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Google's VR Daydream Could Be Nightmare for Gear VR

Building off the momentum of Cardboard, Google is launching its new Daydream platform for Android N. Available this fall, Daydream is approaching VR with three components: smartphones, headsets and apps. As Google's headset reference design and motion controller will be available to multiple partners, this open approach could spell trouble for Oculus and the Samsung Gear VR.

Although most modern smartphones can support VR content, users still complain about latency and performance. Google claims that the new crop of phones, some of which will debut this fall will cut latency to less than 20 milliseconds. If the claim is true, the potential for simulation sickness could decrease dramatically.

In addition, these devices will offer improved head-tracking sensors and processing power for a more immersive experience. Google has teamed up with a number of smartphone manufacturers, including Samsung, HTC and LG, to bring Daydream-ready phones to the masses. 

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Speaking of other smartphone manufacturers, Samsung might want to watch its back. Now that Google is opening up its virtual reality platform to its potential competition, there's the possibility that we could get an actual contender to the Oculus-backed Gear VR and its closed ecosystem. All it would take is a solid, comfortable headset and a compelling library of content, which Google is helping to build out with various partners like EA and Hulu.

Rumors about Google making its own virtual reality headset didn't materialize at IO. Instead of the self-contained system many had hoped for, Google is going to make a reference device to help manufacturers bring their own headsets to market. These reference devices will be going out to developers to allow them to start working on creating apps for Daydream.

The company will also be creating a reference controller to accompany the headset. If the demo is any inclination, the white ovalur handheld device fits in your hand and resembles a stripped-down Apple TV remote. Equipped with a pair of buttons, we watched as the person holding the controller did everything from casting spells to flipping flapjacks in a hot skillet.

During the demo, we got our first glimpse of Daydream's interface, which looks similar to the Oculus-inspired Gear VR interface. The top of the interface seem to be dominated by a trio of large panels, flanked by a number of smaller tiles. Closer inspection of the panels revealed several apps and games including Need for Speed: No Limits, Eve GunJack, HBO GO and Hulu. Daydream will also feature apps for CNN, IMAX, Lionsgate and The Wall Street Journal. As far as games, Google has partnered with developers and publishers such as EA, Ubisoft, CCP and nDreams to populate the library with content.

Google will be offering its own VR apps, too. Daydream will provide VR versions of Street View, which will allow you to walk down the streets of a far-off city without setting foot outside your house. Google Photos is also getting the VR treatment so viewers can be immersed in exotic vistas. Finally, there will also be a virtual reality iteration of YouTube, which Google says will boast the largest collection of VR video.