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Daydream VR devs will hack together their own headsets

Even Google's developers won't get to use an actual Daydream VR headset or controller anytime soon.

Google's new virtual reality initiative, Daydream, is promising "the best smartphone -based mobile VR experience" ever made. But for now, the Daydream VR headset is just an abstract concept, a sketch on paper -- even for the developers that Google expects to start building apps for the platform.

What using the Daydream controller might be like.

GIF by Sean Hollister/CNET

On Thursday, Google's developer website revealed that, for now, prospective VR app developers will need to piece together their own developer kit from existing parts, including a Nexus 6P smartphone ($499, £449 or AU$899) that, Google warns, may not be able to maintain the required level of performance for a comfortable VR experience.

Instead of being provided with the official Daydream headset and motion controller, developers will also need to simulate them too. They'll need to purchase an existing VR viewer, such as Google's Cardboard, to fit around the Nexus 6P. And they'll need a second phone to serve in place of the controller, by installing a Daydream controller emulator on it.

Google expects the real Daydream headset and controller, as well as the first Daydream-ready phones from partners including Samsung, LG and HTC, to be available this fall.

Even if they don't have Daydream hardware to work with, developers can expect some industry-leading game development tools to help them get started. Epic Games' popular Unreal Engine 4 development environment supports Daydream as of today, and Epic released the video above to show what's possible with Unreal Engine and Daydream.

The Unity game development environment, a rival to Unreal that's been popular with VR game developers, will also support Daydream this summer, and developers will have the option to write apps natively with the C++ programming language.

What the Google Play Store might look like in VR.

James Martin/CNET

When developers publish those apps, they'll be able to put them inside a version of Google's Play Store marketplace specifically built for VR, and users will be able to pay for them right inside the headset, according to Google.

Check out our feature story, "A Glimpse inside Google's VR Daydream," for more details about Google's vision for virtual reality.