This autumn virtual reality (VR) will become even more real – not only more interactive and immersive but also more affordable, standardized and ready to develop. And all this is happening due to a collaborative effort of Google, largest smartphone manufacturers and media companies to create a standardized mobile VR platform with common audience.
Mobile VR market prospects and challenges
The mobile VR experience has been maturing into a promising market. In 2014 Google introduced mobile VR to the world with their Cardboard. A year later Samsung presented their Oculus-powered Gear VR. Both the devices are head mounts for smartphones which have to be equipped with proper software.
These first steps have revealed the potential of mobile VR to become mainstream:
- There is an audience interested in VR experience, eager for new VR content, and ready to pay for it.
- The current technological level allows producing mobile devices powerful enough for a viable VR experience.
- Mobile VR is more affordable and promising since much more users can afford a high-end smartphones rather than desktops.
To fulfill this potential, mobile VR has to transform from one-time entertaining experience into an everyday activity. That requires even more affordable VR devices and a wider choice of VR-specific content. High costs of the virtual reality technology make obvious that creating VR content and apps makes sense only if all interested companies can enjoy the common mobile VR audience.
And this year Google has taken up the challenge and announced the release of a mobile VR platform called Daydream. This platform is supposed to set common standards for mobile VR production and, therefore, reduce costs and boost the creation of VR software and content.
Daydream as a new mass medium
Daydream is neither a stand-alone device nor software; but a mobile VR platform incorporating all the necessary devices, operation system and user’s apps. On a physical level Daydream includes the following virtual reality tools:
- Headset designed for extended use.
- Remote control to use as a laser pointer and rotation and orientation tracker.
- Daydream-ready smartphones with all the required hardware.
On a software level, Daydream is a part of Android Nougat which is a new operation system for smartphones. It means that all Daydream-ready devices with installed Android N will have a special VR mode. Users still will be able to turn off the VR mode (which is highly energy consuming) and use their smartphones as ordinary devices. Anyway, Daydream-ready devices will successfully compete even with premium smartphones because of powerful processors and the best possible screens. Besides providing benefits to users, the standard VR OS will also positively affect virtual reality development software.
Google creates its mobile VR platform in the partnership with other largest smartphone manufacturers: HTC, Samsung, Asus, LG, Alcatel, Samsung, etc.and others. All Daydream smartphones will have the same operation system – Android Nougat. As a result, common standards for the whole mobile VR market there will be finally will be established common standards for the whole mobile VR market. Daydream will become a real platform for virtual reality developers as well as for content producers.
Having a VR mode on the majority of new models of popular smartphones is making VR highly accessible without any extra effort to an average smartphone owner. That means that mobile VR is becoming another mass medium and all Daydream-ready devices owners will make it audience.
VR content production and its challenges
Apart from the largest smartphone manufacturers, Google has entered into partnership with Electronic Arts,
What is the main difference between traditional content and VR-specific content? Traditional content is consumed mostly visually and audibly. VR content may engage more human senses including touch and smell. Also VR content is more immersive and interactive; it is rather explored by users than passively consumed.
The greatest disadvantage of VR-specific content is its production cost. VR requires expensive equipment, huge data storages and extra qualification from its producers. So companies may currently prefer producing hybrid products with elements of both VR-specific and traditional content. And with the growth of the VR market it will be possible to allocate more resources to VR production.
Daydream will provide mobile VR market with an unexpected boost. It will bring standards, affordable devices, certified software and, therefore, create a mass audience for the VR content. These outcomes may seem another virtual reality but remember there already are first Daydream devices – ZTE Axon 7, official builds of Android 7 “Nougat” for various smartphones, and lots of virtual reality programs and content from largest world media companies. Get on board!