Requiem for a Daydream: RIP, phone VR

Google’s Daydream View. We had enjoyable occasions.

Sarah Tew/PJDM

December 2014, I pulled PJDM’s TV editor, David Katzmaier, right into a convention room to point out him a black plastic pair of goggles fitted over a Samsung cellphone. I seated him in a snug swivel chair. I wished to see what he considered what I used to be about to point out him, from a show perspective.

A number of 3D 360-degree movies and digital aquariums later, he was impressed as I used to be. I do not assume something wowed me greater than these early Samsung Gear VR experiences. They have been powered by a cellphone, they may very well be taken wherever, they usually simply labored.

Practically six years later, nobody’s placing telephones into VR goggles anymore. One yr after Google announced it was killing off Daydream, its personal cellular phone-connected VR platform, Google’s latest Android 11 cellphone OS no longer supports it at all. The Daydream View VR hardware vanished from Google’s net retailer final yr, and Google’s telephones stopped even working with Daydream because the Pixel 4.

The identical occurred for Samsung Gear VR. John Carmack, former CTO of Fb’s Oculus, which partnered with Samsung on Gear VR, delivered a eulogy for the now-vanished VR goggles final yr. Gear VR has lengthy vanished from Samsung’s product occasions.

Typically this feels completely bizarre to me, as a result of phone VR seems like it would be the perfect distraction in 2020.

And but, VR at massive remains to be right here. In reality, there have been a ton of new VR headsets currently: the Oculus Quest and Quest 2. The Valve Index. The HP Reverb G2. There are headsets that plug into PCs, and there are standalone headsets. There have been amazing VR games: Half-Life: Alyx, Star Wars: Squadrons. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is getting VR assist, too.

Understanding why the Daydream and Gear VR have gone away means asking why Google, Fb and Samsung have moved on from cellphone VR as a method. And, visiting the ghosts of cellular VR from the center of the final decade.

This story was initially written final Halloween, nevertheless it’s been up to date now that Google has ended Daydream assist utterly in Android 11, and Halloween is across the nook once more.


The Pixel Four does not work with Daydream anymore.

James Martin/PJDM

Google: Daydream shift

Google’s head of Daydream VR and AR, Clay Bavor, instructed me in Could 2019 that the corporate has been rethinking some of its bigger ideas in VR, with perhaps one thing else new on the horizon. Google had a standalone version of the Daydream final yr (which is no longer available), however nothing new to emerge alongside Fb’s Oculus Quest.

Google’s response concerning the disappearance of the Daydream a yr in the past was, “We noticed a whole lot of potential in smartphone VR — having the ability to use the smartphone you carry with you all over the place to energy an immersive on-the-go expertise. However over time we observed some clear limitations constraining smartphone VR from being a viable long-term answer. Most notably, asking folks to place their cellphone in a headset and lose entry to the apps they use all through the day causes immense friction. There additionally hasn’t been the broad client or developer adoption we had hoped, and we have seen reducing utilization over time of the Daydream View headset. Whereas we’re now not promoting Daydream View or supporting Daydream on Pixel 4, the Daydream app and retailer will stay accessible for current customers.”

Now, Daydream is formally gone in Android 11 and can now not work in any respect. 

Google’s focus has largely shifted to practical phone AR tools for now, like Google Maps navigation and updates to Google Lens.

Samsung Gear VR 2017

Daydream (left) and Gear VR (proper). It looks like yesterday.

Sarah Tew/PJDM

Fb: Making its personal VR headsets now

Fb’s Mark Zuckerberg made it clear to me on the firm’s Oculus VR developer convention a yr in the past that the standalone Oculus Quest can be the do-it-all headset for the longer term. In 2020, Fb has re-emphasized that the Quest 2 is Fb’s solely VR headset going ahead. It works with PCs via a USB-C cable and is suitable with some older apps for Oculus Go, one other VR headset Facebook stopped making.

In 2019, I listened to John Carmack give a pained goodbye to the Gear VR, saying that Samsung’s headsets weren’t ideally suited due to compromises required to suit a greater variety of Samsung cellphone screens. There have been a whole lot of Gear VR variations, with an growing variety of little packed-in adapters to suit the Galaxy telephones. 

For Oculus, the Gear VR was clearly a handy marriage earlier than the corporate was acquired by Fb. It was a stepping stone. It was a method for Oculus to get an amazing show and a cellular platform. Samsung obtained Oculus’ perception and VR ecosystem. However now that Fb is encouraging potential prospects to live entirely in Facebook’s world, standalone headsets made by Fb are the longer term… they usually’ll finally evolve towards AR glasses next.


