If you’ve felt that Google has been quiet about their Daydream VR initiative for a worrying amount of time, you aren’t alone. Their annual developer conference, Google I/O, this week is the latest opportunity for the company update the world on their VR ecosystem, but there’s little more than silence.

Following the muted launch of the first Daydream standalone headset last year (the Mirage Solo), Google has had very little to say about their once sky-high Daydream ambitions. A total lack of anything Daydream related at Google I/O this week only further shows that the company has shifted its interests elsewhere.

The first (and so far only) standalone Daydream headset, the Mirage Solo, launched in 2018 to a muted response. | Image courtesy Lenovo

The event’s opening keynote didn’t mention Daydream once in its two hour span. The Google I/O schedule doesn’t have a VR category this year, let alone a single session with a description mentioning “VR,” virtual reality,” or “Daydream.” In the press area of the event, a ‘Made by Google’ kiosk showed off the company’s hottest hardware, but excluded any Daydream headsets. Officially, Google has no news to share about Daydream at I/O this week.

Google’s second and latest Daydream View headset (which works with some Android phones) was released in 2017. | Photo by Road to VR

Instead, Google’s focus has clearly shifted toward augmented reality, and it isn’t hard to understand why. VR’s primary use-case on a mobile operating system like Android is entertainment. But beyond operating an app store which can host entertainment content, Google itself isn’t an entertainment company. They hoped VR developers would flock to the Daydream platform because of its (potential for) scale, but Google perhaps underestimated the chicken-and-egg problem of needing quality content to attract users to the platform before developers would see it as a viable option (especially in the face of other platforms like Gear VR which boasted a vastly larger install base).

AR, on the other hand, is very much focused on utility rather than entertainment. And it’s here where Google has a real advantage, specifically because the company’s core competency revolves around identifying, organizing, and surfacing information.

The 3 Biggest Challenges Facing Augmented Reality Today

It’s one thing to be able to convincingly track a 3D object against a backdrop of the real world so that it feels like it’s part of your environment—do that well and you can build some cool apps, but mostly ones that don’t actually leverage the power of AR to mix the real world with the virtual world. For AR to really reach its potential, a system needs to understand the world of the user so that AR applications can do things that are more useful than just manipulating 3D objects against the backdrop of the real world.

That’s what Google thinks it can do best—and where the company is now focusing its efforts, while choosing to pull back on ‘Daydream’ as a brand and product.

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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."
  • Christopher Stockman

    They tried. They paid some developers 7 figures to support the Daydream platform at launch.

    They just underestimated the audience size.

    • You mean overestimated?

      • Christopher Stockman

        yea, that’s what I meant.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    Sold my mirage solo,it was cool but no new material in months.

    • oompah

      meditate if u want to be saved

      • ale bro

        or wait until he has Ryzen ;-)

        • dk

          xD he will love a msi godlike motherboard…… but PowerColor Red Devil with a pentagram on the back plate is a big no no for him

  • kool

    The stadia should be a game streaming headset not a console. The first company to drop a 5g game streaming standalone VR headset wins!

  • Immersive_Computing

    Google banked on adoption of the Pixel phones which had very high specifications (low persistence OLED display, high performance IMU, stable 60hz x 2 frame rate) to support Daydream headsets. The “pure” Android OS used on Pixels assisted Daydream performance by reducing overhead.

    The Pixel phones had such low sales they barely registered in the Android marketplace, a big problem in the USA was they were only available through Verizon and were poor value (overpriced).

    “Compatible” phones which came a little later often had compatibility and performance issues in Daydream, causing a less than ideal experience. But by this time the damage was already done to the platform, with developers unable to monetise a very small installed user base. Apart from paid exclusives, developers could not make money, many popular titles only getting 1000’s of downloads. New releases became more and more infrequent.

    Its been slowly dying since, and will be interesting to see how long the Daydream app is maintained? Reminds of the old Dreamcast console, potential that was never realised…

    I had some great fun using Daydream which had a number of quirky, experimental apps and tight integration with Youtube VR, Google Photos, also early access to Chrome VR, Firefox VR, worked great for WebVR experiments and seemed to get exclusives from BBC and Guardian media outlets before other platforms.

    • There was so much promise to Google’s approach with Daydream. I remember when they billed it as a certification that other phone manufacturers could adhere to.
      The general temperament in the community was that Daydream was going to ultimately outperform GearVR since that platform was locked down to only flagship Samsung phones. Daydream was going to open up high end mobile VR to a much broader base of phone users as more and more phones became Daydream certified.
      It’s really sad to see how it’s fizzled out.

      • Immersive_Computing

        Yes it had real promise, and we saw glimpses in the early days after it launched. Later, the 2017 Daydream View headset was built with an incredible pair of lenses, after reports that Google had run millions of light ray simulations using machine learning during the lens design process.

        Certainly putting the new headset into a Pixel XL was a “wow” moment with a resolution bump and lens clarity that made PC VR headsets like Rift and especially Vive seem somewhat primitive.

        Some of their first party applications were incredible, like “Daydream Audio Factory” a masterclass in spatial sound design, or “Daydream Elements” with adjustable control interaction.

        I still fire those up every often to indulge myself, the kinds of apps that make you smile but also sad because it showed how talented some of Google’s VR/AR team actually were.

  • oompah

    google started VR fire
    but they r nowhere now
    They could not make 6dof controller
    VR is useless w/o controller
    daydream could have been huge success if they could have:
    1. An independent viewer, standalone with inside out tracking.
    2. 6DOF controller, I hear they r still developing like that of sony , hope its ok.

    had they done it before or even released specs & standards for it, it could’ve been a dominant stuff in market.

