It was Christmas come early when Martin (our MD) dropped a package on my desk the morning of November 10th. Within that package was something I’d been looking forward to getting my hands on for quite some time – the Google Daydream View headset.
After a speedy unboxing for the camera I was immediately struck by the quality of the headset. Google has aimed to produce something unlike any other VR headset, and I can confidently say they have achieved that.
Kicking things off is the aesthetic. The View invites people to be tactile, it’s small, light and draws more parallels with your clothing than a typical piece of ‘tech’ in your home.
In the words of Google’s VP of VR, Clay Bavor, “We looked at what people actually wear; we wear stuff that’s soft, stuff that’s flexible and breathable, and so we crafted our headset out of that same comfortable stuff”
The inner mask is foam padded for a comfortable fit against the forehead and across the cheek bones with enough space to accommodate glasses. It is also detachable by velcro strips so the mask can easily be hand washed.
The strap to attach the mask to the face is thick and has an extra smooth layer next to the face/hair line to ensure nothing gets caught.
Some Minor Issues
Despite all of the thoughtful details, it inevitably falls foul of the one-size-fits-all design. The straps position effectively lifts the mask off of the face if you have a small head as it has to be tightened to ensure it doesn’t slip down. This creates a fairly substantial gap of light at the bottom which compromises the clarity of the picture. I found myself pressing the mask to my face during use.
To make things fair I asked a range of people within the office to try on The View for comparison, and the common theme was that it doesn’t fit anyone perfectly. This is to be expected, but if it was to be worn for the duration of a movie for example, I imagine it would get fairly uncomfortable.
For me personally I ended up with ‘goggle’ marks after half an hour of use. A minor thing, perhaps even user error, but something to note nonetheless.
Let’s Talk Money
Bringing it back around to the positives, Google has really hit the sweet spot in terms of price.
It isn’t quite the cheapest on the market but unlike Oculus Rift and other headsets out there*, it is surprisingly affordable for most people.
|Google Daydream View||£69|
|Samsung Gear VR||£60|
* prices sourced direct from manufacturer where possible, correct as of November 2016
One point to note is that we are applying quite a broad brush stroke when it comes to VR headsets, without going into a full comparison there are some differences in specific product offerings, but for the sake of this article we are comparing aesthetic, weight etc as opposed to specific capabilities.
Overall I’m impressed with the headset, however it wasn’t long before I encountered a make or break issue.
My current hand set, the Samsung Galaxy S6, isn’t Daydream ready! And the list of phones available today which are is very limited indeed. So much so there’s only one officially available, unsurprisingly launched by Google themselves.
Thankfully Martin is quick to adopt the latest and greatest tech so he already owns a Pixel handset and kindly agreed to let me experiment with it. But that highlights one of the key issues here: the headset is affordable, but the phone is far from it.
The Pixel retails at £599.99 and for this price tag you get a 5 inch AMOLED 1080p display with a snapdragon 810 processor and 4GB of ram and the running system is Android 7.1 nougat overlaid with the Pixel launcher.
For me though, the capabilities of the pixel vs its price tag don’t really match up. If anyone disagrees with me on this I’d love to hear what you think over on twitter @ellamccahill
In a nutshell, it offers a super-quick and clean experience. It ticks all the boxes from a UX/UI perspective (and we should know because we’re experts at that!), but is that enough? I remain unconvinced.
This is also going to be a key issue for Daydream View’s commercial viability. If only one handset is Daydream ready, how quickly will other smartphone producers adapt/adopt and will it be fast enough to jump on the trend whilst it still has some momentum? Time will tell.
The Future of VR
There’s no doubt VR is getting ‘bigger’, and the Daydream View is bringing us closer than ever before to mass adoption, but is it just a gimmick or will it truly be the game changer we’ve all been waiting for?
The range of apps available so far isn’t great, Youtube is VR enabled, Google Maps etc.
We will be debating the future of VR further on the latest episode of the Digitalk podcast next week, if you’d like to get involved in the conversation tweet us your thoughts @digitalkpodcast
You can listen to the Digitalk podcast over on soundcloud where a new episode is released every other week.