In last week’s Google I/O conference, the company announced what the future will look like for the Daydream VR platform. And it looks fantastic. So fantastic that I believe Google will become the market leader in VR!
The last week has been full of exciting news for the Daydream VR platform! Of course the reason for this is the Google I/O conference that took place last week! Google took us all by surprise and showed us the future of Daydream and I couldn’t be more excited!
Let’s start with the biggest news first! Google introduced a new class of Daydream devices which are called Daydream Standalone Headsets and that include everything the user needs to delve into Daydream VR – no additional phone or PC needed!
Now what’s most exciting about these Standalone Headsets is that that come with full positional tracking without the need to set up external sensors like you have to do with the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. Instead, the headset comes with additional built in sensors that will track the headsets position in space, something that is called “inside-out” in the VR industry. Google calls this technology Worldsense and without a doubt Worldsense will make the Daydream experience much more immersive. The lack of positional tracking had been the big disadvantage of mobile VR as compared to tethered devices like the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or the Sony PSVR.
With the new Standalone Devices, Google also follows the platform approach in which it allows third party manufacturers to build the actual headsets and in term only provides the hardware requirements and the underlying software eco-system. Google has worked together with Qualcomm to design a Standalone headset reference model that 3rd party hardware manufacturers can use as a blue print to design their own devices.
Wow, this is absolutely incredible news!!! With the upcoming Standalone devices, Google tackles several problems at once! First of all, while phone VR was already simple, it was still not as simple as just having one dedicated device for VR that does not need anything else. No Daydream-ready phone, no PC, no console, nothing. This is going to be the simplest and easy way to get into VR.
Then on top of that, for phone VR, Daydream was only exciting for those people who were already invested in the Android ecosystem. For the millions of iPhone users that did not want to give up on their iPhone, Daydream was not the ideal value proposition. However, with the standalone devices, that totally changed. IPhone users can hold on to their beloved iphones while still enjoying everything that the Daydream platform has to offer in VR!
But for sure the most exciting news is the introduction of the Worldsense posititional tracking technology. We had all hoped that Google would eventually merge Daydream with the Tango room sensing technology one fine day, but that it would happen so soon is more than a pleasent surprise. With this technology, Daydream can finally compete with the tethered VR systems that already offer positional tracking. With the added benefit though that there are absolutely no wires connected to the headset!
After introducing the Standalone headsets, Google announced which companies would be producing the first Daydream Standalone headsets.
Now this has been quite the presentation so far! And this is now the icing on the cake: Google is cooperating HTC, the pioneer in VR headsets. It’s HTC Vive headset is by most in the industry considered to be the single best VR experience on the market right now. So Google could not have found a better partner for that device. Also for Lenovo, the company had already been working closely with the Daydream team on Tango enabled devices, so a cooperation does not come as a surprise here. The headsets will arrive in the end of 2017 and of course I will thoroughly test both of them here on Daydream District!
In the same presentation Google has announced some very good news for owners of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8plus! The devices will both get an upgrade and will finally be Daydream ready! This is fantastic news for the Daydream platform as well because with just this little update there will be millions of potential new users for Daydream! Also this means that the coming Galaxy phones like the Galaxy Note 8 will also support Daydream. Good times ahead…
Next to Samsung, LG will also join the Daydream party with their upcoming flagship phone. Google did not go into detail which phone that might be, but I am speculating it will be one of the V series of devices.
That was the Daydream related news of Day 1 of the conference, but there was still Day 2! On the second day we learned more about software related news!
Here the big news is that Daydream will get a big overhaul and this Daydream 2.0 update is called Euphrates.
Euphrates is going to run on both phone vr as well as the Standalone headsets and will be powered by Android O.
With Daydream Euphrates, all of the System UI will be accessible in VR. So you won’t need to go out of VR to check out a notification or to switch to another app that was running in the background. Of course this update was needed for the standalone devices anyways, but this is a welcome addition for phone VR as well.
The UI also will get an update with more curated content categories that will make it easier for you to find the apps and games that you are interested in.
And with Euphrates, Google Cast support is finally coming to the platform. From within VR you will be able to choose to which device you would like to cast your VR experience to. Finally, the picture shown on the outside screen will not be the VR double picture but a single one which will make it so much easier to follow the action. And of course for me to record all those Daydream videos for you!
On top of that, taking screenshots and short videos of what happens in VR is only a click away.
That’s it for Euphrates. But there was still more exciting news! Finally, Google Chrome is coming to Daydream!
It took Google more than a year after the Daydream launch to finally offer a browser that can be used from within Daydream. But finally users will be able to surf the web from within VR and when looking at the presentation, it seems that this might be something you would actually want to do. When coming across WebVR content, the browser will automatically change to full VR mode to let you consume the content as it was intended to be viewed, videos will be displayed on huge virtual screens and all your bookmarks are available in VR as well of course!
So good news, finally you will be able to check out daydreamdistrict.com from within VR! But we still have not reached the end yet. The next announced was about a social experience that you soon will be able to have while watching videos.
The youtube VR app will get a major update and allow you to watch videos together with your friends. Instead of sitting together in a virtual room you will all be in the center of the VR videos. You and your friends will be depicted by avatars that you can adjust to your liking. Moreover voice chat will be enabled so you can discuss whatever you are watching together.
and finally Google has announced a new VR technology called “Seurat” which allows content producers to display graphically stunning VR scenes on mobile VR systems that will now only need microseconds to render instead of hours.
Seurat will be rolled out later this year and is compatible with all the major content creation platforms like for example Unity and Unreal. It will bring VR experiences to Daydream that before had only been able to be displayed on tethered VR devices like the Oculus Rift since a dedicated computer would do all the heavy lifting. With the Seurat technology, it seems that mobile VR even can easily compete with tethered VR experiences what graphical prowess is concerend. By applying the Seurat technology, a scene that before needed x hours to render was now rendered in only 13 ms by a mobile VR processor and that is simply stunning.
Now with all these announcements, Google has clearly positioned Daydream as one of the leading VR platforms moving forwards. Millions of devices will be Daydream ready, the standalone headsets will allow for positional tracking and with Seurat apps and games will look as good those VR experiences from systems that are hundreds of dollars more expensive than the Daydream ones.
I am personally very excited about all these developments and believe that Daydream now has what it takes to become even the market leader in the VR industry.
What is your opinion? Do you also believe that these announcements will catapult Google to the very top in VR? Please weigh in in the comment section below!