Daydream Is Google's Plan To Conquer Virtual Reality With Android

After years of dabbling, Google is getting serious about virtual reality. Meet Daydream, Google's three-part plan to take the VR world by storm with Android. Reference design for a Daydream headset

Google publicly waded into the VR world a few years ago with its cheap Google Cardboard viewer, which has sold some five million units to date. Last year it launched "Jump", an end-to-end solution for creating, producing and playing back 360 video content. Today, Google takes the next step on mobile phone-based VR, with new VR-specific features baked right into the Android operating system. The three-part plan includes phones, headsets and the new Daydream content ecosystem.

From the smartphone point of view, Google is incorporating a new "VR Mode" directly into Android N, which optimises the phone's performance and user interface for use in Cardboard viewers. Notifications will show up properly — even in VR — and the phone's display will respond with blistering 20ms latency.

Google's reference design for a Daydream controller

Though Google's not actually producing a competitor to Oculus Rift or Gear VR, it's releasing a reference design for a VR headset and controller that will be made available to third-party manufacturers. The company is showing off the design at I/O. But beyond having a phone holder and a strap, it's not clear how exactly it will be different from competing systems.

How Google wants the new controller to work

The third part of the plan involves a special version of Google Play designed specifically for VR. You'll be able to shop for VR apps and experiences directly from VR mode. Partners include a lot of obvious players like The New York Times and Netflix. Google-branded apps like Movies will also be available. Google has also built a special app launcher for VR called Daydream Home.

Daydream arrives this spring, with developer previews dropping today. Oculus, watch your back.

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