It’s time to say goodbye to phone-based VR

Google Daydream

When I was a lot younger I got to experience virtual reality for the first time. This was back in the early 90s and the technology was pretty fantastic for the time, but it was also pretty rough. So it’s still not surprising at all that VR didn’t really take off back then. And yet, not at all surprising that we’ve seen a resurgence of the technology in the last several years.

VR became such a big deal that a lot of different companies out there, like Google, Samsung, HTC, and Facebook, were jumping on the bandwagon to some degree or another. It has worked out for some companies better than others, but it feels safe to say that the dream of the “phone-based VR” experience is basically dead.

Especially since Google is saying goodbye to its own effort, Daydream.

Google first announced the Daydream VR platform, along with the Daydream headset, back in October of 2016. At the time it was seen as a pretty exciting element, but perhaps not necessarily big enough of a deal to get people to actually buy a Pixel phone. Since then, Daydream saw at least one more update, but it never felt like it was really taking off.

And the company confirmed as much in its announcement that Daydream is winding down, saying that neither developers nor customers were showing the engagement numbers they were hoping for. Phone-based VR was something that always felt a little strange to me, especially in ads (from Google) that showed people putting the headset on in public places (like on a train!) and actually using it.

That’s not something I’d ever do, and even using the Daydream headset in my own home to look at distant locations on the globe, or watch a movie, always felt a little bit more than what I wanted. It was cool to visit landmarks in Japan or China or India, but it’s not something I’d do more than once. Indeed, after using the Daydream headset a handful of times I never went back to mine.

Phone-based VR is something that Apple never event wanted to jump on board with, which probably went a long way to securing the feature’s future. Let’s face it: if Apple would have come up with something of its own, it’s at least a little possible that other platforms would have seen a boost in attention, too. Just how it works for some things. Or maybe phone-based VR experiences just aren’t worth it, and this was always going to be the outcome, whether Apple jumped in or not.

We’ll never know in that regard, because Apple has its sights firmly set on augmented reality (AR). We’ll get to see how all of that shakes out probably sometime in 2020 — and whether or not other companies jump on board, too.

With Daydream on the way out, it’s time to say goodbye. So I want to know if you have any fun stories with Daydream, and if you’re actually sad to see it go. Are you still using your Daydream headset to this day on a regular, or even semi-regular basis? Or was Daydream something you tried once and then never went back to? Let me know!

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