Virtual reality is more popular now than it ever has been in the past, and countless pieces have been written speculating why. One major, and quite possibly the largest, reason is because of amazing improvements in hardware over the past few decades: We can compute faster than ever before with devices that fit in our pockets. Twenty years ago those same devices would have been massive.

Hardware improvements mean that VR can now truly live in a headset, and tech companies have even been going one step further by turning smartphones into VR devices that simply dock into a headset.

One of the newest versions of this mobile tech revolution is Google’s Daydream View VR headset. Google designed these goggle to be lighter, more comfortable, and better performing than competing smartphone VR headsets, even going so far as to give them away with new Pixel phones.

Daydream View may seem like a leisure device but that doesn’t mean it can’t be leveraged for business. The explosive growth in VR leaves plenty of room for commercial applications, especially with the barrier to entry now being as low as the cost of developing a mobile app.

TechRepublic’s smart person’s guide about Google Daydream View is a quick introduction to Google’s smartphone VR headset and how businesses can make use of it, as well as a “living” guide that will be updated periodically as new hardware and supported devices are released.

SEE: Check out all of TechRepublic’s smart person’s guides.

Executive summary

  • What is Google Daydream View? Daydream View is Google’s version of a smartphone-centered VR headset. It’s powered by one of the few compatible smartphones that Daydream View supports, which are clipped in place between a cover and the main body of the Daydream View unit.
  • Why does Google Daydream View matter? Daydream View makes VR accessible in ways that traditional VR units like Oculus don’t: All it requires is a high-end Daydream-compatible phone.
  • Who does Google Daydream View affect? Daydream View affects anyone who has a product that could benefit from VR. Several tiers of virtual reality have appeared, and Daydream View is the perfect spot to show off a product or concept in a high-quality and affordable fashion.
  • When is Google Daydream View happening? Google Daydream View was announced at Google I/O 2016 and was released to the public on November 10, 2016. Daydream headsets are now available at major electronics retailers and Google’s online store.
  • How do I start using Google Daydream View? Using a Daydream View unit is as simple as popping in a compatible phone, connecting the controller, and powering up a VR app. Organizations that want to develop for Daydream need to use one of Google’s several VR SDKs.

What is Google Daydream View?

Most everyone with a smartphone has heard of Google Cardboard: The pop-out corrugated smartphone VR headset that is cheap, simple, and great for product demos and classrooms.

Cardboard isn’t exactly a high-quality VR experience though, which makes it unsuitable for high-performance apps that rely on hardware actually built for VR. That’s where Daydream View comes in.

Google Daydream View is essentially a higher quality, more comfortable version of Cardboard. It doesn’t contain any sensors or electronic components aside from its remote, making it the most basic VR headset available, aside from Cardboard.

The trick to making Daydream View really perform is its restrictions: You can only use it with one of several supported Android smartphones that run Nougat and were designed to be VR-capable with higher end sensors, screens, and other components.

In a nutshell, Google Daydream View is a souped-up, more comfortable version of cardboard with an added remote for interacting with apps.

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Hardware specs

The Daydream View headset itself has no internal hardware aside from its two-button remote: All of the VR heavy lifting is done by the attached smartphone.

Google has released hardware requirements for Daydream-compatible smartphones, and they’re pretty tough:

  • The device needs to have Bluetooth 4.2 LE capability
  • The display has to be between 4.7 and 6 inches
  • The resolution must be at least 1080p operating at 60Hz. It also must have 3ms or less of latency and 5ms or less of persistence.
  • The device needs to have OpenGL ES 3.2 and Vulkan
  • The device must be able to decode 2 videos at 60fps simultaneously
  • Video must render consistently at 60fps
  • The device must come equipped with temperature sensors that can read the surface of the device

Why does Google Daydream View matter?

If Google Cardboard made it possible for anyone with a smartphone to use simple VR, Google Daydream View makes it possible to do it with a better experience. Google designed the headset and set the compatibility bar high with the intent to create a premium mobile VR experience.

For consumers that means higher quality games and apps, a reduced risk of VR sickness, more interaction options, and increased comfort. For organizations it means the potential to reach all the consumers looking for those improvements.

Daydream View lowers the barrier of entry to higher quality virtual reality, and that’s something many companies can benefit from. Consumers can use VR to try out products, see an object in 3D space before buying it, be virtual tourists, and even interact with staff and support. All of those potential applications–and more–become pretty appealing when the audience keeps getting larger.

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Who does Google Daydream View affect?

Think about VR products in terms of four tiers: There’s the top quality, high-end devices that are powered by PCs like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. These require immense power and produce amazing experiences.

Next up you have devices like the Playstation VR: Powered by a device, but a less powerful one. Modern gaming consoles can produce amazing graphics but they simply don’t have the hardware of the higher tier devices.

Lower down we have mobile VR. Some of these devices augment the phone with better motion sensors and other tech, making them still a bit costly.

Right below them in tier 4 is the Google Daydream View: A simple device that’s affordable and accessible to anyone with a good enough smartphone.

Google Daydream View has the potential to affect anyone with a high-end smartphone: A number that is growing with more carriers offering financing on costly devices. Countless devices in each and every pocket could be Daydream compatible–think for a few moments and you can probably come up with a way that could benefit you.

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When is Google Daydream View happening?

Daydream View was revealed to the public at Google I/O in 2016. It was released to the public later that year on November 10th. Daydream View headsets can be purchased at major electronics retailers and online from Google’s own store.

Google released the Daydream VR development kits in January 2017, which opened the way for third-party development.

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Competitive products

Google Daydream View’s most direct competitor is the Samsung Gear VR. It’s similarly priced, is powered by an Android smartphone, and both have the same display resolution. The biggest differences between the two are construction materials, weight, and device requirements.

While Google Daydream only supports a few devices from different manufacturers who meet their standards, Samsung has opted to only support its flagship devices like the Galaxy series. The Gear VR is also powered by Oculus and the Daydream View is powered by Google’s proprietary Daydream technology.

Other VR devices offer onboard or externally powered video and are much more expensive, making them less of a direct competition.

How can I start using Daydream View?

Consumers interested in using Daydream View need to first find out if their smartphone is supported. After that it’s as simple as connecting to the controller via Bluetooth, putting the phone in the headset, and firing up a Daydream app.

Aspiring Daydream developers need to be able to use Google’s Daydream SDK for building VR Android apps. There are also SDKs available for adapting Unity and Unreal Engine 4 applications, which means you don’t necessarily need to have Android experience to develop Daydream software.

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