Google is no stranger to phone-based, alternative-material VR headsets.
Wearing the Daydream View feels a bit like wearing ski goggles covered in sweatpants.
Setting up a phone to work with Daydream is insanely easy.
The experience of using Daydream View isn’t transformative, but the virtual world Google has created is charming and fun.
The Daydream app’s “Welcome” tutorial, which shows first-time users how the controller and headset work, is full of whimsy.
The blocky, geometric animated style Google has adopted for its own VR apps works well in Daydream. It masks some of the issues with a lower-resolution screen.
The Pixel XL I tested has a 1440 x 2560 display with 534 ppi pixel density, about the same as what you’d get Samsung’s Gear VR, which is also phone based. That resolution is just fine for a phone, but when it’s inches from your face, the display’s individual pixels are visible and text or visuals don’t appear as sharp as they would on a super-HD, 4K television for example.
Google has Daydream-ified many of its existing apps using the same artistic style.
The Google Play Movie store is set in a sun-drenched home with a giant skylight overhead and mementos behind you, including Indiana Jones’ whip and hat, Marilyn Monroe’s white dress, and Gryffindor robes affixed to the wall. The movie player projects your purchased movie in a giant outdoor theater. There are string lights adorning the branches of a magnificent sprawling tree above you, whose trunk is home to a small cave, dressed with comfy floor pillows for pretend sitting.
But one thing was absolutely clear: I was all on my own.
And while that may be a welcome respite for some, it’s kind of like enjoying the beauty and grandeur of a natural wonder like Yosemite, without anyone to share it with.
This, of course, is true of almost all of VR. The medium is not typically designed to be a shared experience, and this may be what prevents virtual reality as a platform to truly appeal to a mass market audience, at least at first.
The View is something that’s meant to be enjoyed while stationary and inside, seated in a comfortable office chair. Alone.
The eye fatigue is real.
I downloaded the Pixar film Sanjay’s Super Team in Daydream. After about 20 minutes, I felt like the screen was burning holes into my eyeballs. It may be because my eyes are messed up (others who tried the headset didn’t feel eye fatigue until 30 or 40 minutes in). But even those with perfect 20/20 vision will want to take a break from this thing. It’s better for short bursts of entertainment, versus two-hour-long superhero movies.
The YouTube VR app was especially dizzying. I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t look at a screen for a while.
Plus, the phone got insanely hot. I got a notification that it was overheating and needed to be shut down after a half-hour of VR play.
Ultimately, I think Daydream View is a welcome addition to the sea of current black plastic VR headsets.
Nicole Nguyen is a tech reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.