Feedback Loup: Google Daydream

Feedback Loup: Google Daydream

Google’s smartphone-powered VR platform, Daydream, represents the company’s most significant push to date in its effort to accelerate the adoption of VR. We’ve spent the last few weeks testing the platform with a Pixel phone and a Daydream View headset. Bottom line: Daydream isn’t there yet, but the platform establishes a solid foundation for the future of “low-immersion” VR.

Along with Samsung’s Gear VR  platform and Google Cardboard, we continue to believe these smartphone-powered, low-immersion platforms will drive the global VR user base above 100m by 2018. We expect the vast majority of VR users will be using low-immersion VR over the next several years. Low-immersion platforms are the on ramp for high-immersion VR platforms like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, so it is important to understand the low-immersion platforms of today in order to anticipate broader high-immersion use and the future of VR more broadly.

Hardware, software and content are all critical components for the future of VR, but our experience with Daydream left us feeling that content represents the biggest near-term opportunity to show the power of VR.

Hardware: Daydream is powered by Daydream-ready Android phones running the Nougat operating system. Currently, there are 4 Daydream-ready phones, including Pixel, with (many) more on the way. After a month-long wait, we used a Pixel ($649) for our testing of the Daydream platform. These phones pair with the Daydream View headset ($79), which is the best smartphone-powered VR headset we’ve ever used.

Daydream View is the best VR headset we’ve ever used.

Unlike some headsets we’ve tried, Daydream View is wearable. The soft fabric and angled head strap are clear signs of thoughtful design, built for wearability. Plus, in what seems like an industry first, it’s even comfortable for users with glasses. Daydream View comes with a remote control that we found easy to set up and intuitive to use. The remote conveniently nests in the viewer when not in use. Sound can be heard directly from the phone’s speakers, but it’s more immersive to use the easily accessible headphone jack on the Pixel.

The only drawbacks we found with the Daydream View + Pixel combo were: 1) Heat – the Pixel gets very hot after about 20 minutes of use. Not hot enough to cause concern or discomfort inside the headset, but noticeable when you remove the phone from the headset and put it back in your pocket. 2) Light – some users noticed light coming into the headset near the nose area, which can interrupt immersion and remind the user that he or she is in a virtual environment.

Software: Daydream requires Android 7.0+ “Nougat” operating system, which represents just 3% of all Android users today. Google Play is your destination for Daydream apps. Our favorite was Youtube VR. The experience is immersive and the recommended content is created for VR. Other content apps, Like Netflix VR, are simply virtual environments in which to view 2-D content. Some of the games were fun, but seem to be more proofs of concept vs engaging, fully developed products.  We think that VR will play an important part in the future of casual gaming and expect more development there as the platforms become more widespread.

Content: Overall, the app library is just enough for users to see the value in key use cases including gaming (check out Wonderglade), theatrical content (check out Youtube VR) and, increasingly, live content (check out the NBA via NextVR). The library shows early hope for great VR content experiences – but more content built specifically for VR will support a growing user base as Daydream-ready phones proliferate.

Google Cardboard feels like a throwaway – not Daydream. Google’s emerging platform offers a true competitor to Samsung Gear VR. Both of these low-immersion platforms will accelerate growth in the VR user base by making it accessible to millions of users with smartphones.  As content follows, users will be exposed to the use case of VR and compelled to use high-immersion systems that will lead us into the future of VR.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio.  Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Feedback Loup, Google, Virtual Reality