We’re live from Google’s Pixel phone media event, where we got hand’s on with the company’s new Daydream View VR headset. Powered by the Google Pixel phone (the first Daydream ready phone), Daydream View is the tech giant’s solution to bringing VR to mass consumers with a more comfortable and simple mobile VR system — all for the price of $79.
Here’s what you need to know:
Much like the Google Cardboard and Gear VR, Daydream View is powered by your phone (in this case a Google Pixel phone). Your mobile device slides into the front of the headset, using the phone’s display and computing hardware to immerse you in VR.
But unlike the Gear VR that has you connect the phone via the native USB Type-C connector, the Daydream View is entirely wireless. You unlatch the bungee cord-like front faceplate cover and lay the phone into place, immediately activating the Daydream VR platform via NFC. Close the cover with the phone in place and you can begin your journey, with the device auto-aligning the display — no more having to fiddle with lining up the phone perfectly in the middle like we are familiar with a Cardboard headset.
Although the Gear VR has a range of buttons that you can tap on the headset to navigate in VR, Google believes their wireless controller is a better solution for a more intuitive experience, adding the ability use hand movement to interact in virtual reality. And for those of us who tend to lose every controller in the house, Google will let you impressively tuck it into the Daydream View headset front panel when not in use.
The wireless controller can be charged via a USB Type-C connector and has a battery life of up to 10 hours. Button features include a clickable trackpad, selector, home, and volume all on this little device. With all Daydream View headsets coming bundled with the same controller, developers will have a consistent hardware device to build VR experiences around.
How Daydream View looks and feels is what makes this VR headset shine, especially considering Google used actual cardboard for the Google Cardboard headset previously.
Google stated they worked with fashion companies to help develop the breathable microfiber materials and cozier fit on your face. The entire headset is covered with fabric, that looks and feels like you’re wearing All Birds shoes or Lululemon yoga pants on your face. According to Google’s Clay Bavor, the headset is 30% lighter than “similar devices” and fits “nicely” over glasses.
It is indeed much lighter, no longer requiring a top strap that might mess up your hair. During some quick demos, the headset did feel snug on the face, but required extra tightening of the head strap to ensure it stayed in place absent of a top strap. Although face pressure is greater than what you might see with other headsets, the fabric foam interior improved comfort and felt close to wearing a pair of ski goggles.
Google announced three colors for the fabric covering: slate, snow and crimson. Only the slate color option with be available at launch.
And when it comes to cleanliness, Google lets you remove the fabric face pad, allowing you to hand wash or swap it out after a sweaty Daydream wand waving VR session.
Daydream VR experiences were lacking during this announcement, where we would have liked to see a more robust showcase of content and partnerships revealed.
The three VR experiences I did demo were quite impressive, but also maybe the only ones that were ready in time for the event. The YouTube VR app let me only check out a dinosaur VR experience that was streamed to the Pixel phone. Another game called Wonderglade, utilized the controller to deliver some pretty compelling gameplay of rolling a character through a fun carnival maze game.
One new content announcement was a VR experience from J.K. Rowling titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, that transforms the controller into a wand that you can levitate objects and cast spells. Quite intuitive but also frustrating at times when the wand didn’t react exactly how I wanted it to.
Come November, Google is expected to launch with over 50 VR apps for Daydream, in addition to the company’s Movies, YouTube, StreetView, and Photos apps.