Google Daydream is in a pretty good place, even just one year after its Google IO 2016 debut. It has been even less time since it actually arrived on smartphones and now, it’s about to get even better.
At 2017’s developer conference, Google talked about the future of its young virtual reality platform. And boy, is it looking bright.
The company’s focus seems to be spread evenly across bringing the service to even more people, building out the VR content library available to current Daydream users, and finally, working on experiences that promise to be even more intuitive, immersive and social than today’s applications. Here are the highlights from the company’s talk at Google IO 2017.
Daydream 2.0 Euphrates
The next big update to Daydream is an upgrade in every way. Daydream 2.0 was built with Google’s new standalone headset in mind, as well as those made by HTC and Lenovo. However, owners of the Daydream View have nearly just as much to look forward to.
Daydream Home, the first screen you see once you pop a headset on, is being reimagined to focus on discovery, bringing new content front and center. Many users currently complain that it’s difficult to find new things to do in Daydream and this should fix that problem.
Next up, Google is focusing on keeping you immersed in the headset even when you have to address some notifications outside of your game or VR movie. Google’s overarching goal is to bring the “entire experience” of Android O to Daydream, part of which is letting you get back to important notifications.
So, with that ability now coming down the pipe, you can finally realize your lifelong goal of living in VR day in and day out.
Wire-free, phone-free headsets
Soon enough, you won’t even need a phone to experience the best that Daydream has to offer. Google is working with Qualcomm on a reference standalone headset that other manufacturers can riff off of.
The big feature here, other than being completely wire-free with all of the power and tracking sensors integrated into the headset itself, is WorldSense.
To elaborate, Google says that its all-in-one headsets will feature custom-designed tracking cameras and high-performance sensors to give users a greater sense of place. This will allow you to move about in an environment a la HTC Vive, except without any of those pesky wall-mounted lighthouses.
Simply put, these standalone headsets are the next big thing in mobile VR. Moving the sensors from the outside to inside the headset will allow for mobility and heightened immersion.
Cast comes to Daydream
Casting content to the big screen is one of the best innovations in recent memory and now, Daydream will be able to join in on the fun.
Straight from the improved user interface introduced that’s coming along with Android O, you’ll be able to cast to the tube so that others can watch you roam about in VR.
Virtual reality is widely considered to be a very private and isolating activity, but movements like this are working to flip that reality into a more social one.
Sharing VR in new ways
Another way Google is turning VR into a more social activity is by letting Daydream users easily snap screenshots and video that can be shared to social media accounts.
Usually, the only way to describe a VR experience is to explain it as well as you can. It’s obviously tough to capture the essence of what you see in the headset with words, so it’s cool that with Daydream 2.0, you’ll be able to share the moment with a push of a button.
Spreading the VR love
Google took the stage at IO 2017 and talked a big game about the high-profile devices that will be Daydream-ready. Phones like the rumored LG V30 will support it, as will the ever-popular Samsung Galaxy S8 and Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus.
But here’s something Google hid in one of its presentation slides: it’s working to bring Daydream support to phones running the ARM Mali G71 GPU. If you’re not already in the know, this includes the Huawei Mate 9 and the recently released Huawei P10.
YouTube VR gets social
Remember that novel party feature in Netflix on the Xbox 360? It let you join up with a squad to watch a flick and chat while doing so.
Now, Google is working on bringing a similar function to YouTube VR. Timed near release of Euphrates, users will be able to traverse YouTube’s huge catalog of 360-degree vidoes with a crew.
From the looks of the demo, you’ll be able to create an avatar that shows up in your party’s feed. From there, you can hop back in forth into whatever your buddies are tuning into and while it wasn’t confirmed, it’d be kind of strange and isolating if you couldn’t talk to each other while doing so, right?
Chrome in VR, you say?
Coming later this year to Chrome on Android is the ability to browse the web inside of a Daydream headset.
But don’t fear, this isn’t a strange reinvention of the web browser. Google is simply adapting the view to fit comfortably within the display. All of your auto-fill settings and passwords from Chrome will carry over to the VR experience.
This is a part of Google’s push to let you do more inside of the headset, which is a big focus with Android O. Obviously, Chrome in VR is meant more for entertainment purposes than for productivity, but we’re excited to see how it plays out when it releases and if this feature will change how developers approach web design.
Seurat brings realism to mobile VR
Don’t take Seurat for being any less important than the other announcements just because it’s listed last.
The oddly-named project is Google’s technique for bringing what it calls “high-fidelity rendering” to mobile VR. Simply put, the graphics inside of the headset are about to get so much better.
And what better way to show it off than with a Star Wars tech demo? Google worked with a design company that works on creating digital art for the popular sci-fi franchise to see if they could bring their high resolution assets to mobile VR. Given how impressive the demo is, it looks like Seurat could really pave the way for better-looking experiences in VR.
Currently, even the most polished games look a bit rough around the edges. To compensate, many of them are made with imaginative art styles that help to cover up their blemishes.
Obviously, given the power constraints of mobile chipsets, Seurat relies on a secret sauce to look so good. You can see if for yourself in the GIF above. It’s exciting how quickly the visual fidelity inside of Daydream headsets could improve with Seurat.
- Credit: All animations provided by Google
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Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.