Google Daydream View: what it’s like to use the new Pixel-powered VR handset

We slapped on Google’s funky new headwear

Daydream View is Google’s new VR headset and we had a demo of it at the #MadeByGoogle event where we also saw new Pixel phones, plus more info on Google Home and Assistant as well as a new Chromecast Ultra.

Costing $79 in the US and £69 in the UK, Daydream View will be available from early November. Daydream View is similar to Samsung’s Gear VR in that you’re using a phone to power the experience alongside a ‘dumb’ headset.

There are 50+ ‘experiences’ coming to the system before the end of the year including apps and games. These include YouTube, Guardian VR, New York Times VR, WSJ VR, Netflix, Fantastic Beasts, Wonderglade and Lego (below). Hulu will also be available for it in the US.

There's also JK Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - a lot of people are getting rather excited about the prospect of this in VR.

Google enlisted an unnamed clothing manufacturer when designing the headset and the material design (no, not THAT material design) clearly shows. Two buckles at the back enable you to adjust the headset to fit and it will be available in three colours, though there’s only ‘slate’ around for now.

It’s what makes Daydream View so comfortable, but we have to say it will definitely mark and wear over time. Mind you, how much time do you reckon you’d actually spend in VR? The jury’s still out on this one.

It is mega comfortable though and there’s even some give in it. It is WAY more comfortable than Gear VR, for example and is more like putting on a pair of swimming goggles than a heavy headset.

Of course, there is still a fair amount of weight there, because you’re strapping a phone (in our demo case, Pixel) to your face. Phones need to be Daydream-certified by Google, so you can’t use any old phone.

Expect more and more to support it in the months to come. The phone straps into the headset via an elasticated band and is easy to fix in and release.

Control of Daydream View is via a simple remote pointer (a bit like a presentation pointer device), with a push-to-select button as part of a trackpad, a home button and volume on the side. This was brilliantly responsive with no latency that we could detect.

A nice touch is that the remote stows inside the empty headset for ease of transportation. In-flight VR, anyone?

No calibration is needed; the phone does that for you and it detects the headset via NFC. We enjoyed using it and it was really very simple. No learning curve whatsoever.

In terms of quality, things are actually really good for the price. After he’d heard that I’d tried Google Cardboard as well as HTC Vive and Gear VR (no, I haven’t used an Oculus Rift, sorry) our demo man was quick to allude to the fact I shouldn’t expect an experience like Vive but that it was a step up from Cardboard. So far, as expected.

We had a go on two specific apps on Daydream. First, was a VR experience from YouTube featuring the Museum of Natural History. This shows animals coming to life and, while it isn’t as good as some somewhat more immersive animal-based VR demos we’ve seen, it was pretty cool all the same.

This is what the home screen looks like, by the way, note there's a link to the Play Store at the bottom.

Next, we tried out WonderGlade from Resolution Games, which is basically a VR theme park described as “a whole world of carnival-themed gameplay”. We tried a rolling ball game using the controller. It was all very natural to use and we got the hang of it pretty quickly.

This is what the main WonderGlade screen looks like, from where you select which game you want to play.

We didn't have a go on Street View on Daydream View, but this is what it looks like ():

So what did we make of Daydream View? Well, we were only in its clutches for a few minutes but felt no sickness (this has happened before), it worked fine with our glasses and we can see it definitely appealing.

We’ve seen with other platforms that games and apps have been limited and we’re hopeful that Google can crack this – it’s certainly got some decent names on board. It’s certainly the first VR headset we can see ourselves using as a regular choice.

Here's Google's official Daydream View video:

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