Google’s Daydream: a Virtual Reality ecosystem for Android

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On the second day of Google’s annual I/O developer conference, the tech giant dove into greater detail on its virtual reality plans.

During I/O’s first keynote on Wednesday, Google unveiled Daydream, a VR development platform based on Android that consists of smartphones, a headset and controller, and apps.

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On Thursday, Google’s Daydream got a little more solid.

“We think VR is amazing,” said Clay Bavor, Google’s vice president of virtual reality. “We want to bring to everyone in the world.”

Daydream will set the stage for immersive mobile VR with a strong emphasis on quality-made virtual experiences. Smartphone makers will need to meet standard VR specs — powerful performance, have low latency and have a VR System UI — in order to qualify to be Daydream-ready.

Over a half dozen phone makers plan to release Daydream-ready smartphones by the end of the year. Announced partners include Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, Asus and Alcatel.

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“Creating presence on a smartphone is easier said than done,” said Nathan Martz, a product manager at Google. “Great VR experiences require great hardware.”

But it’s not just hardware. Software matters too. “We’ve worked to make sure Android is a great OS for VR,” Martz said.

Google also unveiled a reference design VR headset that’ll work with Daydream-ready smartphones. Presumably, it’ll work similarly to Samsung’s Gear VR, which has a hatch for smartphones to slot in.

Daydream VR headsets, in theory, should also be lighter since they don’t have a built-in touchpad. Instead, users will use a specially designed controller to navigate the VR world.

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The VR controller will be used for controlling menus and playing games within VR. The simplistic controller only has two buttons and a clickable touchpad on the top.

The controller also has motion sensors that can detect in which orientation it’s being held in. Like Wii Tennis, but in VR. Additionally, you can aim it at things like a laser pointer.

A VR version of the Google Play store for users to download and discover VR content will include a motion-intensity rating next to apps — much like Oculus’s own VR app store.

“Daydream home is your experience launcher, access Play Store and access system settings,” said Lindsay Metcalfe, a design manager at Google.

 

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Daydream also has a YouTube VR app where users will be able to watch 360-degree videos in up to 4K resolution.

Daydream Labs is an experimental VR arm working on all kinds of software experiences (like flipping VR pancakes). Metcalfe says Daydream Labs is currently putting out two experiments a week.

Most importantly, Google’s VR ambitions will be backed by major content creators and game developers. Here are just a few of the developers that will produce content for Daydream:

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Unreal Engine 4, developed by Epic Games, will be one major way for developers to create high-performance and rich VR experiences.

“We know Unreal Engine 4 is going to power some incredible and amazing experiences [in Daydream],” said Mark Rein, vice president and co-founder of Epic Games in a video reel presented on stage.

Google also announced the popular game development tool Unity will be a supported on Daydream.

“I think VR is going to be driven by mobile,” said John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity. “The holodeck will happen. You’ll be closer to your nearest and dearest. I’m looking forward to connecting with them in a much more closer way that makes me feel like I’m right there.”

“We’ve got 5 million developers — all of them ready to jump onboard.”

Watch the video below to learn more about Daydream.

 

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