THE RAIN is lashing down and rattling against the old Victorian windows. A cat lies curled up and content, dreaming of chasing mice and oblivious to the chaos in the world around him.
Google Daydream View is a new VR headset from Google, and the follow-up to the Blue Peter-style fold-out viewer that made its debut in 2014.
The headset is lightweight (around 220g on its own) and Google has swapped cardboard for a soft, breathable fabric. It’s comfortable, especially after adjusting the head strap to fit our noggin, and the hand-washable face pad provides sufficient cushioning, although the colours on offer (snow, slate and crimson) make it a bit like wearing a piece of upholstery.
The Pixel XL’s 5.5in, AMOLED high-resolution display makes it the perfect vehicle to test drive Google’s latest VR platform. Other handsets will be deemed Daydream-ready in time, but the list of available devices at launch remains scant. We’ll update this piece with compatible phones in due course.
The Google Daydream app bursts into life on safely securing the phone in the tray and fastening the elastic latch. NFC-tastic.
The controller is about the size of an Apple TV remote, and there’s space for it to be stashed inside the headset when not in use. It’s a good job, as it acts as the key to the worlds we’ll soon explore.
Feeling suitably prepared, I go under.
I’m in the tranquil serenity of Daydream Home. A lush forest expands to all corners of my view with soothing pastel colours and a Disney-like innocence.
I’m soundlessly dispatched on the forest floor, my eyes full of wonder, curious about the brave new world in which I find myself. I decide to orientate myself with the controller and all its functions, as it will be my main companion through these adventures.
The round touchpad is useful for scrolling and navigating through menus, and it can also be clicked to make selections. The app button’s use changes on context, and the Home button returns to the Daydream Home screen or re-centres the view.
Soon I’m chasing butterflies with my newfound confidence. As day turns to night, stars appear in the darkening skies above me. Brandishing my controller as a torch, I explore my immediate surroundings.
A deer crosses my path, like a rabbit caught in the headlights. A frog announces his presence, his croak filling my ears. I look upwards to the branches of a tree, and my light beams bounce off a wise owl. I tip my make-believe cap. ‘Good evening, Mr Owl.’
In the distance, I can hear the gentle whooshing of a waterfall …
Occasionally dust creeps onto the screen, putting the illusion on hold. The real world comes spilling in, revealing the ugly reality inhabited by The X Factor, Brexit or The Mail Online with its eye-popping sidebar of shame.
It’s mainly a thrilling experience, then, despite a handful of scenes that maybe suffer from poor execution, rather than the limits of the technology.
Swimming underwater with sharks delivered some dramatic moments of scale, but visually wasn’t as affecting as our earlier foray into the forest.
Likewise, tagging along for a skydive has its moments, and never once does it belie its surroundings, but the thrill just isn’t there. I’m not hurtling towards Earth with the wind buffeting my clothes owing to my avatar constantly adjusting and taking snaps with her phone. I should be with her all the way, but instead, I’m more of a backseat driver.
Now I’m circling in the air above a wailing Matt Bellamy. I’m a drone flying through fire, scenes of a crumbling future set to a soundtrack by Muse. It feels like Skynet’s near …
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