Apps & Software

Daydream Home

google-daydream-home

The Daydream home app in VR is very welcoming with its fairytale forest setting, muted earthen colors, and pleasant ambient sounds. Although it’s little more than a launcher, Google has done a good job of designing a UI and UX language that makes the app feel interactive.

As you point your controller from one icon to the next, you’ll see the icon react not only in motion, but also in depth. All of the icons and photos have some depth elements to them that make them feel more tangible than a grid of flat icons.

While generally intuitive, there’s still some interface work to be done in the app to indicate what can be scrolled, dragged, and swiped. At one point it wasn’t clear to me that a long text description of an app could be clicked to be expanded for further reading, but even after I figured it out, I didn’t realize I could scroll even further down on the selection with the trackpad.

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Installing apps is easy, and the VR version of the Play Store surrounds you in a 3D photosphere of whatever game or app you’re browsing on the store, giving you an instant idea of what the experience might be like without needed to scroll through flat, 2D screenshots. It’s a neat an effective touch.

Not so neat or effective is the several button presses it takes to install an app while in VR. The process goes a little something like: launch Play Store > Select App > Select Install > Select Download on WiFi Only > Select Confirm Install > Select Back button to return to browsing. Small complaints for what is a fairly simple process, I think it just feels a little clunky because the background jumps through a few transitions while you go through that process. But you can always install VR apps outside of VR with your phone in your hand instead of on your face.

YouTube is Finally in VR

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Well, technically, it’s been in VR for a while thanks to Cardboard, and there was also other ways to pull up YouTube videos in other headsets, but none of that was ideal.

Now there’s finally a full blown YouTube app for Daydream that not only lets you view YouTube’s library of VR content, but also the rest of its insanely massive library of standard videos. The app is fully featured, letting you do most of what you’d expect to as a logged-in YouTube user, including browsing your subscriptions, subscribing to new channels, and searching for videos via text or voice input.

SEE ALSO
New YouTube VR App is Completely Re-designed for Daydream

For flat videos you can increase the size of the screen and move it around to your liking. For VR videospheres you can rotate the front point to keep yourself centered on the action.

I anticipate people are going to spend a lot of time in this app.

Other Google Apps

Google has a few key VR apps out there like Photos and Play Movies that let you see your own captured or purchased content. There’s also a preview of the Google Arts and Culture app which currently lets you browse high res scans of famous paintings curated and narrated by museums around the world. Street View goes way off road to take you to places like the Taj Mahal, or deep undergound in caves, but you can still type in an address to see any of Google’s huge library of actual street view photos.

The Cardboard Camera app lets you snap a 3D 360 degree view which can be viewed using the Photos app, and will be an awesome way to share VR imagery with friends if Google can make the sharing functionality easy and compelling.

Games

The games on Daydream (a small number thus far) are not extraordinary, and I struggle to point to anything right now that’s truly a standout. At very least, they show some neat possibilities, but still feel like demos. Granted, most of what’s available is currently free. However, most of them have shown that the addition of a simple motion controller can add a lot to the mobile VR experience, making the player feel more able to directly influence the virtual world.

Developers are still learning how to use this new input paradigm effectively, and I expect we’ll see lots of iteration and experimentation in the following months. We’ll keep our eye out for the best titles as more hit the platform.

Missing Social Experiences

Right now there’s not a compelling social offering on Daydream. There’s at least one game that looks like it could be played co-op, but that’s just a multiplayer game—what I’m looking for are social experiences that let me hang out with my friends in VR. Even something like multi-user YouTube sessions would be a great starting point to let friends interact together. Alas, there’s no major social offering currently, though we’re due to see some on the platform soon.

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  • David Herrington

    Incredible review! Thank you for taking the time to shine a light on the unknowns related to this product line. I never would have even considered buying something like this in the past but you have done such a good job dispelling some of my questions that I may in the future!

  • Darian Skarica

    How does it compare to the tracking/latency of Samsung Gear VR?

    As Samsung Gear is also in sub 20ms latency, is there any difference in that regard between platforms (Daydream and Samsung VR)

    • benz145

      Performance (including latency) is comparable to Gear VR (comes under that critical threshold of 20ms to make the VR world look really solid).

      • Darian Skarica

        Thanks for the answer
        As Gear VR has additional hardware that reduces the latency below 20ms, I was afraid weather or not Daydream can follow. I’m glad it can, as from my perspective if would be a deal breaker

  • Just about to head to bed, but skimmed it very quickly to find the detailed I looked for… still only 60 Hz! But! You do mention it seems as if the low persistence is less effective, perhaps they increased the duration the screen is on to reduce the flicker? I see clear flicker in the GearVR in semi-bright scenes so this 60 Hz business has me squirming.

    • benz145

      Interesting hypothesis, could be the case for sure. Tough for me to say since I’m usually not prone to flicker.

      • CazCore

        i’m glad to hear your case of flickering cleared up

  • Val

    There is no way for content makers to benefit from ad based YouTube and a dependence on internet bandwidth…

  • Graham J ⭐️

    Good review. The motion-ish controller is a great idea, I wondered some time ago why no one was using these even though I’ve seen smart TVs with such a controller.

    A small correction: The Pixel XL’s screen is 2560×1440. Unfortunately the 5″ version is only 1080p, robbing it of the PPI throne held by the 5.1″ Samsung S7.

  • VRgameDevGirl

    You could technically put almost any Android in the headset and use the cardboard app. Right?????

    • You could but without Android 7.1 Nougat on the phone you might as well be using a much cheaper headset or even cardboard itself. I’m hoping that Nougat gets rolled out pretty quickly to other current phones to allow them to be used with Daydream.

  • Mateusz

    Without onboard IMU the number of compatible phones will stay very limited imo

  • JR

    Very informed and helpful review, thanks.

  • CazCore

    i was hoping the library of cardboard content would also work with this, but, it sounds like it doesn’t?