Update: Standalone virtual reality has finally come to the Daydream platform. This is thanks to the Lenovo Mirage Solo headset, which is on sale today.
The headset works much like your standard Android phone, though of course, once you slip it on, you're transported to a world of VR. The headset features impressive WorldSense tracking, so it will track your head in the real world as it relates to the virtual one.
The Daydream platform itself is still limited in terms of apps and games available, and at $399, the Lenovo Mirage Solo is an expensive piece of hardware. However, it's very comfortable and easy to set up, making it a solid new entry into the VR headset space.
Original article continues below…
Daydream is Google's platform for bringing virtual reality (VR) to mobile devices and standalone VR headsets, and it's quite different than Google Cardboard, to say the least.
Unlike Cardboard, which aimed to get people in the VR door with a low cost and lenient power requirements, Daydream is a more robust vision that has its sight set on providing higher-quality experiences to Android Oreo users and beyond.
But it goes beyond Google's own hardware and software. Google has teamed up with partners to create Daydream headsets, namely Lenovo and the just-launched Lenovo Mirage Solo headset.
Google Daydream is all about bringing exciting and absorbing VR experiences to those who don't want to invest in a pricey HTC Vive or Oculus Rift VR headset (though the Lenovo Mirage Solo costs just as much as Oculus Rift). Here's everything you need to know about it.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Google's high-quality VR platform
- When is it out? Now
- What will it cost? $99 / £99 (around AU$125) for Daydream View, though standalone headsets are more expensive
Google Daydream View headset
Want to get started with Daydream? Google has its own headset that you'll be able to use with Daydream-ready phones.
It's called Google Daydream View (2017) and, unlike other VR headsets we've seen before, it has a material design … just like the Android operating system. There's a latch on the front to slide your phone in and the controller for the headset is included.
Last year, Google invited other device makers to create their own Daydream headsets. At Google IO 2017, it was made obvious that said device makers responded, with dedicated, standalone Daydream headsets in works, though one prominent maker eventually dropped out.
Netflix, HBO and Hulu all have Daydream-ready apps available now, plus The New York Times has launched an app, too, for its VR videos.
Plus, Google has also made its own apps compatible with the Daydream platform. That includes Play Movies, Photos, Maps and YouTube.
Daydream goes independent
During Google IO 2017, the firm officially confirmed the well-reported rumor that it would be launching standalone Daydream headsets with select hardware partners.
This means that all of the parts needed to drive the Daydream experience will be found inside these headsets. No need for a phone, PC or even any cables.
However, HTC eventually dropped out of making a standalone Daydream headset, opting instead to focus on its own standalone VR headset, the HTC Vive Focus.
That headset is launching worldwide later this year.
The standout feature of the Lenovo Mirage Solo is Google's new WorldSense tracking technology, a series of sensors that provide all of the motion tracking and sense of presence that, say, a smartphone's sensor array would.
As Daydream is deeply integrated into Android, Google has put the entire Play Store within view while wearing a Daydream headset.
The Google Play Store takes on a familiar look in the VR space, with each individual app having its own rating and description. Google has also added the level of motion that you'll experience within each app, just so that you know what sort of immersion you're about to get yourself into.
Daydream requires these three pillars in order to be a viable VR option: smartphones that are optimized for VR, with a high quality system on chip (SoC) to maintain 60 frames-per-second playback, low persistence displays to eliminate ghosting and lag, and finally, top-notch sensors that operates with minimal latency to boost the sense of presence.
So, what sort of performance can we reasonably expect out of it? Well, you'd be right to think that it really depends on the power of the phone that's inside.
What's more, the Lenovo Mirage Solo also packs a Snapdragon 835 chipset and 4GB of RAM.
Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus
Samsung's last-gen flagship smartphones feature Daydream support.
These phones are among the most capable smartphones that can pop into a Daydream View headset. Equipped with a Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM, and, depending on which phone you have, either a 5.8-inch or 6.2-inch screen, these beg to play the latest Daydream apps and games.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
The Note 8 has the best big display on a smartphone, coming in at an expansive 6.3 inches. It also features 6GB of RAM and runs a Snapdragon 835 processor (or Exynos 8895, depending where you live). It's big and powerful, and just right for Daydream.
ZTE Axon 7
The Axon 7 stuns with its 5.5-inch AMOLED display that runs at 2,560 x 1,440. This resolution will provide a more crisp experience than a 1080p screen, much like the ones you'll find on the OnePlus 3 and Nexus 5X.
A bleeding-edge display is a crucial ingredient in modern VR, but the Axon 7 also looks to offer up plenty of power to back it up.
It will launch with two variations: one with 4GB RAM and another with 6GB RAM. Each will feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 clocked at 2.2GHz.
Google Pixel and Pixel XL
Google's Pixel and Pixel XL launched alongside the Daydream View headset, and among the other compatible devices, will currently provide the best VR experience thanks to their Snapdragon 821 and 4GB RAM outfit.
Moto Z, Moto Z Force, Moto Z2 Force
The multi-talented Moto Z and the Verizon-exclusive Moto Z Force are compatible with the Google Daydream View.
Each is stocked with the Snapdragon 820 and 4GB RAM, and shine with 2,560 x 1,440 OLED displays, which make them ideal candidates for mobile VR.
Huawei Mate 9 Pro
While this phone is very similar in specifications to the Huawei Mate 9, it boasts a QHD AMOLED screen instead of FHD LCD used on the lower-end Mate 9, which makes it a prime candidate for Daydream compatibility.
Unlike the other options, Huawei's bucks the Snapdragon SoC in favor of its own Kirin 960 octa-core system on a chip. Paired with 6GB of RAM, this is one of the best ways to experience Daydream VR.
Asus ZenFone AR
The Asus ZenFone AR debuted at CES 2017 and is one of the most impressive phones to run Daydream. It houses a Snapdragon 821, like the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL, but also comes in 6GB and 8GB variants.
It features a QHD Super AMOLED display to allow for rich colors and deep blacks, a necessity for Daydream VR.
What's most impressive is that the ZenFone AR is also Tango-compatible with its dual-camera setup on the phone's rear.