The high­light of Google’s Day­dream VR is its con­troller

Re­sponds to ges­tures and other mo­tion

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

NEW YORK:

The best thing about Google’s new vir­tual-re­al­ity head­set isn’t the head­set at all.

In fact, Day­dream View would pale com­pared with Sam­sung’s Gear VR head­set were it not for Day­dream’s con­troller, a hand­held de­vice that re­sponds to ges­tures and other mo­tion.

With Gear VR, I have to move my head to point a cur­sor at some­thing, then reach for a but­ton on the head­set. With Day­dream, I can just aim and click the con­troller in my hand. Sen­sors in the de­vice tell the head­set what I’m try­ing to do, whether it’s swing­ing a tennis racket or cast­ing a fish­ing rod. The head­set’s dis­play re­sponds ac­cord­ingly.

The head­set and con­troller are sold to­gether for $79, start­ing Thurs­day. No rush in get­ting one, though, as the vir­tual ex­pe­ri­ences built for Day­dream are still limited. And for now, it works only with Google’s Pixel phone .

The many fla­vors of vir­tual re­al­ity

While so­phis­ti­cated sys­tems like Face­book’s Ocu­lus Rift and HTC’s Vive let you walk around in the vir­tual world, Day­dream View is a sit-down ex­pe­ri­ence in which you use the con­troller to move your­self around. (You could walk around with the Day­dream on if you wanted to, but you won’t go any­where in vir­tual space - and you might run into the wall.)

But the Rift and the Vive each costs more than $1,500, once you in­clude pow­er­ful per­sonal com­put­ers they re­quire. Sud­denly, $79 sounds like a bar­gain. Day­dream stays cheap by us­ing the dis­play and pro­cess­ing power of your phone, which you insert into the head­set at eye level.

Gear VR, at $100, takes a sim­i­lar ap­proach, but it works only with Sam­sung phones. While Day­dream works only with Pixel for now, sev­eral other An­droid mak­ers plan to make com­pat­i­ble phones. Sorry, iPhone users.

Those with­out com­pat­i­ble phones still have Google Card­board, a $15 con­trap­tion you hold up to your face. Us­ing Day­dream View, by con­trast, is more like wear­ing gog­gles. While Gear VR has a bet­ter fit, with fo­cus­ing and a sec­ond strap over your head to keep the head­set from slid­ing too low, Day­dream is much more com­fort­able to wear and use than Card­board.

All about that con­troller

Those who’ve played Nin­tendo’s Wii sys­tem will find the Day­dream con­troller fa­mil­iar. It’s about the size and shape of a choco­late bar, and it has mo­tion sen­sors to track move­ment.

Al­though I’m not a big gamer, I en­joyed shoot­ing wa­ter out of a hose to put out fires. You sim­ply hold a but­ton to spray and move the con­troller around to douse flames. You can even tilt the con­troller to con­trol the an­gle of the hose. An­other app lets you ex­plore the uni­verse by us­ing the con­troller as a laser pointer to bring up more in­for­ma­tion.

The con­troller makes it eas­ier to nav­i­gate menus with­out mak­ing your­self dizzy; just move it around to point at things. And while get­ting the full 360de­gree ex­pe­ri­ence of VR of­ten re­quires spin­ning around (a swivel chair helps), some apps in Day­dream let you grab the scene with your con­troller and drag it around you, just as you would with a PC mouse.

It’s also handy to have vol­ume con­trols and a home but­ton in your hand rather than on your head.

Nau­sea free?

VR can be nau­se­at­ing, and Day­dream is no dif­fer­ent. I found that it’s less about the head­set, and more about the VR video.

The best videos use sta­tion­ary cam­eras and let you move your head (or con­troller) around to ex­plore. The nau­se­at­ing ones tend to treat VR cam­eras like reg­u­lar movie cam­eras , with a lot of pan­ning in re­sponse to a sub­ject’s move­ments. The viewer, not the sub­ject, should be the one do­ing the mov­ing.

And while I en­joyed watch­ing a woman’s sky­dive in VR on YouTube, scenes of her pre­par­ing to jump felt jar­ring be­cause the cam­era was on her shaky arm. I had to re­move my head­set.

What’s there to do?

You can view 360-de­gree YouTube videos and any 360-de­gree photos you store on Google Photos. You can visit other des­ti­na­tions such as the Galapagos Is­lands in a 360-de­gree ver­sion of Google’s Street View. A few games, mu­seum art­works and The Wall Street Jour­nal’s app were also avail­able to try out prior to Thurs­day’s launch.

A hand­ful more are com­ing Thurs­day. Even more are promised by the end of the year, in­clud­ing apps for Net­flix and Hulu - though all that does is of­fer video on a gi­ant screen in a vir­tual liv­ing room. There’s much more avail­able for Card­board. Un­for­tu­nately, app de­vel­op­ers will need to make some tweaks first to make them com­pat­i­ble with Day­dream. They’ll need to do even more to take ad­van­tage of the mo­tion con­trol. Day­dream has prom­ise, but un­til more apps ar­rive, its po­ten­tial is still a dream.

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