Virtual Reality has fast become one of the biggest trends to straddle the worlds of gaming and entertainment, bringing with it new hardware and software like the Oculus Rift and Steam VR. Now, Google is here to shake up the mobile space with its own VR platform, Daydream. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is Google Daydream?
Google’s new Daydream brand covers both the hardware and software that the company has been building to create a complete virtual reality platform. Developers have already started creating apps and games specifically for Daydream, whilst smartphone manufacturers are starting to add Daydream support to their existing devices and build new ones. Google has even created a reference design so new Daydream compatible VR headsets can be made by any manufacturers looking to grab a slice of this exciting new virtual pie.
How to use Google Daydream
The anatomy of Google Daydream consists of three key parts: the headset and motion controller, a smartphone and the Daydream software.
Google Daydream View
Right now Google’s own £69 Daydream View is the only Daydream-compatible headset/controller combo on the market (but more are expected to follow, soon).
The headset comes in three colours (Slate, Snow and Crimson) boasting a flexible, fabric-covered design, whilst the small colour-matched motion controller connects wirelessly via Bluetooth and features internal motion sensors to detect its position in 3D space. It also houses volume controls, a clickable touchpad and two navigation buttons. It charges via Type-C USB and features a non-removable Li-ion battery too.
Read next: Google Daydream View Review: In Depth
Whilst the Daydream View serves as the means of looking at and interacting with the virtual space, the actual hardware powering the VR experiences is found inside your smartphone.
As with Samsung’s Gear VR, you can’t just use any old handset. The processor, memory, graphics and display all have to be sufficiently powerful to support a VR experience and what’s more, Google has to approve each smartphone that’s been built to work with Daydream.
Right now the pool is pretty small, with Google’s own Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones being the first Daydream-compatible devices on the market and Lenovo promising to add Daydream support to both its Moto Z and Moto Z Force flagships via a software update before the end of 2016.
There are plenty of powerful smartphones technically capable of running Daydream, but until their manufacturers add native support and Google deems them capable enough to deliver a suitably premium and fluid experience, it may take some time for Daydream to really permeate the smartphone space.
Downloading apps and games for Daydream VR
The third fundamental element of Daydream is the software itself. The latest major release of Android, version 7.0 Nougat includes all the technical VR underpinnings to support Daydream natively, however, to actually access the virtual world the first thing you’ll need to do is download the Daydream app from Google’s Play Store.
Once installed you can browse through Daydream VR-compatible apps, games and experiences as you would any other app on the standard Play Store, with offerings ranging from horror games, to 360-degree and 3D videos.
Companies like The Wall Street Journal and the BBC have created immersive experiences using their own original content, Warner Bros. released a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie tie-in experience to coincide with the launch of Google Daydream and you can view the likes of YouTube or Netflix all in VR.
Best Daydream VR experiences
Whilst consumers have only been able to get their hands on Daydream as a platform for about a month, there are already a wealth of experiences and games available to try out. Here are a few of our favourites at the time of writing:
- BBC’s The Turning Forest
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Hunters Gate
- Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
- Layers of Fear: Solitude
For a complete list of the best Daydream-compatible games right now, check out our Best Google Daydream VR Games (2016) feature.