Google Day­dream View

GOOGLE LEV­ELS-UP ITS SMART­PHONE VR HEAD­SET FROM CARD­BOARD TO SOME­THING THAT CAN TAKE ON SAM­SUNG’S GEAR VR — AND IT’S COM­PAT­I­BLE WITH MORE THAN JUST SAM­SUNG PHONES, TOO.

TechLife Australia - - WEL­COME - [ JOEL BURGESS ]

WE’D LIKE TO thank who­ever’s mid­day nap led to the cre­ation of Google’s up­mar­ket new smart­phone VR head­set, ap­pro­pri­ately dubbed ‘Day­dream View’. This hip­ster head­set is wrapped in an ar­ray of pas­tel-coloured fab­rics that al­most makes wear­ing a VR head­set look palat­able to any ogling by­standers (a feat we’re gen­uinely im­pressed with) and though the sim­ple elas­tic head­band seems a stan­dard de­sign choice, it is ac­tu­ally ex­cep­tion­ally er­gonomic for a smart­phone VR head­set. One of our big­gest griev­ances with VR head­sets in gen­er­ally is that they don’t cater par­tic­u­larly well to the vis­ually im­paired, leav­ing lit­tle to no room for use with glasses (let alone ac­tu­ally mak­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence com­fort­able with spec­ta­cles). The Day­dream is an ex­cel­lent ex­cep­tion to this rule and we would feel gen­uinely dis­ap­pointed to have to go to back to any other head­set af­ter hav­ing seen (and felt) what was pos­si­ble.

There’s an­other key in­gre­di­ent that con­trib­utes to the over­all pleas­ant­ness of us­ing the Day­dream View: the in­cluded wire­less con­troller. As big fans of the wand re­motes that come with LG tele­vi­sions, it’s no sur­prise that we loved Day­dream’s Blue­tooth­con­nected side­kick-wand, too. Yes, it’s def­i­nitely taken in­spi­ra­tion from the re­motes and con­trollers of fully-fledged PC VR units like Ocu­lus’ Touch and HTC’s ‘Vands’ (ie. Vive wands) as Red­di­tors have dubbed them, but Google’s taken the stan­dard VR wand de­sign and added it’s own magic el­e­ments. Other than the 360º three-axis move­ment of the wand, the pri­mary con­trol is an er­gonomic con­cave touch­pad — in many games, this takes the role of a D-pad or click­able joy­stick. The re­main­ing con­trols are com­prised of a Home but­ton that al­lows you to exit or quickly re­ori­ent your per­spec­tive, an Ac­tion but­ton that has var­i­ous func­tions (de­pen­dent on the app or game) and a side-mounted vol­ume rocker. Un­for­tu­nately, there weren’t enough apps on the store at the time we tested to re­ally test the lim­its of what the con­troller is ca­pa­ble of, but there are a enough to give glimpses of its po­ten­tial.

In the iso­met­ric shooter plat­former Hunter’s Gate, the touch­pad moves the char­ac­ter while point­ing the wand shoots in 3D space, a com­bi­na­tion that amounts to a novel and in­tu­itive con­trol scheme. The hard­ware worked well with the paired smart­phone (the Day­dream View was only com­pat­i­ble with Google’s Pixel units, the Moto Z fam­ily of de­vices and ZTE’s Axon 7 at the time of writ­ing) and so, apart from a lit­tle light leak­age, the Day­dream gave a near per­fect per­for­mance from a hard­ware per­spec­tive.

Just as is the case with smart­phones, the op­er­at­ing sys­tem or, in this case, the man­u­fac­turer’s soft­ware plat­form, plays an im­por­tant role in the over­all VR ex­pe­ri­ence. Sim­i­lar to Sam­sung’s Gear VR head­set, Day­dream is tied to Google’s pro­pri­etary smart­phone-VR app-ecosys­tem of the same name, which means it is lim­ited at the mo­ment com­pared to the ex­ten­sive app lists of Sam­sung’s Gear VR/Ocu­lus Store tie-in, or even that of Google Card­board for that mat­ter. The search com­pany has vowed to bring a de­cent list of apps onto the Day­dream plat­form by the end of 2016 that in­cludes all-star VR games like Gun­jack 2 and Keep Talk­ing and No­body Ex­plodes. From the hand­ful of ti­tles that were avail­able at launch, we’d have to say that our favourite was the Fan­tas­tic Beasts in­ter­ac­tive nar­ra­tive that put the wand con­troller to good use by al­low­ing you to ac­tu­ally cast spells with it.

If Google can add ti­tles quickly enough, it the­o­ret­i­cally has the hard­ware to over­take the Gear VR, but Sam­sung has more than a year’s worth of of smart­phone VR soft­ware up its sleeve at this point, plus a sig­nif­i­cantly big­ger user base (at least un­til a few more Day­dream-com­pat­i­ble smart­phones are re­leased) and a big PC VR soft­ware part­ner in the form of Ocu­lus. In other words, it doesn’t quite beat the Sam­sung Gear VR as an over­all smart­phone VR pack­age — but there’s cer­tainly a heap of po­ten­tial here.

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