A few weeks ago Google revealed its most impressive range of new virtual reality hardware to date. Among a wealth of new technologies announced beyond phones, routers and Amazon Echo copies, was a new virtual reality (VR) headset called Daydream View.
It’s a piece of technology that will work with Google’s new Daydream VR platform on supporting devices including the Pixel, Pixel XL and other new OEM Android smartphones.
The headset has a low cost of entry and aesthetic appeal, and should be easy to use, demonstrating progress beyond the other headsets that have emerged to date.
However, where Google Daydream View takes the cardboard disposal headset to a new level, it comes with advantages and disadvantages.
Numerous hours have clearly been spent by Google’s design team on planning and structuring the Daydream View, replacing the hard matte plastic body with fabric.
The headset design seems to fit between high-end products on the market like the Oculus Rift and the mobile-enabled headsets at the bottom end, meaning it delivers more functionality than the smartphone versions but does not need to be tethered to a PC.
This creates a hassle-free headset that even features an easily accessible slot for a useful two-button remote, which has an easy-clickable touchpad on the top.
The product has also been priced at a decent level (£64), undercutting other global VR leaders such as Samsung Gear VR when the headset isn’t being bundled for free.
It’s also important to note that Google is putting everything behind the VR platform, and the Pixel handset has been the subject of good early reviews. So the Daydream View certainly has the potential to be the new leader in the portable mobile VR headset market.
The stability offered by a bespoke piece of hardware like Daydream View is also more encouraging for developers, since they can create more games for the same device over a longer period.
This avoids the problem of smartphone headsets, where new smartphones are released every three to four months with new capabilities that games developers might not be able to keep up with.
The speed of innovation we predict in mobile VR will only serve to help these devices catch up with dedicated home VR platforms, such as the Oculus Rift.
The Daydream View does leave room for improvement, however, and misses the opportunity to deliver on some much discussed innovations that would further advance the VR space.
Namely, Google has decided not to add any additional environmental sensors, in the headset or externally, which would enable the positional tracking (leaning, movements) that makes VR on the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift such a compelling and immersive experience.
Without delivering on this, devices like Daydream View are confined to simple interactive capabilities and straight VR video consumption, leaving the portable VR experience somewhat lacking.
At any rate, Daydream View clearly shows Google doing a lot to drive competition in the portable mobile VR space.
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