Well, the speculation and rumours over what Google will be releasing this year is finally over. Yesterday, at I/O 2016, Google’s Clay Bevor took the stage during the keynote to unveil their new VR projects.
The first is an Android based VR platform called Daydream. The platform will run natively in upcoming Android N supported phones, or what they refer to as “Daydream Ready“ phones, with 8 phone partners in the cue. Since Android N utilises the new Vulcan graphics engine, this also means that it will be super fast and look amazing.
The obvious benefit will be that VR support will now be baked into the Android OS and accessed by a dedicated VR Mode. The centre of the experience will take place in a hub called Daydream Home, which looks very similar to the Oculus Home.
Many of Google’s media and entertainment products will be integrated into Daydream Home, including a redesigned YouTube with spatial audio, Google Play store, Play Movies, Google Photos, Street View and a number of the usual media partners including EA, HBO, Netflix, Ubisoft and more.
Google also announced a new upcoming VR headset (which looks very similar to Gear VR) as well as a very minimalistic looking positional controller called the Daydream Controller. The headset will be released with the goal of being an open source set of guidelines to enable other developers to build their own devices.
A great quote from Forbes today sums up the strategy:
“Google Isn’t Building A Gear VR Competitor — It’s Enabling Everyone Else To Build One” – Forbes
Where is this all going? Here are my initial quick thoughts:
One of the biggest weaknesses in developing for current VR experiences has been the total lack of consistency and “responsive” device support. Each time you build a VR app, you need to rebuild and optimise for each device and platform.
The result has been a somewhat TRON-like, skeumorphic mishmash of trial and error. In many ways, it kind of feels like the early years of Flash. Some things look nice on the UI end of things, but for the most part, it’s a pretty inconsistent mess at the moment.
As a UX Consultant by trade, I tend to look at these recent developments from a UI and UX angle first. In my opinion, one of the biggest non VR related breakthroughs from Google over the last few years, has been with the development and implementation of material design and web components.
By integrating them into the Android OS, they were able to solve a lot of UX related inconsistency problems in developing omni-channel applications that can be supported across multiple devices.
By baking VR into the actual operating system, UI and huge backend ecosystem, Android developers should theoretically be able to start utilising much of the existing Android components (and hopefully some new ones) to solve preexisting problems such as UI elements, basic interaction, navigation, notifications, 2D content display, device performance, resolution etc. Not to mention all the power of AI, voice recognition and search features that will really add to the VR experience in the long term.
That, in my opinion is how you build a strong valuable ecosystem at the very core and Google seems to be paving the way. It will be very interesting to see how this all integrates into the game engines, SDK’s and Android Studio.
More Daydream keynotes On the Way
Google will be live streaming more Daydream presentations on May 19, starting at 10:00AM PST, so we will report more as things progress.
— Google VR (@googlevr) May 18, 2016
We are really excited to get a look under the hood and see how this all works, so stay tuned.