Google abandons its phone-powered virtual reality headset Daydream, admitting almost no-one used it
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- Google is abandoning Daydream, its attempt to make virtual reality headsets powered by phones.
- The company has acknowledged that consumers weren't interested in the product.
- Daydream had only basic functionality compared to more sophisticated rivals like Facebook's Oculus Quest.
- Despite billions of dollars of investment across the industry, virtual reality is still struggling to go mainstream.
Google is giving up on its Daydream virtual reality efforts.
On Tuesday, the Silicon Valley tech giant announced a slew of new products, most notably its new Pixel 4 phone - and it also took the opportunity to quietly discontinue Daydream, a virtual reality product that was powered by inserting users' smartphones into headsets.
In an emailed statement to Business Insider, a Google spokesperson acknowledged that consumer adoption of the product was weak, and that it faced other issues. "There ... hasn't been the broad consumer or developer adoption we had hoped, and we've seen decreasing usage over time of the Daydream View headset," they wrote. (Variety previously reported on Daydream's discontinuation.)
Smartphone-powered virtual reality always felt lacking compared to more fully fledged, dedicated virtual reality hardware - a contrast only heightened since the launch of Facebook's Oculus Quest headset, an all-in-one VR device that can track users' locations in three-dimensional space and requires no external hardware.
Daydream, and other phone-powered headsets like it, featured far less sophisticated functionality, and its discontinuation is an explicit acknowledgement from Google that consumers failed to warm to the budget format.
Despite billions of dollars of investments from big tech firms, in 2019 virtual reality is still struggling to break into the mainstream, and for most remains a novelty rather than a mature entertainment platform. Smartphone-based VR was an attempt to introduce the tech to the masses for the first time in a relatively low-cost way - but in retrospect will be viewed as an abortive stopgap on a sluggish path towards mainstream appeal.
The Daydream app will continue to be available for existing users, Google said, but it is no longer selling the Daydream View - the official headset - and the new Pixel 4 is not compatible with the tech. The spokesperson confirmed that the discontinuation of Daydream also includes third-party, standalone headsets that were powered by the underlying tech like the Lenovo Mirage.
Here's Google's full statement:
"We saw a lot of potential in smartphone VR-being able to use the smartphone you carry with you everywhere to power an immersive on-the-go experience. But over time we noticed some clear limitations constraining smartphone VR from being a viable long-term solution. Most notably, asking people to put their phone in a headset and lose access to the apps they use throughout the day causes immense friction.
"There also hasn't been the broad consumer or developer adoption we had hoped, and we've seen decreasing usage over time of the Daydream View headset. While we are no longer selling Daydream View or supporting Daydream on Pixel 4, the Daydream app and store will remain available for existing users.
"We're investing heavily in helpful AR experiences like Google Lens, AR walking navigation in Maps, and AR in Search that use the smartphone camera to bridge the digital and physical worlds, helping people do more with what they see and learn about the world around them."
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