Google has announced Daydream, a new Android N-powered VR platform at I/O, answering the question ‘What comes after Cardboard?’
We kinda thought we’d see a standalone headset announced at the developer conference but Google has gone one better. Yes, Clay Bavor, its (relatively) new head of VR shared its reference designs for a headset, which in the sketches looks a lot like a Samsung Gear VR, and a wireless, handheld controller with a clickable touchpad and orientation sensors.
Read this: The best Google Cardboard apps
But by this fall (autumn) we will also get Daydream VR headsets and controllers from hardware makers. It’s not clear if a small group of partners will be making these – as with Android Wear’s 12 partners – or Google will take a more hands off approach as with Cardboard viewers.
Around this time, we will also start to see Daydream-ready Android N phones from Samsung, LG, HTC, Asus, Xiaomi, ZTE Alcatel and Huawei – it seems that 2016’s phones (or older) won’t be powerful enough with displays fast enough, though if Bavor corrects this, we’ll let you know.
Android N is getting a VR Mode, which Bavor says will make smartphones better at being both a phone and the core of a high quality VR system – that means low latency, under 20ms and high performance.
The Google Play of VR
The most exciting aspect is the ecosystem of apps that Daydream is promising. Bavor said that Google has built the “Google Play of VR” and showed off videos of new Daydream Home menu screens together with the mention of a VR System UI built into Android N for alerts and notifications.
Google has put together a very decent list of apps, TV, movie and games partners for Daydream already including: Ubisoft, IMAX, HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu, Lionsgate, EA, CNN, MLB.com, the New York Times and CCP Games. So from the get go, Daydream will rival Samsung’s Gear VR store.
Google’s own apps coming to Daydream include YouTube, of course, Street View, Google Play Movies (in a virtual theater) and Google Photos.
On that Samsung comparison, this is surely the end of the Gear VR as we know it. Daydream will probably work with every Android phone released from late 2016 onwards.
The Developer Preview of Daydream is available to devs from today.