are incredibly similar so, on the surface, it doesn’t seem as if the Daydream will have an edge on VR experience.
However, Daydream may have one-upped Gear when it comes down to software. Many Gear VR reviews have noted that the interface design was flat, blocky, and left many underwhelmed. Also, there were glitches with apps, such as Netflix, and many users were not happy with the lack of quality apps available through the Oculus store.
In contrast, Google is bringing many of its already popular apps to Daydream Home, and giving them a VR twist. The only area letting Daydream down is the gaming availability. Gunjack 2 is set to be a popular choice, along with Fruit Ninja, and Need for Speed. The Daydream Playground, as seen at Google I/O 2016, is set to be the introductory game for those taking their first tentative steps into mobile VR gaming. Other than this, many are left wondering if Google will add better games in the near future.
For those wanting an affordable gateway to experience VR, both the headsets come in at under $100. The Gear VR is currently retailing for $99, whereas Daydream is $79. Also, for those buying a Google Pixel, or Pixel XL, a Daydream View will be a free additional extra.
Will Google Have the Edge?
Up until now, Samsung has not only dominated the smartphone market but, has also had the upper hand when it comes to entry-level VR. Although we have not been able to get our hands on a Daydream as of yet, it seems as though Samsung have stiff competition, and the rivalry between the two headsets will be tangible. With Google placing an emphasis on comfort in their Daydream manifesto, and a lower price point than the Gear, it would not be surprising if many mobile VR enthusiasts are intrigued by the new Google offering.
Until the reviews of the Daydream start rolling in, it is hard to make an educated guess as to how far Google have advanced mobile VR. Either way, we are excited to get involved. Furthermore, does this mean a new Gear from Samsung in retaliation? Only time will tell.