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Google has upgraded its Daydream View VR headset at a big media event in San Francisco. Google has long been one of the pioneers of relatively low-tech VR, starting with the Google Cardboard. Like Cardboard - and like Samsung’s GearVR, the Daydream View is a housing unit for a smart phone (i.e. the screen) combined with lenses, to focus the image. This in turn is backed up by software for creating images for each eye and controllers.
Samsung and Google are the two great rivals in this area, although both used phones running Google’s Android software. The principal difference is that the GearVR was almost entirely a hard plastic box, whereas Google used a plastic frame but with a largely padded fabric construction to make it more comfortable to the wearer than its competitor from Samsung
Now, in it’s latest salvo, Google has upgraded the Daydream View and launched it at the Pixel Media event in San Francisco. The price is $99, a $20 increase on the original, but still $30 cheaper than Samsung’s GearVR. The new Daydream boasts wider straps and a bigger field of view than its predecessor. It also boasts a partnership deal with Imax that allows Google to supply select Imax 3D movies free of charge. There are also some 250 VR apps available for the Daydream - a tenfold increase from the number when it was first launched.
The new version comes in a choice of pink, light gray or dark grayish black - although Google calls them Coral, Fog and Charcoal. (The old ones were called Slate, Snow and Crimson.) According to Andrew Nartker, Google’s Virtual Reality Product Manager, the new fabric designs are intended to resemble furniture upholstery. This is in response to Google’s discovery (based on earlier customer research and feedback) that the product is more likely to be used in the home than in public places.
The Daydream View can accommodate any of the following phones: Pixel, Pixel 2, Galaxy S8 & S8+, Galaxy Note 8, Moto Z 2 Force, Porsche Design Mate 9, Axon 7, Moto Z, Moto Z Force, LG V30, ZenFone AR, Mate 9 Pro. More are sure to follow.
Although already displayed, the official launch date is October 19. At that time, British, American and South Korean customers will get five popular games bundled free, provided they buy before the end of the year. And to show the versatility of the new Daydream View, Google is launching a variety of YouTube 3D video series for the Daydream, like Austin City Limits, a backstage fly-on-the-wall look at the music series, The Confessional, where Trevor Noah and fellow comedians make “confessions” to the viewers and the Female Planet, about businesswomen and women in positions of leadership.
In keeping with its status as a content provider that seeks to put the hardware “out there” to serve up the content, Google will continue to bundle the controllers with the View. In all cases, the color of the controller will be identical to that of the headset. The Controllers themselves are very sleak, elegant devices that look a bit like a small TV remote with curved lines and a couple of buttons on the front and two more on the side.
Not everything has changed about the headset. The phone is still placed in a “door” which is manually closed, rather than slotted in like the Samsung GearVR. However, the new custom-designed lenses are wider, providing a 10°-15° increase in field of view, depending on the phone screen size.
Other changes, include a redesigned face mark to even out the pressure distribution and a removable top strap to which the phone can be clipped. In the old versions, the remote could be placed into the front control panel. This had the effect of trapping heat in the front. Now, with the controller stored elsewhere, the front panel serves as a heat-sink for the phone.
The decision to revamp the Daydream View may have come as a result of disappointing sales figures for the original, compared to the Samsung GearVR’s 5 million units up to the start of 2017. There are no figures available for the Daydream, however the core app for the Daydream had only 1 million installs by mid-2017, compared to 25 times that number for the equivalent Google Cardboard app.