What is Daydream?
Daydream was announced at Google's annual I/O conference earlier in May. This is Google's take on a VR platform that will run in the android-based environment and will be released sometime in November.
Google Cardboard is the affordable VR platform for consumers that don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on systems such as the Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR. It is comprised of a literal carboard box with two lenses and a compartment for a smartphone equipped with VR apps.
By comparison, Daydream is composed of three essential parts: the smartphone itself, the headset and controller, and VR-ready applications.
When it comes to the smartphone element, the VR platform will be built into phones that come stocked with N, Android's newest operating system that will be released mid-2016. The reason that prior devices will not be Daydream-ready is because there is a list of sensors needed for accurate head tracking, a display that will be able to minimize any blur, as well as a system on a chip (SoC) that will require a much more powerful mobile processor.
Do not fear, however; phones such the Nexus 6P will receive VR optimizations that will make the phone "Daydream-ready" as well. Future flagship phones from companies such as Samsung, HTC, LG, Huawei, ZTE, ASUS, and Alcatel will come out of the box Daydream-ready.
For performance, Google stated that they have brought their latency down to just under 20ms with single buffer rendering. The VR system UI will provide a seamless integration of notifications and alerts to provide for the best experience while running Daydream.
Daydream headset and controller render. Image courtesy of Google.
A Headset and a Controller
Daydream's engineers and designers understood that, as the headset will be worn on your head, factors such as great optics, comfort, materials, wearability needed to be the main focus of the design. The reference design (shown above) was shared amongst several manufacturing companies to ensure a great product for their consumers.
But Google set itself apart when they introduced a controller to pair with their carefully crafted VR headset. The controller was made to be very simple for its users; there are few buttons and a clickable touchpad to scroll and swipe through the Daydream platform. Inside the controller are orientation sensors that help determine how the user is turning and moving it in real time.
While Daydream is a VR that will set itself apart from Oculus or Samsung Gear VR, it shouldn't be considered as a competitor, as this controller is an innovative solution to many navigation problems VR headsets have now.
For example, Google designed the controller so applications could integrate items such as a fishing pole to fish, a frying pan to flip pancakes, a hammer to build, or a tennis racket to play tennis. The controller can become any tool or toy. As Stefan Welker, a software engineer on the Daydream project, puts it: "in a sense, the visual representation drives its use."
The third key part of the Daydream platform, the VR ready applications, are in development as I'm writing this. The focus of developing these apps is enabling the user to access Google Play and browse for apps. How one is able to search, purchase, install, and launch an app through Daydream has been one of the main concerns for the platform as it is an essential role in a seamless transition from reality to virtual reality.
Daydream will include a feature called Daydream Home, an interactive home screen that will allow users to keep coming back to access favorite games and apps.
Example of a Daydream Home layout. Image courtesy of Google.
As you can see from the above image, companies such as HBO NOW, MLB, and YouTube will be accessible through Daydream. Some other companies such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN, Netflix, NBA, Hulu, Lionsgate, and IMAX are bringing apps to Daydream, as well.
Google is reconstructing YouTube to provide a whole new interface for viewing videos in VR and previous standard quality videos will be accessible for viewing. IMAX will be bringing a VR app that will act as a theater through the use of the headset. Gaming developers such as EA, Ubisoft, nDreams, Otherside, and CCP are already working on new titles to bring to the Daydream platform for the best VR experience.
Aside from apps and games, Google is introducing Google Play Movies that will have HD DRM movie support and the ability to watch movies and TV shows from Google Play, but in VR. Google plans to bring its Photos into Daydream by allowing users to step in and relive previously taken photos. Pretty neat, right?
That's not all. Google Street View will provide for an in-depth viewing of the world from the comfort of your home.
All in all, Google Daydream is a VR headset with an intuitive controller that will set itself apart from other companies. Its simplistic interface and focus on ease of use are just another reason why Google Daydream is so highly anticipated.
Now we wait until November to see just how many more advancements they'll make before releasing Daydream.