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Google experiments are turning Daydream into a big-boy VR headset

Every Android app could potentially come to VR, plus reach-out-and-touch controls and see-through superpowers.

The Daydream View, which turns a variety of high-end VR phones into inexpensive VR headsets.
James Martin/CNET

Google sells an awesomely inexpensive way to turn your phone into a competent VR headset, but Daydream has had a couple minor issues from the very beginning:

  • There aren't enough awesome apps and games to compete with its rivals Gear VR and Oculus Go
  • Like its rivals, the simplistic 3-degrees-of-freedom sensors don't let you reach out and touch things in VR like more expensive PC-based headsets -- you're limited to a single virtual pointer, wand, sword, gun, etc that you wave around.

But in a blog post today, Google hints that it may be solving those problems even as we speak. It's about to test three big new features with developers that could tremendously expand what Daydream is capable of -- by adding Android apps, a pair of big-boy motion controllers, and a mode where you can see the real world without taking the headset off.

The controllers have 6DoF (six-degrees-of-freedom) tracking like an Oculus or Vive controller, meaning that for the first time, Daydream games and apps could let you actually reach out and grab things in three dimensions. Here's what they look like:


According to Google's developer page, you'll add a special "tracking faceplace" to the Mirage Solo so the controllers can tell where they are in 3D space.


And Google says the new see-through mode is fast enough and provides enough depth perception you can even play ping-pong! (I can attest that Gear VR's see-through mode isn't nearly that good.)


Unfortunately, they're just for developers right now -- specifically, developers with Lenovo's Mirage Solo, a much more expensive standalone Daydream device  -- but why would devs pay the features much attention if there was no chance they'd be coming to the masses?

Here's a look at Android apps on Daydream, which will be coming to all headsets: 

A virtual phone screen and Google's Chrome browser running in VR.


Android developers just need to enable the mode in their apps. You can find a couple more animated examples in Google's blog post.