How do you match this in VR goggles?

Angela Lang/PJDM

Samsung: Its telephones hold evolving

VR was a wild concept for Samsung to point out off alongside smartwatches at Galaxy cellphone occasions, years in the past. Now, the main target has shifted: 5G. Folding phones. Extra elaborate cameras. Neither of these pair properly but with goggle-type VR headsets.

Samsung’s response, from a yr in the past, to my query about what occurred to the Gear VR: “Samsung Gear VR is just not suitable with Galaxy Observe10 and Observe10 Plus. We stay dedicated to innovating in VR and AR to ship unimaginable new experiences to our shoppers. We imagine 5G will allow the subsequent development of immersive content material streaming for AR/VR, and that is the place Samsung has been centered. For instance, we created the Samsung XR Content material Seize Studio, one among two studios within the US that is ready to do 3D volumetric video, with cutting-edge tools for producing AR and VR content material. In September, we produced content material with the Dallas Cowboys and AT&T for an immersive AR and 5G expertise that followers can get pleasure from on the stadium all through the season. At SDC 2019, we recreated one of many XR Content material Seize Studios with companions within the immersive leisure house to create new experiences, permitting builders to find out about our AR capabilities.”

Qualcomm’s latest explorations in cellular VR counsel a whole wave of phone-connected headsets coming within the subsequent couple of years. If Samsung have been to get again into VR, I would anticipate that method.

So, like Google, it is in a interval of R&D. Who is aware of what’s going to come subsequent?

iPhones largely sat this one out

Numerous unimpressive little iPhone-compatible VR goggles have cluttered shops, however none of them have been higher than the easy folding Google Cardboard gadgets. Apple did not optimize iPhones for any set of VR goggles, like Samsung and Google. 

This meant that iPhone homeowners have been just about out of the loop on the world of Gear VR and Daydream. 

And this, perhaps, is what killed cellphone VR most of all: Your cellphone decided what you possibly can use. A Samsung cellphone for the Gear VR. A selected Android cellphone for the Daydream. VR, a spot the place it is already onerous to assemble folks, began to get fragmented.

New Samsung Gear VR for Note 8

Oh, the recollections.

Sarah Tew/PJDM

A terrific demo for grandparents and youngsters

These YouTube movies of grandmas gasping with a VR headset on weren’t staged: It was a factor. I bear in mind exhibiting my mother-in-law a Samsung Gear VR, and he or she was so amazed she thought of getting one (briefly). 

My youngsters, once they have been little, cherished testing demos, too. The straightforward look-around-and-stay-seated vibe of phone-based VR made it good for informal watching. So few of these early apps even had any method to work together, so I did not have to fret a few child having to level or click on. 

Instances have modified. VR headsets now include elaborate controllers, just like the Oculus Quest’s button-studded issues. I really like them, however informal first-timers may have a tough time determining what to do. I’ve realized a unique method now: guiding them by seeing their actions streamed to my cellphone, the place I can trip alongside and assist them. 


Nearly all VR now has full movement controls. (Oculus Quest)

Sarah Tew/PJDM

VR is now not about sitting nonetheless

My favourite experiences in VR contain waving my arms round and strolling throughout a room. Hand monitoring, controller monitoring and full movement in house: These are doable due to self-contained methods that use cameras and laptop imaginative and prescient. 

The Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View have been sit-down experiences, the place you’d simply go searching. The Gear VR and Daydream are nonetheless nice for 360-degree motion pictures. At movie festivals like Tribeca in New York, the Gear VR remains to be used to play VR motion pictures. 


Sarah Tew/PJDM

However, the way forward for VR has unfold out. And, on the similar time, stopped being a factor used to attempt to promote telephones. I cherished utilizing the Gear VR and Daydream View — I nonetheless bear in mind the weirdness of watching motion pictures in a digital theater, enjoying trippy video games like Digital Digital Actuality, going for little dives in digital aquarium apps, enjoying poker with strangers and seeing how unusually intimate grownup leisure is. However I by no means wished to hold both of them in my bag. And finally I ended eager to drop a cellphone in or examine on which apps wanted to be up to date.

I nonetheless use VR. However that dream of $99 plug-in-a-phone VR, properly, it is useless now. The VR world has moved on to raised issues. Nonetheless, that world of phone-connected VR could come back again, in a brand new, more-advanced kind. Telephones and VR make sense collectively, however we might by no means have a second the place I drop my cellphone right into a pair of goggles once more.

#Requiem #Daydream #RIP #cellphone


Scott Stein