What a Day for a Daydream

I had taken the offer from Verizon for a free Daydream View headset with the purchase of a Pixel Phone (which was used to snap these pictures), when I had to swap in my Galaxy Note 7 last month.

A small, unassuming box showed up on my porch on Friday with a huge world inside it!

Google Daydream View

There's not much more in the box than you would want; mainly the headset and controller.
Headset and Controller laid out

The box gives a quick layout of the 4 button sets of the controller. It's a simple plastic housing that doesn't have and gripped texture. It comes with a small wrist strap that attaches by the USB C charging port; I ordered extra wrist straps from Nintendo for use with my Vive controllers, and I'll be using one of those. The thing is so light that you won't likely be breaking things either way.

Controller in Box

Here are a couple of shots of the controller in-hand
Controller in Hand: Front View

Controller in Hand: Side View

First Use Impressions

When I first put the headset on, I did notice that it was quite comfortable. The face gasket is made of a nice material, and the wide strap has plenty of staying power. The nose area is pretty big, allowing some light to get through, however I wouldn't say it was distracting once you are using it.

Having a Vive and a Samsung Gear VR, I know that some headsets put more pressure above the eyes from being strapped in tight, or more weight on the cheeks to balance things out. The clearest, most comfortable view for me comes somewhere in between. The placement of the one strap on the Daydream View allows you to place it higher or lower on the crown of your head to find the right balance. Simply sliding the strap up or down a bit on your head while it's on lets you find a comfortable point quite easily. I was very impressed with that.

One thing that is leaps and bounds better than the Gear VR is that you simply drop your phone into the headset, and tug the lid, secured by a little bungie loop, closed. No lining up a USB port. No locking it into place. Just stow and go!

Another thing that is, in my opinion better, than the Gear VR is the included controller. I didn't have any troubles with the built-in controls on my Gear VR, but you soon start to feel like Cyclops from the X-Men after tapping that touchpad for more than a minute or two.

In use, the controller works quite well, but does seem to need to be re-centered a lot. A few things I've read on-line sound like that might be a Pixel XL issue, but it only takes a quick press-and-hold of the home button to recenter things. I think a more natural interaction makes a better experience, even if it still has some kinks to work out.

The software looks amazing! Everything was clear, and visible with an easy-to-find sweet spot for clarity on the lenses. I didn't experience any lag, or stuttering. The Google Home is more "cartoonish", while the Oculus Home tries to be more of a "realistic room"; I'm note sure if the cartoon look affords a better frame rate by default, but I'd easily say the Google experience is on par with, if not better than Oculus on the Gear VR.

The sound is alright, considering it comes out of one side of the phone. If you want a more immersive experience, I'd say use your favorite pair of headphones with this.

There are not a lot of available titles yet in the Google Play store, but I'm sure that will change! Some free and non-free apps and games are available. Google Street View is pretty awesome, as well as being able to capture photos with the Cardboard Camera app. I'm glad to see the non-free items are closer the the $5 mark. Developing these VR titles is new, and requires a bit more effort. Setting the bar at $1-2 apps would, I think, set the ROI pretty low for aspiring developers.

Once I had to go back to the real world, I noticed that my phone got H O T (another thing I've read that people say happens more to the Pixel XL). There is a thermal warning that should pop up on the screen should things get too hot, which I never saw, but it was hot enough to make me concerned at first (it cooled down quite quickly). I'd say it got hot 2/3 times that I've used it.

Verdict

I'm very impressed with the Daydream View, and looking forward to developing some apps for it! Hoping more phones become "Daydream Ready" as time goes on, opening up a wider market to this awesome new tech.