Gadgets

Google Daydream VR

It was on Christmas 2018, more than a year back, I bought a Google Daydream VR kit for $99. Using my Google Pixel 2, I played with Daydream for a few days before shelving it for good. Other than YouTube VR, which too had only a limited number of videos, there was nothing else of interest that you could do with the gadget. I was disappointed that it was nothing more than a Google Cardboard made out of good quality plastic.

Today, I happened to (re)find my Daydream, picked it up and used it for a few hours. After I tried a year ago, there seem to be more apps that work with Daydream (VR) both from Google & third-party developers. It is true, the Google platform has a lot fewer apps than the popular Virtual Reality players like Facebook’s Oculus, but for a user new to VR, Daydream was able to provide a good feel of this “future” technology.

You place your smartphone (the supported ones are a few) here and fit the gear in your head. A controller is seen on the right-hand side.
You place your smartphone (the supported ones are a few) here, close, fasten and fit the gear in your head. A controller (pointer with buttons) is seen on the right. 

From the ones I tried, the following are the free apps that I liked:
(Disclaimer: The list below is not intended to be comprehensive in any way)

  1. Gala 360 – They have free and paid virtual tours of many places around the world. I tried a couple of their “free” tours like China’s Terracotta Army and they were beautiful.
  2. International Space Station Tour VR – ISS that’s flying around Earth is a place that almost none of us (other than the few lucky Astronauts) will be able to visit for real in our lifetime. This VR app, though is extremely limited in scope, allows us to experience the next best thing of being there. We can walk around three of the modules of the space station and even watch videos in-place to learn about the equipment there.
  3. Sites in VR by Ercan Gigi – Though the app doesn’t look pretty, it has one of the fine collections of landmarks from the Middle East & Europe, and it is entirely free. You can 360-degree panoramic images in high quality.
  4. Google Street View – This is the official app from Google that takes you to places around the world including the great Taj Mahal. While the quality of the pictures is great, moving around the places is cumbersome compared to the other apps.
  5. BBC Earth: Life in VR – This is an animated app that helps you to learn about the underwater world in a 360-degree panoramic way.
  6. Plex VR & Netflix VR – These two are not strictly VR apps, but they allow you to watch your favourite Movies and Television shows in a simulated luxury apartment or a cabin in the woods with a virtual popcorn on hand! The downside is that the video playback resolution is a lot lower than regular viewing.

Going through the websites of Google and other app developers, it seems Google hasn’t done anything new to Daydream in the last year or so. And certainly, for the average consumer, the technology is not close to what Mr Bean experiences in Johnny English Strikes Again (2018), still, it feels promising. It is not as stupid as I thought it will be!

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