Google has announced Daydream, a new Android N-powered VR platform at I/O, answering the question 'what comes after Cardboard?'
We kinda thought we'd see a standalone headset announced at the developer conference but Google wanted to focus on sharing designs with devs. However, the company will release its own hardware as well.
Clay Bavor, Google's new head of VR was part of the main opening keynote discussing all things Daydream but it was only later on during a specific Daydream panel where he stated there would be an official headset from Google.
The company's Twitter account reaffirmed his statement as well.
We shared a design for a Daydream viewer and controller. And yes, we're building one too. https://t.co/joRgZvKW54pic.twitter.com/U8koXoauzF
— Google VR (@googlevr) May 19, 2016
Bavor shared reference designs for a headset, which in the sketches looks a lot like a Samsung Gear VR, and a wireless, handheld controller with a clickable touchpad and orientation sensors.
Read this: The best Google Cardboard apps
But by this fall (autumn) we will also get Daydream VR headsets and controllers from hardware makers. It's not clear if a small group of partners will be making these - as with Android Wear's 12 partners - or Google will take a more hands off approach as with Cardboard viewers.
Around this time, we will also start to see Daydream-ready Android N phones from Samsung, LG, HTC, Asus, Xiaomi, ZTE Alcatel and Huawei. Interestingly, it seems that even 2016's smartphones won't be powerful enough, or have displays capable of Daydream's VR visuals.
Android N is getting a VR Mode, which Bavor says will enable people to browse their phone's apps and content while wearing a headset. This should make Android phones better at being the core of a high quality VR system, rather than the disjointed experience we have today. VR Mode also ups processor performance and slashes screen latency to under 20ms, for a better viewing experience.
The Google Play of VR
The most exciting aspect is the ecosystem of apps that Daydream promises. Bavor said that Google has built the "Google Play of VR" and showed off videos of new Daydream Home menu screens together with the mention of a VR System UI built into Android N for alerts and notifications.
Google has put together a decent list of apps, TV, movie and games partners for Daydream which already includes: Ubisoft, IMAX, HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu, Lionsgate, EA, CNN, MLB.com, the New York Times and CCP Games. So from the get go, Daydream will rival Samsung's Gear VR store.
Google's own apps coming to Daydream include YouTube, of course, Street View, Google Play Movies (in a virtual theater) and Google Photos.
On that Samsung comparison, this is surely the end of the Gear VR as we know it. Daydream will probably work with every Android phone released from late 2016 onwards.
The Developer Preview of Daydream is available to devs from today.