We've known about Google's mobile VR headset since it was announced at its I/O developer conference but we didn't know much else.
That's changed with the reveal of the company's new Pixel handset - which is also the first and only Daydream ready phone that's been announced so far.
The headset itself is called Google Daydream View, or Google View. Clay Bavor, Google's head of VR notes that it's far lighter than other devices - specifically 30% - and is able to work with both the 5-inch and 5.5-inch Pixel smartphones. At $79, View can also claim to be one of the lower cost mobile headsets out rivaling Samsung Gear VR's $99 price point.
I was able to plop the Google Cardboard sequel on our face and though it was brief, it's clear Google's view of VR is on the right track.
Design and comfort
Wearing VR goggles isn't a walk in the park when you have glasses so when Bavor noted that View was made for us glasses wearing folk, I was skeptical. However, my doubts were squashed as the headset slid right over my large frames with ease. There was no fiddling with diopters to ensure I could see, no readjusting the sides so it wouldn't hurt my nose and best of all, it was actually damn comfortable with all the padding.
The soft cloth material reminded me of Oculus Rift's own pliable design, except Google View's is even more squishy. Also similar to Rift, is the light gap above the nose and below your eyes. Rather than sitting flush with your face, there's a sizable opening where you can see the non-VR world plain as day. Those familiar with this design flaw won't be happy since it takes you out of the experience.
As for how light the device is? Well it didn't feel 30% lighter than Gear VR. I'd have to wear them one after the other to fully determine the weightiness but by itself, Daydream View felt pretty heavy with the phone in. Without a phone, it's positively cloud-like but of course, View is useless without the tech. The extra weight didn't make it a bad experience and the band around my head stayed snug without feeling like it was going to fall off but two-hours or more of usage is questionable. There's also no top band over the head to ensure extra security. I found this to be a problem with the second-gen Gear VR since it moved around a lot on my head.
The field of view on Daydream View looks similar to Gear VR's - specifics haven't been released yet but Bavor noted that it was big. Using the headset, however showed the display wasn't as large as I thought it would be. The edges of the phone on the left and right of your eyes seem more pronounced than I expected.
However the display of the Pixel proved to be a dream. It was bright, crisp and clear with little latency. I note little since there was a moment where I turned my head quickly during a YouTube video and it skipped around making me a little dizzy. This could be attributed to the internet buffering from YouTube meaning we need a bit more time to figure out just how good the whole experience is.
The lenses of Daydream View felt more rounded out - like a fish lens - compared to Cardboard or Gear VR. It didn't drastically affect the video I watched or game I played, but it was noticeable. I imagine with prolonged usage, you'd see the effect less.
The Daydream View controller fits in my small palm pretty comfortably and is so light I'm not surprised Bavor dropped it during the presentation. It's larger than a Rift remote and smaller than a Wiimote which makes sense since it can fit inside the View headset after you're done using both.
The tracking was also surprisingly good. The game I played involved rolling the remote around my hand to move a cow on a racetrack - it was similar to those handheld maze games where you're guiding a little metal ball around, except in VR. The controller was able to deftly follow where I needed it to go as I turned my wrist. I would have liked to try writing out my name as Bavor noted, but there wasn't time left in my demo.
Google Daydream View is definitely a far cry from Cardboard. It even stands out from Gear VR with its unique plug-less design. I'm not sure how sturdy the latch will be over time, but it held the Pixel in without any fuss.
The verdict is still out on the experience as a whole since I'll need more time messing around with games and videos. Aside from a small suspicious moment of lag, I suspect the growing number of Daydream ready phones, a (seemingly) full lineup of VR content and the low $79 price will make Daydream View a huge seller when November rolls around.
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