Google’s Daydream VR Is Officially, Really, Finally Dead

Google’s Daydream VR Is Officially, Really, Finally Dead
Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

If you happen to be one of the few people who still use Google’s Daydream VR platform, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s officially dead. (If you didn’t know Daydream was a thing, that’s totally OK. I forgot it was, too.) Spotted by Android Authority, Google recently issued a service update for Daydream letting any lingering users know the software is no longer supported.

“You may still be able to access the service, but it won’t receive any more software or security updates,” said the support page. “The Daydream VR app is no longer supported by Google and may not work properly on some devices running Android 11 or later.”

Some recent reviews on the platform’s Google Play store page show users users having difficulty launching Chrome in Daydream, as well as one confirming that it does not work with the latest Android 11 update. The writing was on the wall long before today, though.

Last October, VentureBeat reported that Google would discontinue support for Daydream starting with the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. It also stopped selling the VR headsets the same day, too. The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL shipped without Daydream VR support in May 2019, and Google also removed its Play Movies & TV app Daydream in June 2019. Hulu dropped its support for the platform in September 2019.

“Over time we noticed some clear limitations constraining smartphone VR from being a viable long-term solution,” a Google spokesperson said to VentureBeat. “There also hasn’t been the broad consumer or developer adoption we had hoped, and we’ve seen decreasing usage over time of the Daydream View headset.”

VR that relied on your smartphone always felt sort of gimmicky and dumb from the beginning. Many headsets like Daydream required users to stick their phones inside the headset, which simply placed the phone close to the their face to create an “immersive” effect. (No, I don’t care about touring a virtual version of Kendall Jenner’s closet, thank you very much.) Headsets like the Oculus, Vive, and others have fared better over the years because they have built-in screens and are compatible with far more strenuous VR console and PC games. I’m surprised Daydream held on for as long as it did, honestly. Google had a standalone Daydream VR headset too, but that one didn’t do so well either — obviously.

According to a recent Statista report, VR devices as a whole have not “achieved the same levels of widespread popularity attained by some other consumer electronics devices, possibly due to their currently limited usage options.” For example, Sony sold 4.2 million PlayStation VR headsets as of March 2019, according to Ars Technica, since launching the device in October 2016. By comparison, Sony had sold 94.2 million PS4s by March 2019. That means about 4.4% of PS4 owners also purchased a PSVR headset.

Steam’s September 2020 hardware and software survey puts the total number of Steam users who also own a VR headset at 1.88%. Of about 90 million active users, that generously estimates that 16.92 million users also use a VR headset. Steam’s hardware and software survey doesn’t reveal how many users actually take the survey every month, so that number may be far less.

Other VR headset makers may be having more success than Google, but it’s clear that VR has had a hard time catching up with other entertainment and gaming platforms in general. The headsets are bulky and heavy, they make some people nauseous, and they can’t accommodate people who wear glasses, since any kind of eyewear prevents the headset from fitting over a user’s face. These things have all contributed to VR’s slow adoption. Those issues I just listed? I’m three for three on those, not to mention some VR headsets don’t have a narrow enough interpupillary distance (IPD) to accommodate my eyes. There’s inherent accessibility issues with VR headsets, and until those are fixed, many, many people won’t be able to use them.