I've been into virtual reality since the very first Samsung Gear VR was released in 2015. It was only a developer's version and had its faults, but was one of the most fascinating pieces of technology I had ever used.
Last year, I wrote a controversial piece on the consumer version of the Gear VR and why mine was gathering dust. However, I praised the latest version, which came out in August. Still, the Gear VR isn't as "mobile" as it should be for virtual reality, and that's where Google's new Daydream View headset, which sells for $79, comes in.
It's important to note that very few smartphones can be used with the Daydream View at this time. The Google Pixel XL, the Google Pixel, the Moto Z, and the Moto Z Force are the only phones that are Daydream compatible, though that is about to change. And that is a good thing for the virtual reality industry.
The cloth-made Daydream View comes in a very small box, and once you open it, you know you are looking at a different device than the plastic Gear VR. The Daydream View looks and feels like something you would find at an expensive clothing accessory store rather than Best Buy. The device is shockingly light and small.
Unlike the Gear VR, there isn't a ported connection that you have to fit your phone into. You just open the cover, balance the smartphone, and attach the cover's bow to the headset. It seems strange at first, especially with a large phone like the Pixel XL. But everything is fine once you put the headset on and enter the virtual reality world.
The Daydream, unlike the Gear VR, comes with a controller for selecting items and navigating the VR menus. Unfortunately, the controller doesn't interact with objects in the VR world like the HTC Vive does, but this isn't really possible in the mobile VR world yet.
Everything about the Daydream View feels easier than the Gear VR; it's not only more simple to set up, but you can fit the View on your head without worrying about the lenses fogging up. Because of this, the Daydream lets some light in, which may annoy some who need their VR experience to be absolutely perfect. The field of view (FOV) is also less than it is on the new Gear VR. The FOV on the Daydream View will remind some people of the same on the 2014 and 2015 Gear VR, where it looks like you are looking though an igloo helmet.
There is also another downside to the Daydream View right now - the lack of software. That will likely change soon, but once one gets past the "coolness" factor of the View, there really isn't a lot to enjoy right now. However, the View does have two killer apps: Hulu Plus and Google Street View. Hulu Plus allows you to watch your favorite movies and television shows in different settings, including a futuristic beach. However, I often found that audio and video were slightly out of sync when watching certain television show episodes.
However, there are no bugs in Google Street View, which may be the best app to ever find its way into a mobile virtual reality headset. This app enables you to be planted in the middle of just about any location in the world. The first location I went to was my childhood home. The current owners changed my house and backyard a lot, but much of the rest of the street looks familiar. The picture is also very clear -- at least as clear as it could be on a VR headset.
YouTube VR is also a good app that can immerse you in many 360 degree videos. However, you have to have a top-notch connection to get the best quality. Otherwise, you are immersed in scenes that look straight out of 1980s VHS tapes. You can watch non-360 degree videos as well.
If you own a Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Moto Z, or Moto Z Force, the $79 price tag for the Daydream View is a no-brainer. You may not have a lot of apps yet, but that will change very soon. The Daydream View certainly isn't a Gear VR killer, but it proves Google is definitely going in the right direction. The next version of the Daydream View could be the mobile VR set that defines the future.