Google Daydream had been more of a mystery than a new avenue of technology until recently, when Google announced the Pixel. In short, it was a smartphone made by Google that was expected to work with the search giant’s Daydream VR project, and it did. At the same time Google also announced the Daydream View, a Daydream headset that will fuel the virtual reality experience allowing Android users to mount their compatible smartphones. But the one thing that wasn’t answered on stage is “What about the rest of us?”
Well, for those who have been waiting for long, Google has finally released a list of Daydream VR compatible smartphones, now that its headset has gone on sale. That list surprisingly includes some smartphones which were launched last year along with some new models that were announced at the recent CES 2017 in Las Vegas.
The list includes the all-important Google Pixel and its bigger sibling the Pixel XL. Next up is the modular Moto Z and its variants. Then there are the handsets that are yet to launch like the Huawei Mate 9 Pro, the Tango-happy Zenfone AR and the ZTE Axon 7.
Image Credit: The Official Motorola Blog
If you happened to buy a Moto Z last year. Good for you! But if it was any other flagship, it’s sad to say that it now gets the ‘outdated’ tag. On this side of the camp if you have been trying to figure out what does it take to qualify? Well here’s one hint, all the above mentioned smartphones have AMOLED displays. Suddenly, it made sense as to why Apple is interested in OLED displays for its upcoming smartphones. But as the VP of Business and Operations for Google VR Amit Singh put it, it not just one thing but many that need to fall into place for a smartphone to qualify as ‘Daydream ready’.
Daydream View
The Daydream View headset and controller.
Singh in an interview with VR Heads, finally gave some information that has until now only been with smartphone manufacturers, the key elements needed for a Daydream VR experience.
While many including myself, thought that a Daydream VR experience needed a Snapdragon 821 chipset like on the Pixel. We were all proved wrong when Motorola announced that its Moto Z became Daydream ready with a Nougat update and then OnePlus announced that even with a 821 chipset inside, Daydream VR was not a possibility.
But Singh has the answers to most of our queries. It turns out that Daydream can run on current day 820 or 821 smartphones, but it will not always be a fluid experience, which means that Google will not certify it.
Singh touches up on factors like a photo latency in the 22-25ms range so that a user does not perceive an effect that spells lag. He said, “You could do it at any level of the stack. you could do it in hardware, you could do it at the sensor, and you could do it at the display. Each of them has friction. We can optimize, and today the path to optimization has lead us to the spec we have today, but everything is changing so fast in this world that other options quickly become available.”
But he did give out a part of the secret recipe, “The combination of performance needs a few things in the stack. The right GPU, Android N and above, and an OLED display.” He claimed that without these, the latency would be high enough to be noticed, making for an uncomfortable or unsatisfactory experience. How do you know whether the smartphone you buy will be Daydream compatible? Well, your manufacturer of choice will advertise it as a feature.