On Tuesday, Google unveiled 3 highly anticipated new products: the new Pixel Phones, the Daydream View VR Headset & the Daydream Controller.
This recent release of products not only creates a much more solid foundation for an embedded VR strategy and product /hardware synthesis by Google, it also positions them as a viable competitor for the luxury handset market currently led by Apple.
Pixel & Pixel XL Phones
The Pixel phones have a 5 or a 5.5 inch display, a 12.3 MP camera, an aluminum body in 3 colors (Quite Black, Very Silver, Really Blue) storage of either 32 or 128GB, a Snapdragon 821 processor with 4GB of RAM and a battery that is supposed to hold a charge for over a day. They include the new Android 7.1 Nougat and are Daydream ready.
In addition to the blazing fast speed of the processor and Daydream support, the phones have the Google Assistant AI baked right into them.
Pricing for the Pixel phones starts at $649 for the 5in 32GB model ($27/mo with a 2 year Verizon contract) and goes up to $869 for the 5.5in 128GB model.
Daydream view is a Google Cardboard style headset with a cloth microfiber covering that comes in 3 colors. The headset, while sleek in design, does not seem to have any new features above Cardboard functionality, however there is a built in NFC which automatically triggers Daydream as soon as you set the Pixel phone into it.
The Daydream View comes bundled with the Daydream Controller, which is a simple motion controller with touch pad and two buttons (Apps & Home). First reports are that it is very similar in use and feeling to the Wii controllers, and allows you to select, navigate and move items in VR.
Although we haven’t had a chance yet to check out the whole product suite in person, here are a few thoughts.
Daydream should be a noticeable improvement from previous cardboard experiences, which should bring the Google VR experience at least to the level of Gear VR, if not an improvement. Daydream VR mode in Android Nougat is very fast (Sub-20ms latency) so the screen corresponds very naturally with your head movements. Sim sickness will be reduced and a more natural sense of usability will increase.
Having motion control (which was a big missing piece to Cardboard) should make the experience, not only faster, but more intuitive.
Honestly, what really excited me about the new gear is not the VR features but the potential that could result from the combination of Daydream and the AI features in the Google Assistant. In my opinion, Google has a much more intuitive AI than Apple (I find Siri completely useless) and I am really excited to see where this goes. AI in VR is a must have and I definitely thnk there is some amazing potential here.
Overall, while these new products are a huge improvement to previous options, I kind of feel like Google has really played it safe here. That is not necessarily bad and is understandable, but I also feel like these are products that were much needed a year or two ago and nothing really blows me away. It is more of a feeling like… ok, finally Google is doing things right, but I would have really apprecited having this set of gear a year ago before I shelled out the same cash for other brands (Samsung Galaxy & Gear VR).
While I would definitely consider buying the new Google setup, I also feel more hesitant because at the moment, I don’t see a huge need to switch from my Samsung / Oculus rig. Beyond the motion controller, I don’t see any “must haves” yet to justify the price. Perhaps if I tried the new gear I would be persueded, but without a hands on, I don’t see it yet.
With that being said, I definitely would consider upgrading to the new Pixel / Daydream View ecosystem and since I am a huge fan of Google products, I look forward to checking them out.
Have you tried out the new Daydream eperience yet? If so, let me know your thoughts.
Sean Earley is the podcast host and Executive Editor of AR/VR Magazine, Modern Musician Magazine & co-founder of RobotSpaceship Podcast Network. He is the Director of New Biz Development, PR and Publishing at KEMWEB, a musician, producer & consultant. He loves guitars, VR and coffee.