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Google Daydream View setup a user-friendly entry into VR


Steve Tilley, Postmedia Network

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

These days, you can’t swing a virtual cat by its virtual tail without hitting a new virtual reality headset.

But when tech giant Google gets into the game, people tend to sit up and take notice.

The Google Daydream View, available for $ 99 via store.google.com, is the company’s brand new play for the entry-level virtual reality market. Like the Samsung Gear VR before it, it’s a way for people with higher-end Android smartphones to get a taste of virtual reality, without shelling out big bucks on something like the PlayStation VR ($ 549), Oculus Rift ($ 849) or HTC Vive ($ 1,149.)

From how it feels to wear, to the kinds of virtual worlds you can explore, here are five things you need to know about Daydream View.

YOU NEED A COMPATIBLE PHONE

The Daydream View requires a “Daydream-ready” Android phone, and right now the only ones widely available are the new Google Pixel phones.

(The Pixel is possibly the best Android device out there right now, though, so that’s a plus.)

Daydream-compatible smartphones from other manufacturers should start trickling out early in the new year, but the headset won’t work with older-model Android devices, nor any flavour of iPhone.

IT’S EASY TO USE

After setting up the Daydream app on your smartphone, you simply pop the phone into the Daydream View’s fold-down flap on the front, and the phone immediately becomes the headset’s screen.

Unlike Google Cardboard, the company’s earlier low-cost VR experiment, the Daydream is coated with a soft grey fabric, has an easy-to-adjust headstrap and is surprisingly comfortable to wear for long stretches at a time.

IT COMES WITH A WEE CONTROLLER

The Daydream View includes a small motion-sensing remote control to navigate VR apps and games.

In addition to its circular touchpad and a couple of buttons, the remote is easy to use as a mouse-like pointer or a game controller in VR — it can act as a virtual flashlight, baseball bat or even a magic wand. It’s not perfectly accurate, and I found I had to quickly recalibrate the remote fairly often, but for the most part it works pretty well.

THE VR EXPERIENCE IS GOOD, FOR A MOBILE DEVICE

While smartphone-driven VR can’t compete with the likes of the more expensive and computer-tethered Oculus Rift, the Daydream View has a solid selection of compatible apps, from 360-degree YouTube videos to virtual tours of famous landmarks to surprisingly robust games.

(The action-RPG Hunters Gate and the adorable puzzle game Mekorama are two early standouts.)

As you move your head around, the view inside the virtual world follows your gaze, with visuals that are crisp, but — again — not quite on par what you’d find in a more expensive, tethered piece of VR hardware.

IT MIGHT BE THE MOST USER-FRIENDLY INTRO TO VR YET

From the straightforward, newbie-friendly instructions in the box to the ease of navigating within Daydream’s built-in VR hub, this is the kind of virtual reality device that pretty much anyone can get a handle on.

It’s what I’d use to gently ease someone into VR for the first time, rather then overwhelming them with a heavy headset, complicated controllers and that dreaded virtual cat.

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