What is Daydream and when is it coming? Google’s Android VR platform explained
When it comes to virtual reality Google has already been very active in getting cheap devices into people’s hands, thanks to Google Cardboard, and even supplying them content to view, through YouTube.
However, 2016 is going be a far bigger year for VR and Google’s plans for the entertainment tech are now emerging.
During its Google I/O developers conference, the company announced Daydream, a new VR platform for Android devices that should provide easier access to virtual reality content.
Here we look at what we know of Daydream so far, so you can be up to speed when the platform launches.
Google Android VR: What is Daydream?
Daydream will effectively simplify access to virtual reality content on a mobile device.
This will come in three key aspects. There will be an optimal specification list that manufacturers must meet for a smartphone to be labelled Daydream-ready.
There will be a reference design for a Daydream headset. Multiple manufacturers will build headsets, but they must meet Google’s standards.
Finally, it will serve as a hub for VR content. Daydream Home will be a one-stop place where you can start virtual reality software or video while wearing the headset itself.
Google Android VR: Why do we need Daydream?
At present, virtual reality content is fragmented. It is available from different places, but rarely all accessible from the one central location. Anyone who’s gone through the charade of watching 360-degree YouTube videos on a Samsung Gear VR will know what we mean. You have to jump through several hoops just to get to the content you want to view.
Daydream Home should solve that, at least for Android device owners. It is being devised to house the content from all VR developers, no matter who they are. Sources big and small will be immediately accessible through the hub.
In addition, while Google Cardboard has been a fun an easy device to use to get a flavour of what VR is about, it’s hardly high-tech or, in many cases, comfortable. The Daydream headset will be much more comfortable and look like higher end devices already out there. The OnePlus Loop VR and Samsung Gear VR are good examples of what the Daydream headset will look like.
Google Android VR: What devices will work with Daydream?
As well as headsets that meet Google’s Daydream specifications, Android smartphones must also match optimal settings to be called Daydream-ready.
Manufacturers are yet to announce specific devices, but you can be certain that flagship Android phones coming in the remainder of 2016 will be compatible.
The list of manufacturers that have so-far committed to releasing Daydream-ready phones includes Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, Asus and Alcatel. You can also bet that Google’s next Nexus devices will be compatible too.
The same manufacturers could well have their own headsets in the pipeline.
As well as the Daydream headset there is also a specific Daydream remote control. It will be designed by Google and will enable users to interact with apps without having to tap the side of the headset – as in the case with the current Gear VR.
READ: Best VR headsets to buy in 2016, whatever your budget
Google Android VR: What apps will be compatible with Daydream?
Third-party app announcements are yet to take place, but during the unveiling at Google I/O, the company did confirm that YouTube content will be available to watch. As will Google Play movies and the ability to view Google Photos. We also spotted Netflix, HBO Go and Hulu on the list.
There will be plenty of games too, of course.
Google Android VR: When is Daydream coming?
There’s no specific date for a Daydream launch as yet. Google aims to have its platform ready for the public in autumn/fall of this year. It will be part of Android N, so will roll out alongside that latest OS update.
You are also likely to see Daydream-ready devices around the same timescale – phones, headsets and remotes.
Daydream is something that mobile virtual reality has needed to give it impetuous. Of course, it is limited in that it is part of Android, so doesn’t exactly unify all mobile VR, but it should at least provide a simple, easy-to-navigate experience for those looking to get into VR without plumping for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or the PlayStation VR headset also coming later this year.
At least you will know that if your phone is Daydream-ready, you can match it to a headset knowing full well it’ll work from the off.
What’s not clear yet is whether existing handsets will also become compatible when they are updated to Android N. If they meet the specifications, we can’t see why not. We’re just waiting to find out what those specifications are.
We’ll update this feature as and when we find out.