Last October, Google stopped supporting Daydream VR on the Pixel 4 and pulled stores of the headset’s remaining stock. While I wish I could say I’m sad, I was never really impressed with the technology. Today, Google announced that they will stop supporting their Daydream VR platform with the release of Android 11.
In the announcement, they state that some third-party apps and experiences within Daydream may still be available on their own through the Google Play Store, but you won’t be able to view them through the Daydream app using the headset. To reiterate, you can still use the Daydream VR headset and controller to view VR content using third-party apps from the Play Store – just don’t expect Google to support it anymore or to update the Daydream app. Google’s open source Cardboard VR will also no longer receive updates from the tech giant – Sadness.
When the headset was first released, I was severely underwhelmed. There were hardly any experiences for it and of the ones there were, they were hardly tapping into its potential. The second version of the device was nice because it did a better job of not leaking light in through the sides of your eyes and kept you pretty immersed, but no matter what I did to adjust it, I always felt like the image was blurry for both.
Right when I want to say I disliked this product entirely for these reasons, I’m reminded of why I loved it. Yes, this does sound like a eulogy, but let me just get this out of my system, okay? One of the things I’ll miss about Daydream VR is the ability to virtually travel the world and feel like I’m actually there. Street View for Google Maps was incredible. So was Earth VR. Visiting exotic locations with 360 degree views was breathtaking. Staring up at a mountain from below long before I ever saw mountains in person or traveled for the first time in my life. I think that given our current circumstances Google probably would have done a lot better for these reasons. Viewing 360 degree Youtube videos and Google Photos was neat too, especially when you take a panorama with the Pixel phone. Ah, those were the days.
My absolute favorite part of Daydream was Netflix and Google Play Movies. The VR netflix app allowed you to sit on a couch with an incredible mountainous vista stretching out through your glass wall while you dim the lights and watch a movie. The room was decorated really nicely and you almost felt like you were really sitting on the couch. the Google Play Movies and TV app saw you standing in a uniquely designed space full of movie related props and an amazing patio and sun roof. See below.
It’s sad because I feel like Daydream VR never really reached its full potential. Developers didn’t create as many experiences as they could have and Google hardly promoted it at all. The death of this platform means that Google no longer has any skin in the game for VR on phones. Also, just last year, Google killed off WebVR, which would allow users to view VR content through the Chrome browser using a headset. However, that doesn’t mean they’ve given up transporting us to other worlds. As of Chrome OS 79, Google has introduced WebVR’s successor, WebXR to the browser. This new platform stands for Web Extended Reality and seeks to provide web-based AR/VR experiences using phones, desktops, standalone AR headsets and standalone VR headsets. Basically, it’s all-inclusive and much more capable than WebVR.
What exactly does all of this mean, though? It means that we may very well be seeing new AR/VR experiences in Chrome (and on Chromebooks) in the near future. You can already view some samples of the technology here and Chrome OS is already able to do it – we just need people to make experiences. Imagine putting on any headset and playing an immersive game, viewing a 360 video, doing a virtual home tour or viewing an art gallery like Google Arts and Culture – right through your Chromebook’s web browser! I would love to see some VR games come to Stadia with this tech, but that’s just me being a fanboy. We’ll have to wait and see where WebXR takes us (exciting places!), but for now, don’t despair over the cruel and untimely death of Daydream VR.