Google Cardboard was perhaps the biggest surprise in the VR world - a virtually no-cost VR viewer made from any Android phone. However. it left people thinking that perhaps Google wasn't completely serious about VR. Now we have several announcements at Google I/O that suggest otherwise.
Google has added Daydream to its VR technologies but to find out exactly what it is we are going to have to wait for a while.
Daydream is a platform for high quality, mobile virtual reality. Coming in Fall 2016, Daydream provides rich, responsive, and immersive experiences with hardware and software built for VR.
Cardboard is still there, but just for messing about seems to be the position. What exactly Daydream hardware will be like is unclear the only clue seems to be that the headsets will have a standard controller. The basic idea seems that a Daydream ready Android phone will provide the display and the controller the input.
Daydream-ready headsets are designed for the high-quality mobile VR experiences that Daydream enables. Unlike the Google Cardboard viewer, they are designed for extended use. Instead of a trigger button, users interact with VR applications using the Daydream controller.
The SDKs are for Daydream and Cardboard and involve either Android, Unity - if you want to target iOS then you can only use Cardboard.
The Google VR SDK for Android supports both Daydream and Cardboard, including a simple API used for creating apps inserted into Cardboard viewers, and a more complex API for supporting Daydream-ready phones and the Daydream controller.
You can also write in C++ using the NDK if you want. The only part of the SDK that l can find that targets the Daydream VR is the controller class that seems to be about the special controller that Google wants us to use. The rest seem to be standard stereo rendering and spatial audio.
The tasks listed in the documentation are:
- Lens distortion correction.
- Spatial audio.
- Head tracking.
- 3D calibration.
- Side-by-side rendering.
- Stereo geometry configuration.
- User input event handling.
The head tracking sounds interesting, but I couldn't find anything new in the SDK.
To set up a developer kit for Daydream you need a Nexus 6P running the Android N preview. Only a 6P will do for the display, but you can use another type of phone to emulate the Daydream controller. The 6P is put into a Cardboard or similar face mask and you use the other phone as the controller.
On thing that is worth knowing is that the new SDK deprecates support for the early Cardboard viewers with the magnetic switch. So you might need to go out and buy a new Cardboard - or just fold up a new one.