Google I/O 2016: Google details new suite of VR hardware and software for Android manufacturers
Google will bring virtual reality (VR) to smartphones with the launch of the ‘Daydream’ platform which comprises a reference design headset for hardware partners and a software upgrade to its Android mobile operating system.
The company has experimented with augmented reality (AR) and VR for some time, most notably with Google Glass and the budget Google Cardboard headset, but is its first serious attempt to bring the technology into the mainstream.
Daydream is described as a ‘platform for high quality mobile reality’ that brings Android applications to VR, delivering “rich, responsive and immersive experiences”. This compares with the ‘bite size’ experiences promised by Cardboard, which is compatible with just about any Android or iOS device.
Google Daydream VR
The Daydream headset, revealed at Google I/O, is intended to be a reference design for hardware manufacturers to build themselves. It is designed to be more comfortable than Cardboard, making it more suitable for longer use, and comes with a companion controller with buttons and sensors.
Google will also build in a ‘VR mode’ into Android N and open a ‘VR’ version of the Google Play application store. Third party apps will support the features, while google will introduce them into its own services such as Maps and YouTube.
New smartphones will be needed to make use of the platform however, with a number of manufacturers already offering their support. Huawei says it will create smartphones, headsets and controllers based on the reference design, while Samsung, LG and HTC are among the other mobile heavyweights to lend their support.
HTC, Facebook and Samsung are also targeting the fledgling market for VR with their own headsets, which have the potential to impact the gaming, entertainment and business markets.
“Daydream is phase 2 in Google’s mobile virtual reality ambitions,” said Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS insight. “The scale of Android coupled with content, service, computer vision and AI assets puts Google in a strong position to become a leading force in virtual reality.
“Google has learned a lot from the more than five million Google Cardboard devices that have been shipped so far. It will be hoping its new Daydream reference design will help its Android partners go head-to-head with Samsung’s Gear VR.”