“Cheer up Sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean, to a Daydream Believer and a homecoming Queen.” If you’re not familiar with these lyrics, we suggest you add the song to your “New Year, New Me” playlist at once.
Google’s Daydream is a virtual reality platform featuring the headset dubbed “Daydream View,” and Daydream Home - the home for all VR compatible apps and content on your handset.
Time will tell if Google’s Daydream will fulfill the romantic vision its name suggests, but just a few months after launch there are some noteworthy takeaways that we’ve condensed below.
Compatibility and usability: free-ish to be you and me
A big plus for the Daydream View is the potential ability to use a wide variety of Android phones with the platform. As well as the Pixel and Pixel XL, so far a further 4 Android handsets are classified as “Daydream-ready”, fitting the Google-specified set of criteria to work with the headset. The list, however, is growing with time and other Android devices have been deemed “Daydream-compatible,” meaning they could achieve support on the platform despite hardware limitations.
Critically, unlike other VR headsets on the market, the Daydream is also wireless, and will fit even our bespectacled friends - arguably making it a comfier and easier design than other VR headsets on the market.
Who’s on the bandwagon?
Unsurprisingly traditional Google Apps such as Street View and Photos already have a firm place in Daydream, with the Daydream Home App being the hub for users to start their adventures - hosting all a user’s VR content and downloaded apps, as well as access to the Google Play store.
At the Daydream View launch, a number of platforms including YouTube VR, The Guardian VR, CNN VR and Hunters Gate were ready for users to dive into - literally headfirst. Three months later, it’s no surprise that the list has has grown, with HBO Now and Netflix joining the ranks, and a personal favourite - Star Chart VR that allows users to explore space in ‘real time’. Far out.
Although first launched as an Android sweetener, in late January Google announced that Daydream View was now open to all developers. Their previous VR venture - Google Cardboard - was made iOS friendly in March 2016, with Google releasing an iOS compatible SDK 20 months after its Android launch. A number of iOS apps ended up creating content to work in the Cardboard headset, and even Google created a Cardboard Camera in iOS eventually. We may see a similar timeline with the Daydream View, however there is no telling if Apple handsets will ever enter the list of ‘Daydream-ready’.
In a 2016 blog post, YouTube’s Kurt Wilms revealed that they were working with Buzzfeed and Tastemade to “explore new ways of storytelling in virtual environments”. Get ready for new types of content that take advantage of an innovative content medium - beyond 3D videos of miniature-pizzas, perhaps we’ll have access to news coverage that puts us inside a courtroom or virtual refugee camp. A particularly timely concept full of potential, especially as Buzzfeed (and a host of other players including the giant Facebook) increasingly pour resources into video as opposed to more traditional news platform.
Mainstream adoption: The Catch 22 of content
Today, most Daydream users are early-adopters and those attracted by the competitive pricing (compared to Facebook’s Oculus, for example). But in order for the headset to find mainstream success, we will need to see more content providers get on board to provide unmissable experiences which can only be accessed through the headset. When it comes to VR - it seems content is still king.
The list of games joining the Daydream View gang is growing (with experiences from Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes reviewed to be exciting), and the likes of YouTube (set to offer live music and immersive concert experiences) and Netflix can do much of the heavy lifting, but industry analysts have warned that Google may need to open up the VR headset to more phones, and ease up on their specs, in order to encourage more developers to create content for the Daydream Home platform.
While there have also been user reviews that Daydream View-compatible phones are overheating within half an hour of use and experiencing early battery-depletion, a crucial bug for handset providers - the outlook remains positive for the Daydream. At CES 2017, Huawei announced they are to be the first third-party to create a Daydream-compatible headset known as Huawei View, an incentive perhaps for more handset providers to meet the specs.
The introduction of a handset to Daydream View was a good move - swashbuckling, wand-waving, and even Google street-viewing is just that bit more interactive and it seems to be a hit with users. Encouraging more app developers to take advantage of this functionality could be the way to widen the gap between Daydream and its competitors, and Google would do well to address themselves to the developer community to help push that forward.
How can you get in on the action?
Google has said that original content (especially in gaming categories) is more desirable than those just adapted for VR - something for developers to keep in mind as the Daydream Home app becomes more populated in the coming weeks and months. Early entry into this platform is advantageous for developers - only 66 Daydream apps are available to install, 38% of which are paid apps.
Get VR-ready with Google’s SDK specs here.