During Google’s press conference on Tuesday, Clay Bavor from the virtual reality team provided more information regarding the company’s Daydream VR initiative. The first device to support this platform is the just-announced Pixel phone and will be followed by other phones from manufacturers soon. He did not say what the hardware requirements would be, but if the Pixel serves as the Daydream launch device, the compatible phones will likely sport 4GB of LPDDR4 system memory, a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor or equivalent, and so on.
The whole Daydream setup is similar to Samsung’s Gear VR system, only Google’s Daydream View headset is not locked to specific phones from a specific manufacturer. Users simply open the front flap and insert their compatible Android phone. That makes the headset extremely inexpensive when compared to the PC-based Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, as the smartphone provides all of the hardware necessary for an engulfing VR experience. Daydream View will even be cheaper than Samsung’s Gear VR headset.
According to Bavor, the company looked at current headsets on the market and decided there was a problem: they do not offer a really comfortable fit. That led to the current design of Daydream View, as it is the byproduct of a collaboration between Google and several clothing manufacturers. The end result is a product featuring soft fabrics and a 30 percent lower weight than competing products on the market. This should be great on the phone as well, preventing possible scratches on the screen.
Bavor pointed out that thanks to this design, customers can wear the headset over their glasses. There are also no wires getting in the way, as the headset connects to the compatible Android phone wirelessly. Unfortunately, he did not go into specifics regarding the hardware components of Google’s new headset, but did reveal three color variations will be released: Slate, Snow, and Crimson.
In addition to the headset, Bavor also introduced the Daydream View controller. It is small, sporting rounded edges and only two buttons. The peripheral includes motion sensors so that users can interact with the virtual environment, such as draw, shoot aliens, and so on. This controller can be stored in the headset itself when not in use thanks to a little snap-based compartment built into the headset’s flap.
On the application side, Adrienne McCallister jumped on stage to reveal that Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is coming to Daydream, an interactive experience that turns the controller into a magic wand. Other examples revealed included an app that allows adventurers to explore the stars using the controller and a game by the developers of EVE Online called Gunjack 2, a space shooter developed specifically for VR.
Of course, you cannot have a VR platform without updating the popular apps too. Neflix, HBO, and Hulu will be coming to Daydream of course, throwing customers into a virtual living room so they can watch their favorite movies and TV shows on a virtual big screen. Google Movies, Google Photos, YouTube, and StreetView — complete with Sheep Cam — will support VR experiences too.
Ultimately, more than 50 developers are bringing apps and games to the Daydream platform before the end of 2016. That, of course, leads us to the price and ship date. The headset will arrive in November, though a specific release date was not given. It will sell for a mere $79 and that includes the nifty motion-sensing controller.