Google jumped into virtual reality in a low-cost, low-key way a few years ago when the company introduced Cardboard: a platform that literally let you put a smartphone into a cardboard headset to experience 360-degree videos and other basic VR content.

The company stepped things up a bit in 2016 with the launch of the Daydream platform featuring a higher quality headset, a motion controller, and minimum system requirements.

This year Lenovo and Google launched the first standalone Daydream headset that doesn’t require a phone at all, and which added support for position tracking.

Now Google has unveiled three experimental features for Daydream that could make the Lenovo Mirage Solo and similar devices feel more like true competitors to virtual reality devices from HTC and Oculus.

First up is support for a new set of 6 Degrees of Freedom (6DoF) motion controllers.

The Mirage Solo already supports 6DoF head-tracking, but the handheld controller that comes with the headset only features 3DoF position tracking.

Google has created experimental new 6DoF controllers that can track movement and position in space without relying on external cameras. The company says this can enable more natural hand movements when you’re interacting with VR apps.

You can’t buy the new controllers yet, but some developers have already started testing them, and Google is accepting applications from additional developers who want to give them a try. It’s unclear if or when the new controllers will be available to the general public.

Another new feature is support for using smartphone android apps in virtual reality. Up until now, if you wanted to use an Android app in a Daydream device, you needed to find apps that were designed for Daydream/Cardboard virtual reality systems.

This experimental new feature makes it possible to run 2D apps on a virtual screen that floats in your field of vision while wearing a headset.

Mini Metro game in VR

Based on clips shared by Google, smartphone apps running in Daydream look similar to Windows 10 desktop apps running in a Windows Mixed Reality headset.

Developers will still need to add Daydream VR support to their 2D apps before you can run them. But that should be a lot simpler than creating 3D versions of those apps, so the bar for entry is lower. That could dramatically increase the number of apps you can use while wearing a Daydream virtual reality device.

A new See-Through Mode lets use the Lenovo Mirage Solo’s cameras to see the real world without taking off your headset.

The feature could also be used for augmented reality apps, allowing you to overlay virtual objects on real-world environments. There are already a bunch of apps that let you do this using a smartphone’s camera and display. But the experience should be much more immersive when you’re wearing a VR headset.

Google says see-through mode and smartphone app support will be available for developers to test soon. It’s unclear when the new features will be available for end users.

Support Liliputing

Liliputing's primary sources of revenue are advertising and affiliate links (if you click the "Shop" button at the top of the page and buy something on Amazon, for example, we'll get a small commission).

But there are several ways you can support the site directly even if you're using an ad blocker* and hate online shopping.

Contribute to our Patreon campaign


Contribute via PayPal

* If you are using an ad blocker like uBlock Origin and seeing a pop-up message at the bottom of the screen, we have a guide that may help you disable it.

Subscribe to Liliputing via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,501 other subscribers

4 replies on “Google Daydream’s experimental new features include smartphone apps in VR, 6 degrees of freedom”

  1. To charge £400 with just the one controller means it came out to early and does not justify why you then have to pay for most of the best apps after. I wished I’d listened to others and waiting for march 2019 when there surely will be better products that offer more for your money and come out fully tested. Either greedy or unfairly selling to public (even has at your own risk extras) ?

  2. I’m not much into gaming but I’d be interested if the effect was very good for watching a movie/video online. In your opinion does the cost of the Lenovo Mirage Solo justify purchase for watching videos?

    1. No. Lenovo isn’t that good for videos.
      Default youtube app just projects a big flat 2D screen in a virtual environment.
      The knob on the back of the helmet makes it hard to rest your head on a headrest.
      Mirage Solo also doesn’t have integrated headphones or speakers, so you’ll have to untangle your headphones or ear-ins each time you get the helmet off.

      For watching videos I’d recommend Oculus Go with a good powerbank.
      It’s significantly cheaper, slightly lighter, has surprisingly decent integrated speakers and is much more comfortable to use. Its default browser renders flat youtube videos on a curved virtual screen and it’s a joy for casual watching.
      Its numerous drawbacks (snapdragon 821, no 6DOF both in helmet and controller, dreaded micro-USB, hidden bluetooth settings, etc) are largely irrelevant for watching movies.

      However, there still are some things to keep in mind:
      – Its resolution is significantly lower than Lenovo’s. I see pixels on both, so I don’t really mind, but it may be a valid deal-breaker for some.
      – Its battery life is awful (about 1 hour of real life usage), so a good powerbank capable at 2.4A charge is a must. No, you don’t want to disassemble it and there’s no place for a second 18650 battery, I checked.
      – Also, if you’re a luddite like me, the need to initialize your new Oculus Go through a smartphone app is a bit of an obstacle.

Comments are closed.