Google has had a successful launch of the Pixel and Pixel XL, but they are not done yet. The next key product is Daydream View, which is Google’s first virtual reality product. I call this the first as Cardboard was more of a test and this is a full retail product. Similar to the Pixel XL, I have had several days to test the Daydream View. Furthermore, it is awesome, and I really like it, so let’s dive into my full thoughts about the Daydream View.
Setting up Daydream View
It’s dead simple, and this is a great thing, one that should not be overlooked. With other VR platforms, there are many different applications needed. But with Google’s Daydream all you need is one application. In fact, by placing the phone on the front flap of the Daydream View, it will automatically launch the application. It really could not be easier, and after that, you fold the flap up and secure it with the elastic band. From there you slid the front over your head and adjust the strap to make sure it doesn’t fall off your head. You then are presented with the home screen, which you can control via the ergonomically designed controller. Even better for text inputs, Daydream View will make use of the microphones on your smartphone to do voice to text.
Design; VR Made Approachable
The standard route for VR puts the focus on technology, not the comfort of the product. Google did not go with this path, in fact, they do not really highlight the tech. Instead, they talk build quality, and they went with a non-hard plastic build. This VR headset it made out of a cloth material that is soft to the touch, it almost feels like a piece of clothing.
Similar virtual reality headsets, like the Gear VR, relies heavily on a plastic build. So the end-result almost every time with this an uncomfortable experience. Google went with a cloth fabric build on the inside and out. And while it does cover a hard sturdy material, you can barely tell it is there. The headset can easily be placed on your head and off. With the Gear VR, I could feel my head hurting at times, but this does not happen with Daydream View. It is also much lighter than a Gear VR, and I am a big fan of the design.
Daydream View will eventually be available in three colors, but at launch, it is out in Slate. You can expect Crimson and Snow to arrive later this year. Slate is a sleek looking color that is mostly gray with some white and black speckles tossed in.
You also don’t need to pop the front off to place the phone in. The front cover has an elastic band which flips the front panel down. While this is where the smartphone, currently the Pixel and Pixel XL, for now, will be placed when using the headset, it serves another purpose. The Daydream View controller can be stored in there when not in use. It is little things like this, and it shows the importance of product design.
This controller is how you interact with virtual reality. It uses sensors inside of it, along with tracking in the headset and smartphone to position you in the experience. The controller has long battery life and is charged via USB-C. But Google does not include a cable in the box, but for those with a Pixel or Pixel XL, you do get two cables with that device.
Daydream App; A unified experience to use and explore VR
Along with a solid hardware experience, is the Daydream application. This will be used for all Daydream compatible phones, and I tested it on the Pixel XL. The application is the one-stop shop to find and use VR applications.
The Discovery application shows you trending applications and allows you to preview them in line. This is neat, as it gives you a feel for the experience. As some applications are more motion sensitive than others, it will give you a brief demo of this as you can move the phone around. At launch, you can expect the store to be heavy with games and video experiences. A favorite application of mine has to be YouTubeVR or GooglePlay Movies; it is very cool to have a private movie theater.
The library section allows you to see what VR applications you have downloaded and you can open one quite quickly by tapping on the one you want. From there it prompts you to insert the phone into Daydream View. Even better it will auto align the screen for a solid viewing experience.
The big issue I see right now is that the Daydream View only works with two smartphones. Those being the Pixel and Pixel XL which are designed in-house by Google. Time will tell if other companies choose to adopt this standard and I am hoping that they will.
Using Daydream View
I’m going to be very upfront; Daydream View represents the best virtual reality experience out there yet. Specifically for mobile, it is leagues better than Google Cardboard and put’s Samsung’s Gear VR to shame. Ease of use is key, and Daydream View is about as plug and play as one could make a VR headset.
The application and hardware match together, and it all starts with the welcome experience. The welcome experience lets you learn the controller, which is much better than a touchpad on the side of the headset, and gets you used to it. You start off in a forest which gives you several tasks and teaches you how you control and move around the VR world. Even better, it shows you the power and the future of what this platform will look like.
It really is a great experience, and I am super happy and excited to see where the platform can go. You open in a forest and use the controller as a flashlight to search for animals. From there you got a museum and played some games within the exhibits.
You can really move around a room or an outdoor landscape, and this is made possible by the remote and the smartphone. The controller has several sensors which pairs with high-fidelity sensors found in the smartphone. And while it is not full motion tracking, this is about as close as you can get when it comes to mobile virtual reality. This is how the idea of motion tracking gets moved into mobile.
The one issue I encountered was some light leak in at the bottom of the screen, but this depends on the environment. It is also because the cloth may not provide as tight of a seal and while this might be seen as a tradeoff, I think this was the right call. As being comfortable while in virtual reality is key and allows you stay in the “other world” for a longer period.
Google has a true winner with Daydream View and if you have a Pixel or Pixel XL, this is the first accessory you should look at it. It is the perfect companion piece of hardware for the Pixel line and it will only get better over time. At $80 the VR piece isn’t the expensive part, the smartphone needed to power it is. But at only $80, this is a very low entry cost.
But Google has managed to pack a lot into a relatively low-cost product, that is both comfortable and easy to use. And these are key features for any virtual reality product. Especially considering that it may not appeal to all users, but if you can create an experience that can get people excited, you can make it work.
I highly suggest and whole-heartedly recommend the Daydream View. I think virtual reality is a very exciting piece of the market, and if you haven’t had an interest in it as of yet, Google has a high chance of making you interested. If you have a Pixel or Pixel right now, you should get a Daydream View. And if you get a Daydream ready smartphone in the future, you should also pick one of these headsets up.