Daydream VR could be the future of virtual reality.
Daydream is the evolution of virtual reality from Google’s Cardboard platform. Google’s new Pixel phones are the first smartphones that will be Daydream compatible, though other Daydream compatible phones are on the way.
At the company’s live event in San Francisco this morning, Google also announced Daydream View, a “really comfortable” headset that you put your phone into, which then connects wirelessly to the headset and a small remote.
A great benefit of this setup is the fact that there are no cables involved in any of this. You don’t need to plug into a PC or console, and you don’t need to plug the phone into the headset. This means a lot less cable clutter than high-end VR setups.
The Daydream View costs just $79, and launches this November. That’s over $300 cheaper than a PlayStation VR, over $500 cheaper than an Oculus Rift, and over $700 cheaper than an HTC Vive. Of course, one of Google’s Pixel phones will set you back $649, but these are almost always purchased on a month-to-month basis, taking the sting out of the purchase. More to the point, everybody has a smartphone these days. Daydream View will be an easy sell for anyone who already owns a Daydream compatible phone.
I’ve argued in the past that the biggest problems with virtual reality right now are four-fold:
Daydream VR tackles three of these, and might improve on the fourth. It’s untethered and cheap, and should have quite a bit of content at launch between VR game apps, video content and interactive experiences.
Google calls the Daydream View a comfortable headset, but we can’t speak to that until we’ve worn it ourselves. Still, it’s billed as light, much of its bulk made out of microfiber, and it’s breathable. That means more comfort than most VR headsets on the market today. It’s also easy to use, since simply dropping your phone into the headset will automatically switch it to VR mode.
With mobile graphics rapidly improving, Daydream VR gaming should provide an experience that’s at least approaching what you can play on more expensive headsets. Whether the quality of games on mobile VR will match the more hardcore games we can find on other headsets remains to be seen. But that’s not the most important thing for now.
Right now, for proponents of virtual reality to realize their vision, the technology desperately needs widespread adoption in order to survive. As a skeptic, I’m not sure that this will happen. If it’s going to happen, Daydream VR and, to a lesser extent, PlayStation VR will be the more affordable options that must lead the charge.
Even PlayStation VR, which is cheaper than the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, is still as expensive as a console. And while Sony has 40+ million PlayStation 4 owners, it won’t be long before the number of Daydream-compatible smartphone owners will eclipse that.
PlayStation VR launches this month, and the first Daydream View headsets ship in November. This holiday season is, in many ways, a big test for virtual reality. We’ll have several high-end headsets on the market, and a viable mobile option that goes beyond what’s been offered on Chrome. One way or another, it should be interesting to watch it all play out.
- The combination of being tethered to a PC and dealing with cable clutter makes VR headsets a big hassle.
- The price-point is currently far too prohibitive for mainstream adoption.
- Lack of mainstream adoption creates a vicious spiral: Too little content to justify a purchase leads to too few purchases to justify the creation of new content.
- VR headsets are uncomfortable. People don’t like playing VR games for long when they have to wear stuff on their face.