Like all truly cutting-edge technology – Tesla’s 0-to-60-in-under-two-seconds Roadster, wallpaper-thin OLEDs such as those in LG’s flagship TVs, Virgin Galactic – VR was, until recently, really quite expensive. Devices like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are pricey investments that require not only a hefty amount of peripheral tech to run, for instance a powerful gaming PC, but also a lot of space to be used effectively. Even PlayStation’s own VR headset has a cumbersome setup process bogged down by wires and extra boxes, and is still relatively hard on the wallet.
Hence Google’s new Daydream View, a mobile VR headset that may not pack such a visual punch as Oculus or Vive, and which lacks the raft of console quality games available to the PSVR, but which has price, design and ease of use on its side. Similar to Samsung’s Gear VR (although, for our money, better) the Daydream View’s trifecta of tick boxes is brilliant – especially if you’ve never experienced the immersive, transformative capabilities of VR before. More than anything, as games on mobile progress and become even more advanced, the mobile VR space is only going to get more and more appealing.
You may not notice at first but this iteration of the Daydream View has had a design update, albeit minor. It’s still a premium feeling product for the price and has a lovely tactile fabric, which replaces the sweatpant style cover of the last. That not only looks nicer, to our eyes at least, but also doesn’t absorb so much sweat if you’re playing for a long period of time. Not that you probably will. Don’t leave it anywhere dusty or grimy, though, as we suspect that fabric coating could end up looking mucky.
Just like before, the View is simple to use and relatively comfy to wear – just be prepared to muck around a little with the strap adjustment so you don’t feel like your head is being compressed in a vice. As well as the new (and brilliant) Pixel 2 XL, which is the device we tested on, the View works with the standard Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and S8, plus a couple of the top-end models from Motorola and Asus. No iPhone support, but that’s hardly surprising.
Once you’re set up with a fully updated Daydream app and have adjusted those straps so you’re comfortable, you’ll find that Google’s done a fantastic job of making sure its latest product has the VR content it needs to survive beyond the “fad stage”. You know, the phase past which 3D TVs never managed to sustain themselves. It comes packed with a smart, intuitive remote that acts as your navigational tool while wearing the headset, meaning you don’t need to take it off several times to get to what you want to watch or play. Provided you’re sitting comfortably and not at risk of knocking into your wine rack or record collection, the Daydream View is as safe a VR experience as they come.
There’s Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and a handful of games, all of which provide that initial transportive “wow” that VR is so effective at. The flipside to that is that a lot of the games themselves are repetitive – even the best, like Eclipse or Rez Infinite, are fundamentally limited in what they offer, and won’t compare to much deeper, traditional games. They at least they look good but, again, if you were waiting for something akin to what you’ll find on the Vive – an £800 device that needs a £1,000 PC to run – you’re obviously overstretching expectations.
The Daydream View is £99, and – for a budget VR device – it more than delivers. The design intuition behind the Daydream is something a lot of other VR manufacturers could learn a lot from. While VR has exploded, it hasn’t yet hit the mainstream. It’s more than likely because of its high barrier to entry – cost and ease of use – that it’s yet to break into the living rooms of later-adopters. Daydream View is a step in the right direction, but it’s just not there quite yet.