Google Introduces Android-based VR Platform at I/O 2016

Google I/O , the tech giant’s annual developer conference, kicked off today and with it we got a tidy sum of announcements including the launch of Android N and their newest incursion into VR called, Google Daydream.

Two years ago Google introduced Google Cardboard in order to allow developers to build their own VR apps, with the philosophy of making a VR platform that is mobile, approachable, and for everyone. Even though this product has been highly successful, they recognize the limitations of strapping a piece of cardboard to your head with a phone stuck in it.

Clay Vabor, Vice President of Virtual Reality at Google, came out today to announce Daydream, their next step in making a more comfortable, interactive, and highly immersive VR experience. The company has plans for Daydream software to occupy a variety of devices, but today’s announcement centered around Android N smartphones optimized to run VR mode, with dedicated headsets and controllers, and the apps themselves.  Aside from optimizing Android to run the high framerate, high resolution, low motion to photon latency VR mode, Google has also created a reference design for a headset that they have shared with their partners, additionally, to make the experience more immersive, Daydream will use a controller with orientation sensors, which totally reminds me of an Apple TV remote with Wiimote capabilities.

App-wise users will be able to explore the Google Play store for a wide variety of VR apps while in VR mode. What really got me excited was that Google and Google Play have partnered up with HBO, Netflix, Hulu, IMAX and many others to bring their libraries to VR so you can watch them in a virtual theater or in an immersive 3D IMAX cinema mode.

In regard to gaming, and what we’re all about here, there wasn’t much to say, but they did reveal that they’ve established partnerships with EA, NetEase Games, OtherSide Entertainment, minorityVR, Ubisoft, Resolution, CCP, nDreams, Turbo Button, and Climax Studios to bring engaging VR gaming experiences to an Android N phone near you.

Now, I believe that the quality of the experience will probably be tied to how much you invest in getting a top of the line Android N phone, but if you were planning on getting one anyway this may turn out to be one of the more accessible ways to experience this generation’s VR craze. Then again, price-wise, Sony’s dedicated VR system will probably be in the same ballpark as a new phone, so I guess it truly comes down to preference and even how much you consider mobile gaming as real gaming when compared to console and PC gaming.

Daydream will be coming to Android N-ready phones in Fall 2016.

Watch the full Google I/O Keynote talks here.

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