Google Daydream: a Pixel-perfect VR experience

On November 10, 2016 Google has launched its own VR headset and controller called Daydream View. It’s ultralight and reasonably priced. Are you ready for a Pixel-perfect VR experience?

Daydream View is the first headset in the family of devices that – much like Android-powered devices as a whole – includes Google as one of the many hardware partners. Daydream is actually the name of the new system that was announced earlier this year.

Easy and intuitive device

Daydream View encompasses many qualities that the search engine giant itself is trying to push with the platform. It’s lighter than its nearest competitor, the Samsung Gear VR. On the top of that it’s only $79 for the viewer and that package contains everything you need to get started.

The Daydream headsets include quality lenses that don’t need to be adjusted (we will see how it works for different people – we have team members here at Realityshift who feel much more comfortable with adjustable pupil distance). Simply drop the phone into the viewer and once you have the Daydream app installed you’ll find the phone not only automatically pairs with the viewer but also aligns itself up visually with the lenses without any sort of configuration at all.

Comfortable and fashionable design

The overall design of the Daydream has a distinct hipster feel to it, but even if you don’t qualify as one it’s likely that you’ll be incredibly happy with Google’s choice of materials. The phone is held in by an elastic band and there’s no way it’s coming loose once it’s on your face. The headset is available in three colors: slate, snow and crimson.

The cloth design keeps the unit lighter and more resilient to drops than its plastic competitors. Even the face pad is removable and can be hand washed to get rid of face grease and sweat that you can experience using VR.

Unlike most other viewers, Daydream View doesn’t have a second strap for the top of the head but it won’t fall off your head when you’re moving. However it might not be the best choice for kids. They won’t be able to wear this headset without modifications to the size of the straps. It’s simply too large for them.

Responsive and accurate controller

The Daydream ships with a Wiimote light controller with a set of 9-axis sensors inside. These sensors are more accurate than most other motion controllers which only feature 6-axis sensors. With Daydream you should have reasonably accurate spatial motion without the need for external cameras.

The controller is incredibly responsive and accurate. It handles both location and inertia meaning that games like tennis, golf or balling can detect how hard you throw or hit the virtual ball.

On the face of the controller you can find 2 buttons: a concave Home button and a convex App button. Above that sits a touch pad that functions as the D-pad of the controller and you can also click it for actions. On the right side of the controller there are dedicated volume buttons.

Phone requirements

  • Bluetooth 4.2 LE
  • Display between 4.7 and 6 inches
  • Resolution at least 1080p @ 60Hz display with 3ms or less latency and 5ms or less persistence. (Quad HD or higher recommended.)
  • OpenGL ES 3.2 and Vulkan
  • Able to decode 2 instances of 60fps video simultaneously
  • Consistent 60fps rendering
  • Temperature sensors capable of reading device surface temperature

As you can see, the requirements are pretty high, and only phones with Google’s “Daydream ready” stamp will work. Other phones won’t, even if they meet the requirements. Google has been pushing the Pixel as the main phone to use with the Daydream View, and there are no other certified phones on the market at the time of writing this article (although ZTE Axon 7 is rumored to get the approval once upgraded to Nougat).

Inside the hub of Google VR

Since Daydream View automatically pairs with the phone the Daydream home screen launches immediately once you’ve put the headset on.

Heading into the Play Store reveals a dedicated section for Daydream. It exclusively features Daydream certified apps and games. This certification includes a content rating, a motion level rating for those who get motion sick easily and the required performance standards mentioned before. This ensures a quality experience.

At launch, there is a little over of dozen apps and games available. Google is siding the availability of 26 games, 8 TV and movie services and nearly 20 other apps by the end of the year.

Don’t forget to check out the content partners like Wall Street Journal with its awesome VR videos or Google Arts & Culture which lets you step inside the world’s most famous museums for a virtual tour or popular places.

Dreaming of it?

For $79 it is extraordinarily difficult not to recommend Daydream View to everyone with a Pixel. Google has shown that it’s serious about launching its own console and it’s effectively the beginning of a new era of devices that absolutely must be experienced.