Making it better-looking and supposedly easier to wear is a critical first step. In the case of the Daydream View, most of its benefits stem from being 30 percent lighter than the competition, along with Google’s decision to use softer and more breathable materials like fabric and cloth in constructing the headset instead of plastics and foams. It also fits easily over eyeglasses.
Setup and usability have also been improved in several key areas. Like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s own Cardboard system, the DayDream View needs a smartphone to work. The user’s smartphone wirelessly and automatically connects to the headset via NFC after being inserted into the front cradle. Content from the smartphone is then auto centered from there and shouldn’t require additional fidgeting. Google’s new Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are the only compatible handsets that we know of for now, but that list should grow to include more devices in the future.
The companion controller is equally simple: a small wand with a clickable touchpad and two dedicated buttons. A bevy of sensors also give the device precise gesture-tracking capabilities. There’s also a dedicated storage spot for the controller inside the headset, for when it’s not being used.
In terms of content, Google is largely betting on video and VR Street View experiences powered by Google Maps to keep buyers happy until more VR specific content is released in the Google Play store. Headsets will have access to the “full catalog” of Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and YouTube at launch, giving users a “cinema-like” viewing experience wherever they don the headset. However, a few early game partnerships were revealed at launch, including a tie in to Warner Bros. upcoming Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them.
The new headset will go on sale in three color options of “slate”, “snow” and “crimson” starting in early November at both Google’s online store as well as brick and mortar retailers like Best Buy and Verizon. And if you preorder a Google Pixel phone, Google will also give you a free promo code to order a Daydream VR headset “while supplies last”.