Guide to Google’s VR Headset ‘Daydream View’

Virtual reality meets Android smartphones courtesy of Google

Google Daydream View
Google Daydream View.

Google, inc.

Ready for some virtual reality through your phone? You can get it now with a few products, one of which is manufactured through Google. It's called Google Daydream View, which works directly with your smartphone. 

What Is Google’s Daydream View?

Phone inserted into Daydream View
Your smartphone slips neatly into Daydream View. Google, inc. 

Daydream is the name of Google's virtual reality (VR) platform. The actual device is the Daydream View (now in its second generation), a soft, lightweight fabric headset into which you insert your compatible Android smartphone. The Daydream View has high-performance lenses, which results in better image clarity and a wider field of view.

This includes the company's own line of Pixel phones. Daydream View also works with a variety of other Android smartphones as shown on this list.

The Daydream View comes with a small controller that you can use like a Wii-mote to swing a bat, steer a vehicle, or whatever the game requires. The remote, which measures about 4 inches long and nearly 1.5 inches wide also has a volume button and can be stored in the headset when not in use.

You can use earphones and plug in your smartphone while it's inside the headset, which is handy since the VR apps will drain a lot of battery life. 

Helpfully, the Daydream View is made to fit over most glasses. This is a big convenience since your VR experience will be diminished if you're constantly squinting. It differs in design from other headsets in that it only has a strap that goes around the back of your head. The headset weighs just under half a pound. The Daydream View doesn't have a strap that goes over your head, but despite this, it does stay in place.  

Daydream View Games, Movies, and Experiences

Google Daydream View game
Play games with Daydream View as if you are actually inside the game. Google, inc. 

The second generation of DaydreamView, introduced in October 2017, lets users stream experiences to their televisions via the dongle Google Chromecast. There are also hundreds of immersive videos to watch through the Daydream version of the Google app store which you can access from the headset. All Daydream apps run at a frame rate of 60fps.

There are also VR games when the included remote really becomes handy. In the Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts app, it's a magic wand you can use to cast spells; in Danger Goat, it helps you knock down obstructions to help a runaway goat get to freedom.

Daydream View vs. Google Cardboard

Google Daydream vs Cardboard
Google Daydream compared to Google Cardboard. Lifewire

The Daydream View is similar to Google Cardboard in that it's powered by a smartphone. Cardboard is a very low-cost version of virtual reality.  

You can make your own Google Cardboard from scratch if you have the materials and the inclination, or you can order a kit from Google ($15) or from a third-party vendor (some simply assembly/folding will be required). Cardboard has a good number of apps, some of which have been optimized for Daydream.

However, for the time being, most Cardboard apps are not compatible with the Daydream View.

Daydream View vs. Other VR Headsets

The closest competition to the Google Daydream View is the Samsung Gear VR, which works with compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphones. Since Samsung has been at this longer than Google, it has a much larger content library, which is powered by Oculus. Oculus, of course, has its own VR headset, the Oculus Rift, but it must be tethered to a PC and costs hundreds of dollars. The Rift is more powerful than the Samsung and Google models, but it's really for a different audience.

The same goes for the HTC Vive, which is also very expensive (near the $1000 range), and the mid-range Sony PlayStation VR. The latter, of course, requires a PlayStation console. The HTC, Oculus, and Sony models each have built-in displays, which means you don't need to insert your smartphone, but each must be tethered to either a high-powered PC or console.

Should You Buy a Daydream View?

If you're a VR enthusiast, it's certainly a good buy, and as more content is created and more apps built, it's only going to get better. The downside now is that you're limited to the Android platform and a small number of smartphones, but that should also change as the Daydream VR platform is built out.

Its low price is certainly a draw, especially early adopters who are used to paying a premium in order to be first. In addition to the online Google Store, the Daydream View is also available in the U.S. from Amazon, Verizon, and Best Buy, so it's worth stopping in a local store to try the device out especially if you're not experienced with virtual reality, which can be overwhelming at first sight.