Android N operating system will include a ‘VR Mode’ to boost performance of experiences on ‘Daydream-ready’ smartphones

Google announces Android-powered mobile VR platform Daydream

Google is hoping to take on Samsung’s Gear VR with a newly announced Android-powered virtual reality platform and headset.

Daydream is the successor to the firm’s barebones Cardboard device. As with Gear VR and Cardboard, an Android phone will serve as the display and computing power for compatible experiences.

Backing up the improved system is the upcoming Android N operating system, which adds support for new technology such as sensors and more advanced screens.

This also means that only specific hardware configurations will be able to run the platform, which Google aims to make clear by branding suitable phones with the ‘Daydream-ready’ label.

As previously rumoured, Android N will feature a dedicated ‘VR Mode’. As well as working as a virtual launchpad for virtual reality games and apps, the mode will optimise the handset’s hardware for minimising latency in the experiences.

According to a technical breakdown on Ars Technica, this will include tweaks such as dedicating a CPU core to rendering UI and adopting single buffering to increase frame refresh speed. ‘Time Warping’ – or ‘electronic display stabilisation’ – will also take hold, working to track the user’s head position and adjust the perception of displayed movement to again cut down on latency. Google VP of VR Clay Bavor pledged that response time would be under 20 milliseconds.

Daydream won’t have a single headset design, instead working as a reference design for other manufacturers, much like Google’s line of Android phones.

The headset also comes with a remote-like motion controller, which will be similarly offered as a reference.

A release date and price are yet to be confirmed for Daydream, but with its close competitor, the Gear VR, priced at $99, it might be reasonable to expect a similar cost.

UPDATE: Resolution Games co-founder and CEO Tommy Palm has announced that the studio will be one of the first developers to create for Daydream, with upcoming carnival gameplay title Wonderglade currently in the works.

“With Daydream’s potential reach and accessibility and the current mobile VR headsets on the market, mobile is on track to become the number one VR platform in regards to headsets in the marketplace and potential for mainstream adoption,” said Palm.

"Virtual reality is something that everyone can enjoy. It is a far too important human discovery to be exclusive to a handful of gamers. The world needs interactive VR worlds that are intuitive, social and non-violent."

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