Google’s next foray into virtual reality is a platform called Daydream that lets you use an Android phone or iPhone as a VR screen. The company is introducing a series of hardware specs for Daydream-ready phones, which means that developers can target those specs and be sure that anyone with a Daydream-ready device should be able to run their apps and games.

Phones will need to have low persistent displays, high-performance processors with support for 60 frames per second video, and low-latency sensors for tracking your head movement when the phone is strapped into a headset.

Google has also revealed a reference design for a Daydream controller, a handheld motion controller with two buttons, a clickable touchpad, and motion sensors. The company says it will also build its own headset and controller in the future.

The controller is required for a Daydream experience, which means that users should all have the same tools for interacting with virtual reality apps.

Google says the controller can be used as a motion controller, a virtual tennis racket, laser pointer, and a number of other applications requiring precise controls, including typing on a virtual keyboard, tipping a virtual watering can, or picking up an throwing virtual objects.

The company has shown demos ranging from racing games to a virtual cooking app that involves flipping pancakes.

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Don’t want to wait for Daydream hardware to hit the market? You can set up your own Daydream Development Kit, although Google notes that you’ll need a Nexus 6P smartphone, a Google Cardboard-compatible headset, and a second phone running Android 4.4 or later that you’ll use as a controller emulator.

While the Nexus 6P works as a headset, it doesn’t offer the same kind of sustained performance that Google recommends for real Daydream phones.

controller emulator

Developers can start creating apps for Daydream using Unreal Engine 4.1.2 preview or a plugin for Unity (with native integration coming this summer).

Among other things, the Google VR experience built into Android N includes Google’s head tracking algorithm, low latency support, and a sustained performance mode that allows apps to run continuously without taking a performance hit. But there’s also a Google VR SDK for iOS.

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Google has also brought some elements of the Android user interface into VR mode, allowing you to interact with you phone even when you’re using it as a headset. And when you’re not using your phone with a headset, you can open the Daydream app like a standard smartphone app to browse for VR videos and other experiences that you want to save for later.

 

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