    • airball

      Sing this comment to the tune of Billy Joel, fairly amusing…

    • Thanks. I am not as articulate as you are but when I post this is what I’m talking about. Everyone is half assing development. Facebook and Oculus are the worst. I give them credit for the standalone headset but the chip powering it sucks. The apps are phone apps in VR and not good enough. Still can’t just go into VR in Windows easily. No work apps even though I have enough power to run them and on and on and on. I am not a gamer but would enjoy good virtual experiences without having to fight my way somewhere or skeet shoot or on and on.

    • Atul Salgaonkar

      “daydream could have been huge success if they could have:
      1. An independent viewer, standalone with inside out tracking.
      2. 6DOF controller,”
      You mean like Lenovo Mirage Solo?

  • sfmike

    Another example of VR not meeting the obscenely high success rates developers were telling investors 2-3 years ago. Reality has set in and there are few users. Hope the Quest can up the user base so we don’t go the way of 3DTV.

  • Scientism

    I’m not sure they completely shattered VR development, or shifted their interests. For example, as far as I understand, Jerry Carollo, their optical architect still works for Google, and he made this very interesting presentation about pancake optics (recently uploaded): https://www.reddit.com/r/AR_MR_XR/comments/biarf2/2018_reflections_optics_history_predictions_jerry/

    So I’m not so sure we won’t see any VR headsets from them in the future.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    Jesus is mankind’s only sole hope for one’s soul to be whole and not have a hole.Jesus Christ died for you too,Is Alive!

    • 3872Orcs

      When you spam I spam.

      The Atheist Experience

    • Smokey_the_Bear

      What VR headset does Mr Jesus use?

      • Jim Cherry

        All of them at once its a perk of being omnipresent, this even includes the magic leap;)

    • oompah

      Jesus was celibate, r u?
      Jesus was against violence & killings, r u?
      Jesus was spiritually awakened one, r u?
      Jesus meditated for 40 days in desert, did u?
      Jesus could see God , can u?
      Jesus rejected comforts of the world, did u?
      Jesus said that those who say Jesus , Jesus, Jesus ,Jesus , Jesus ,Jesus ,Jesus ,Jesus ,
      and Jesus
      when faced with him will be told ‘I never knew you’
      becuz u did not follow (the path of awakening)
      Meditate man

  • Pizzy

    The headset was comfy and lens were great sad they gave up so soon. Doesn’t even work on my s10 plus.

  • AR is a mistake. Sorry. Wish it wasn’t but I have been studying this and from what I can tell is AR follows VR. If VR becomes popular so does AR. VR just isn’t being done right and until it is it won’t take off like projected. Bad games and limited phone apps converted to VR won’t cut it.

    • Smokey_the_Bear

      I disagree, AR has far more real world potential then VR. Both platforms share some of the same tech, so I expect them to converge into one device…eventually, I’m talking a decade out.
      Oculus Quest IMO will sell very well, and surpass PSVR (total) sales in 1 years time.

    • Atul Salgaonkar

      AR, regardless of whether it is a mistake or not, is incredibly tough, technologically speaking; it has to support many aspects -optics/physics (parallax, occlusion), social (persistence) and legal/regulatory (privacy). It may be a while before AR wins mainstream engagement.

      • Jim Cherry

        AR in that regard works best right now in vertical markets where it can be tailored to an industries needs without fear of privacy implications.

  • I am not that surprised: rumors say that the Daydream team is no more or it has been decimated…

  • DaKangaroo

    Just wait in a year or two we’ll be saying the same thing about Stadia.

  • Colin Coulter

    I think AR is a mistake, and Google is making a mistake abandoning a platform as versatile as Daydream.

    People are increasingly choosing to do 1 of 2 things (or even both simultaneously):

    1) Reduce their internet/social media use, in which case AR is too plugged in. Nobody I know (30/m/midwest) really posts anything meaningful to facebook anymore, because it just gets drowned out, and we all know what happens when you try to discuss important things on facebook. We don’t check in on facebook, we don’t share pictures on facebook. Instead, I have my personal one-directional network (most of whom also have me in their networks) of about 20 family and close friends. They are the ones who see where I check in (and my ratings!) on google Maps. They are the ones who get notifications that my Photos Live Album of my son has new pictures auto-uploaded to it (and as someone who hates curating photographs, thank god for facial recognition!). If we use text we use MMS group chats. Yeah we could have these things overlaid over our eyeballs but that means we’re getting notifications over our eyeballs, too, and I think a lot of us are just so damn tired of useless notifications.

    2) The other side of the coin is plugging in more, and that’s already met by VR. If I need to scratch my itch to be social I either go out or I go on the Daydream VchatXR or w/e it’s called, depending on what’s going on in my house. I read a comment recently that said “being able to throw a google play movie up on the wall in AR is going to be the killer app”. Why though? So when I’m sitting together with friends or family I can have an incredibly invasive advertisement or work email pop up over my eyes? No thanks.

    So why hasn’t google merged these two seemingly dichotomous things? Daydream is poised to do it. They have the cheapest VR on the market, and it has the simplest controls. Even Aunt Mary 6 states away can figure out (only 3 buttons!) and afford (only $75!) Daydream. So why aren’t me and Aunt Mary taking rudimentary avatar scans of ourselves (Hello google Photo AI!) to use as avatars in a limited and immersed VR environment? We chat twice a week, and I’d kill to have our chats take place in the VR experience of “going in the tank” and pushing out distractions and notifications for 10 minutes. Why is it that if I want to talk to someone socially, it’s still the Plain Old Telephone System, or sometimes a difficult and awkward video call? Daydream can fix this.

    The truth is, People aren’t interested in more screens, much less putting screens over their real world. Businesses are definitely interested in you seeing more screens though, and you’re not really open to advertising in VR.