In Brief

Google reveals Daydream virtual reality platform

Google unveils new virtual reality device, stepping up its game after Cardboard

As expected, Google has unveiled an Android based virtual reality platform at its annual I/O conference in Mountain View, California. A more advanced successor to Cardboard, it's called Daydream but Google won't actually make the headset. Instead it will make its designs available to hardware makers.

Rather than being a high-end headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, or a standalone device as rumoured by some before the event, Daydream relies on a smartphone slotted in to the viewer to act as the brains of the device.

As such, ReCode calls it "Cardboard 2.0" – it's still a smartphone viewer, but moves the game on significantly from the company's rudimentary reveal two years ago.

Daydream itself isn't just about hardware. Google's new virtual reality ambitions feed directly back into the next iteration of its Android software and it encompasses both. The next generation of Android N smartphones will power the headset exclusively, says The Verge, unlike Cardboard which "worked with almost any smartphone".

There are hardware requirements – the phones powering Daydream will need special sensors and screens – and Android N will have a special Android VR mode built into it, for stronger virtual reality experiences, as well as dedicated support – it's an entire ecosystem complete with a home screen hub.

Inside the hub, there are special virtual versions of YouTube, Google Photos, Street view and other Google apps. The company has the support of outside firms like Netflix, who will create a Daydream version of the popular streaming service, as well as game developers like EA and Ubisoft.

Several hardware partners who will make Daydream-ready phones when the platform launches this autumn have also been announced. These include giants like Samsung and LG, as well as Huawei, Xiaomi, Asus, Alcatel and ZTE.

Pegging Daydream alongside Samsung's Gear VR seems natural considering the two work on the same smartphone based premise, but when third party manufacturers take Google's design and begin spinning out Daydream headsets, the new device will come with a distinct feature.

Gear VR can be bought with a gamepad companion, but Daydream devices will come with a small remote packed with sensors and a touch sensitive trackpad. It's tracked in virtual space, for navigating and interacting with the virtual experiences.

Wired says that Google's approach to virtual reality – by optimising the experiences mobile devices can deliver over pricy PC dedicated hardware – is for now, the way most people will get into VR. Android VR will "be everywhere, and will come in lots of different shapes and sizes".

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