The first headset ships today, but Google’s real goal is to put Android at the center of VR.
Google’s first virtual reality headset, the $79 Daydream View, started shipping today — but that’s just one piece of a much bigger initiative.
Google wants to make Android the primary operating system for VR. Its vision is that there will be lots of Daydream-compatible phones and headsets, with Android (and Google services like YouTube and Street View) at the center.
“Our fundamental goal is to enable partners and developers to build great stuff,” chief Clay Bavor said, speaking Thursday at An Evening with Code Mobile conference taking place at Ericsson’s Santa Clara offices. “The headset we’re launching today, we’re using it as, ‘Hey, here’s an example.’ We’re in such early days of VR — 99.9 percent of things in VR have yet to be discovered.”
“The magic starts to happen in VR when there are enough users, when there are enough devices, and most important, enough things to do,” he added.
In terms of “things to do,” Daydream is focused on video content.
“The real world has been strange this week, but in general, the real world is an amazing place,” Bavor said. “There are all of these incredible things happening that I would love to see and I think most people would love to see … Everyone has something in the world that they’d like to be closer to.”
Before it can become VR’s default OS, though, Google faces some tough competition.
Facebook’s Oculus is making a push to be at the center of both PC-based and mobile devices with two consumer offerings: The Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR. Meanwhile, Microsoft has developed a holographic version of Windows that it’s pitching for the long-term future of PC-based virtual reality.
“I was talking with the folks at Oculus, massive respect there,” Bavor said. But design choices like how users interact with a software — Daydream View comes with a Nintendo Wii-esque remote — were ready for an upgrade, he argued.