daydream-gearvrThere has been a number of posts comparing the Google Daydream VR experience to the Samsung GearVR.  I have been using both for a while now and think I can offer a pretty good evaluation.

When I first tried the Daydream I had the same response most people had.  It was small, attractive and felt great. I really like the tactile feel of it, better then the hard plastic GearVR.  My only complaint was the field of view.  However, now that I have spent a good deal of time in it, my opinion has changed somewhat. When I first tried it the strap was VERY tight, however, that kept light bleed to a min and I never really felt the weight.  However, the next time I tried it, the tight strap started to really bother me, so I loosed it. That made it far more comfortable, but then light bleed was pretty substantial.  The fit also felt a little less complete and instead felt a bit top-heavy.  Once you get into the task you are doing, a game for example, the light bleed ‘sometimes’ goes away.  What I mean here is when I’m deep into doing something in the game, I do not noticed, but at transition or other points in the game where I’m not deeply focused, the light bleed comes back to my attention. Same with the fit.  When I’m in the middle of something, I do not notice, but at transition, I cannot help but feel like the headset it resting on my forehead and not comfortably across the face.

Now to the phone.  The head tracking at the beginning feels just as good as the gear. I have to really pay attention to notice any lag. However, for whatever reason, the phone heats up very quickly. The hotter the phone gets, the slower the system becomes.  Then you can feel the head tracking slow down just a bit.  Enough that if you are standing, you can start to get motion sick.

Now here is where the Daydream is great, and its nothing to do with the headset or the phone. It’s the hand controller.  The hand controller is a simple 3DOF motion tracked device but what this does is greatly enhance immersion because you can ‘see’ you hand movements in the environment and allow you to interact with object more naturally.  So far I have not seen an amazing implementation, but give it time.  This simple controller works very well, yes it drifts but centering is not a big deal.  I really wish the GearVR came with one. I fully expect someone at sometime is going to write a driver to allow the Daydream controller to work on the GearVR if Samsung or Oculus does not make one themselves. As simple as this is, the knowledge that ALL Daydream devices will have this controller gives developers confidence to design their apps with this support.

An issue with Daydream, which I also have with the Gear is drift.  As the phone heats up it tends to drift, typically to the left.  Seems like this is just a limitation of the internal compass for now.  I’m sure they will fix it in the future.

So my final assessment:  I would buy the Daydream for a casual user, but stick with the GearVR for anyone else. A key point however is that the daydream does not need to compete with the GearVR, its needs to be a friendly, accessible device that anyone can use.  And for Google, this seem like exactly the market they are after, so despite my complaints, I think Google nailed this one spot on.

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