At I/O 2016 this week, Google laid out its ambitious goals for Daydream, the company’s new platform for native, high performance virtual reality experiences on Android.

Daydream is Google’s newly announced Android VR ecosystem—encompassing specialized phones, headsets, and apps—which promises to significantly raise the bar on Google’s prior Cardboard initiative. Cardboard, which aimed for ultra-low cost and high accessibility, remained clearly inferior in performance compared to Samsung’s own Gear VR which is also built atop Android. Daydream promises to raise the quality bar up to a Gear VR-level experiences, but will be built as a core element of the entire Android ecosystem, giving it much larger potential reach than Gear VR, which is limited to a subset of phones from a single manufacturer.

Brahim Elbouchikhi on stage at I/O 2016 | Photo courtesy Google

Google knows this well, and are not one bit shy about announcing their ambitions for the platform. On stage at I/O 2016, Brahim Elbouchikhi, Senior Product Manager on the Google VR team, said the company plans to make Daydream ‘Android scale’.

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See Also: Start Making Google Daydream VR Apps Today with a DIY Dev Kit

“…our intention [for Daydream] is to operate at Android scale, meaning hundreds of millions of users using Daydream devices. And the way we get there is through the typical smartphone evolution: where today’s premium devices—the ones that can run VR experiences—are next year’s mid-range, and the following year’s low end devices,” Elbouchikhi told developers in the audience. “So if you take that evolution, you can see that in a couple years, we will have hundreds of millions of users on Daydream Ready devices that are ready to consume the mobile VR experiences that you all are going to build.”

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As the former lead of Monetization, Search, and Discovery on the Google Play Store, Elbouchikhi is no stranger to the potential economy afforded by an active ecosystem.

“The hope is that if in five years we’re collectively working on another frontier technology, that we can look back and say again that we’ve created value, that we went passed the hype and actually delivered real value for users and built a multi-billion dollar business on Daydream. That’s the goal.”

He summed up his pitch to developers by saying that the Daydream ecosystem would consist of both hardware and software, and reiterated the desire to create a platform of ‘Android scale’.

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“The main point is the intention is to operate at Android scale, to have an ecosystem of devices, of content creators, and of partners creating headsets and controllers.”

You can watch Elbouchikhi’s I/O 2016 session, Monetization and Distribution on Daydream session here.

Compared to the conservative stance of Facebook and Oculus, Google’s goal of hundreds of millions of VR users in just a few years time is undoubtedly ambitious. But the company’s not-so-secret weapon is a veritable armada of developers and one of the world’s largest addressable audiences; the Google Play Store boasts more than 1 billion monthly active users. 100 million VR users would be just 10% of that figure.

See Also: Samsung, HTC, LG, and More Bringing ‘Daydream Ready’ VR Phones to Android
See Also: Samsung, HTC, LG, and More Bringing ‘Daydream Ready’ VR Phones to Android

Granted, none of those 1 billion users currently own Daydream Ready devices, which won’t launch until this Fall. While only an initial wave of high-end devices will be Daydream Ready, Google’s hope is that over time even low-end smartphones will eventually meet the minimum spec, meaning that even without specifically seeking out Daydream Ready phones, many millions of users will end up with them in their pockets through the existing phone upgrade cycle.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Rogue_Transfer

    It’s good that a Wiimote Plus-like controller is getting combined with mobile VR. It’ll be interesting to see if Daydream will turn into a lasting reality or just a passing fantasy.

    Considering people will need a (likely, more expensive) high-end phone with the additional screen tech & sensors, it’s going to be a slow initial start. When it gets to the point of getting cheaper in a few years, if they don’t vastly improve the features, it’s going to be up against much stiffer competition from second gen VR headsets(by then more affordable) and mobile AR headsets which will blow its current limited feature-set out of the water.

    • Gerald Terveen

      They found some really good ways to utilize such a cheap controller to make sense in VR. And cheap is what makes it a no-brainer addition for many that will get those expensive phones.
      This is a market where money can be made I bet!

      • cordyceps12

        cheap isn’t king though. I remember the story of raspberry pi zero. where eric Schmidt ran into Eben Upton and famously said:
        ‘don’t be an idiot. That’s a ridiculous idea. You have to try and be as close to free as possible”
        It’s very hard to compete with cheap; it’s very hard to compete with free’.”

        oh and look at that, pi zero was a flop and we have raspberry pi 2, 3, etc.

        It can be too cheap. like I was never a fan of Google cardboard. it seems like a terrible first impression of VR. I do think however that daydream has a lot of potential. we need a mobile VR implementation globally.

  • Kai2591

    Proliferate VR! XD

  • Definitely curious as to what the first killer app will be. I don’t think it could be the Tap Tap Revenge, Urban Spoon or Fart Apps like we saw with the App Store but might lean more towards pure utility.

  • Jack Siberine

    I’m interested to hear what you guys think about Google “requiring the controller in order to navigate the Daydream Home screen”. Do you think the lack of mobility will restrict a wide adoption?

    • Jack Siberine

      If so, I could see the Daydream Remote going the way of the stylus. Thoughts?

      • cordyceps12

        I saw these little Bluetooth camera shutter buttons for selfies being sold in Southeast Asia. they worked but ultra cheap. I figure the controllers will be like that. a million cheap Chinese knockoffs. that should make people unafraid of losing them.