After years of leading the way on cheap virtual reality, Google finally has a headset of its own. The search giant announced its first Daydream-ready VR headset — Daydream View — which is essentially a $119 headset that turns your Google Phone into a virtual reality dream. Google first announced its new mobile VR platform called Daydream back at Google I/O in May. The concept takes Daydream-optimised phones, such as the Pixel phones announced today, and it automatically switches them to VR mode when they’re inserted into the headset.
Google has a set of specifications about the processor speed and display quality that a phone-maker needs to meet to be certified as “Daydream-ready”, meaning they can run the new platform. The Pixel and Pixel XL are conveniently the first phones to receive this certification.
The Daydream View headset is made to be super soft and lightweight. It’s crafted out of soft, breathable, microfibre fabrics that are found in clothing and athletic wear. According to Google, it’s 30 per cent lighter than other headsets that use mobile phones. It’s also easier to use than most other headsets. When you open the latch, drop your phone in and close the latch, your phone automatically adjusts itself to display virtual reality.
The accompanying controller is a lot like a Wii controller with a clickable touchpad and a couple of buttons on the body. It also uses a built-in gyroscope so people can use gestures to play games or get more serious things done while using the headset. Perhaps the coolest part of the Daydream View controller is that it tucks away in the headset for simple storage.
The headset is similar to the Samsung Gear VR and uses a companion phone as its display. One of the big differences between the Daydream View and Gear VR is that Google’s headset comes with a wireless controller that will presumably make it easier to use. Although the Gear VR is fun to use, it was hard to control using the touchpad embedded on the side of the headset.
Daydream View is priced at $119 (not including the cost of the phone), which makes it a bargain compared to other headsets from Oculus and HTC, both of which cost hundreds of dollars and require a powerful PC. Even the Samsung Gear VR is more expensive at $159. It will be out in Australia in November. For now, the Daydream View appears to be one of the best-designed headsets around, but whether its software can actually compete with other offerings from Oculus and Steam remains to be seen.