Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Google Daydream: Gear VR for everyone else?





Google believes that VR should be "mobile, approachable, and for everyone."  At the Google I/O developers' conference, Google announced their next big move for VR: Daydream.  Rather than being a Google-made device, Daydream is an open platform for high-quality mobile VR. 


The Daydream platform consists of the following components:
  • Smartphone hardware specifications to ensure high frame rate and high resolution.  Smartphones that meet these specs will be considered "Daydream-ready."
  • Headset.
  • Controller: a wand-like controller with orientation sensors.  Looks somewhat like Playstation Move, but doesn't require an external camera to track its motion.
  • Apps: VR apps will appear in their own space in the smartphone, called Daydream Home.  From there, you will be able to view VR videos and launch VR apps.
Here is a video of the Daydream presentation at I/O 2016:





Google promises that Daydream-ready phones will be able to provide less than 20ms motion-to-photon latency (the delay from the head movement to the time you see the image move).  If that sounds familiar, it's because the Gear VR does have that capability as well, thanks to its technology from Oculus.  In fact, it appears that Daydream is like Google's version of Samsung's Gear VR.  


That's not necessarily a bad thing.  For me, Gear VR is noticeably better than Google Cardboard, but Gear VR has thus far been limited to compatibility with the latest flagship Samsung phones.  It would be great if there was a Gear VR clone that works with any Android phone, and I think that's exactly what Daydream seeks to do.


However, Google did not say much about the headset.  The Gear VR headset has electronics to provide more accurate head tracking.  It was not clear from the presentation whether the Daydream headset would also have such electronics.  If I had to guess, I would say probably not, or else they would have made a bigger deal out of it.


BTW, watching the video, I did not see evidence of positional tracking, so I would not expect that.


Daydream headsets and smartphones will be available Fall of 2016.