Google is making a big play to take a share of the virtual reality market.
At its San Francisco event Tuesday, the company announced a bunch of new hardware--including the Pixel, the company's newest phone, which will be the key to using Daydream, the company's virtual reality platform. And Google will be rolling out its own VR headset, Daydream View, for $79 starting this November.
The View looks different from just about every headset that's been released before. Instead of being built from shiny plastic, it's soft and made of microfiber. "We weren't inspired by gadgets," said Clay Bavor, Google's head of VR, during the event. "We looked at: What do people actually wear? We wear stuff that's soft, that's flexible and breathable."
The Pixel phone (which, by the way, looks startlingly similar to the iPhone) gets inserted into a flap in the front, and the wearer straps on the headset with elastic bands for an immersive experience.
The View, which comes in gray, white, and crimson, isn't Google's first foray into VR. The company previously released the Cardboard in 2014, which, at $15 and made of, yes, cardboard, wasn't much of a commitment.
The View should fall into the same category. It's far less expensive than the $600 Oculus Rift. (Though right now it's only compatible with the Pixel, which will run you $649, other Daydream devices are coming soon.) The company is positioning it as simple and friendly to newbies. It's ready to use out of the box, with a minimalist remote with two buttons and a trackpad.
The most obvious use for any VR platform is gaming, and the company showed off a few, including a Harry Potter game and a few space-centric ones. They certainly lacked the realness of some of Oculus's games, which is to be expected for something that costs a fraction of the price.
Google wants its Daydream to be a movie platform, too--it previously revealed that companies like Paramount and IMAX were using Jump, its 360-degree video camera. In all, the company says that more than 50 partners will release Daydream-compatible games and apps by the end of the year.
Besides the price point and simplicity, Google will also try to separate itself from competitors by making the View easily adaptable to some of its other offerings. YouTube will have specially made videos for both entertainment and educational purposes. (To demonstrate, Google showed off a clip from the London Museum of Natural History of a dinosaur exhibit coming to life--embedded below, though presumably much more impressive in VR.)
Other features, like Google Photos and Google Play movies, can be viewed within the headset. And Google Street View will be programmed to let users look at 360-degree views and immersive videos and easily jump from place to place.
Time will tell whether Daydream View will be a serious force in the VR market. The company didn't reveal an exact release date yet, but the answer should be clearer come some time in November.