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Google is launching a new virtual reality platform called Daydream. Built on top of Android N, Daydream is essentially Android for VR: it’ll offer users a home screen from which to access apps. Among them will be Google stalwarts including the Play store, YouTube and Photos.
Google already has a VR platform, Cardboard, but that’s a deliberately limited beast, designed to let users trial a VR-lite experience through nothing more than their existing smartphone and a piece of laser-cut cardboard. Daydream, by contrast, looks built for purpose-made VR headsets, and will probably end up competing head-to-head with the likes of the Gear VR, a Samsung/Oculus co-creation.
Android remains an area where Google prefers to work through third-party manufacturers, rather than building its own kit. Therefore, the Daydream headset it showed off on stage won’t be available to buy in stores. Instead, it’s a reference design, intended to show manufacturers who want to build their own Daydream sets what sort of features they’ll be expected to provide. But Google’s Nexus phones started off as reference devices, and now you can buy them direct from Google. So who knows what’s to come?