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Google readies Daydream VR platform

Google is set to launch a mobile VR platform this autumn that will encompass smartphones, a reference design for a headset and controller, and apps.

Announcing the plans at the Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, Google’s vice-president of virtual reality Clay Bavor said that Daydream will include “all the ingredients you need to create incredible, immersive VR experiences”.

“Over time Daydream will encompass VR devices in many shapes and sizes. But today is about how Daydream will enable high quality VR on Android smartphones,” he said.

The latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android N, will include ‘VR Mode’, a development that is designed to offer high VR performance and low latency.

Google has also created a set of phone specifications for VR called ‘Daydream-ready’. These specs include a high performance sensor for accurate head tracking, displays with a fast response time to minimise blur, and powerful mobile processors.

“There are going to be a lot of Daydream-ready phones,” said Bavor. “In fact Samsung, Alcatel, Asus, Huawei, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, and ZTE all will have smartphones that are compatible with the Daydream-ready spec. Several will be available this fall.”

Google has developed a reference design and is working with partners across the ecosystem to develop headsets that will “work seamlessly with Daydream-ready phones” – several of which will also be available this autumn, said Bavor.

The controller that will work alongside these headsets will have an ‘orientation centre’ built in and touch controls – a demonstration video of which was played to I/O attendees.

In terms of apps, Bavor named a number of partners that will bring immersive applications to Daydream, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and CNN – “so you will be able experience the world’s news like you’re actually there.”

The Google exec added that: “Hulu, Netflix, HBO, even IMAX are brining their libraries to Daydream so you’ll be able to watch shows and movies in a virtual cinema, or an immersive 3D film in a virtual IMAX theatre.”

The plans are set to build on the early gains Google has made with its Cardboard VR headset, which it launched at Google I/O two years ago.

“Cardboard has done some pretty amazing things. There are millions of them out there in the world in all shapes and sizes. We’ve enabled thousands of developers to build their first VR app and users have installed more than 50 million VR-enabled apps,” said Bavor.

“But we knew it was just a start, because there’s a limit to how much you can do, how immersive an experience you can create with some cardboard and with phones that were really only meant to be phones. We wanted to create something that has the best attributes of cardboard but is also comfortable, richly interactive and far more immersive.”

Commenting on Google’s announcement, CCS Insightvice-president, Americas, Geoff Blaber described Daydream as “phase two” in Google’s mobile virtual reality ambitions and said “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.”