Google to bring more virtual reality content to Daydream

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Barcelona: Google made it clear at Mobile World Congress (MWC) that it wants to widen its virtual reality (VR) operations this year as it pushes deeper into the hardware segment.

Amit Singh, vice-president of business and operations of Google’s VR unit, speaking on the state of the mobile VR industry, said that Google has already shipped more than 10 million Cardboard viewers worldwide since its launch in 2014.

“Cardboard apps have been downloaded 160 million times on Google Play, and 30 of these apps have more than one million downloads,” he said.

Google has begun selling its professional View VR headset just months ago. Google also shared a few stats about the Daydream headset. On average, people are using it for about 40 minutes a week. The headset is currently compatible with six smartphones, and there are more than 100 different Daydream apps available, with more coming soon.

Singh said that Daydream users particularly love video in VR, as it is the top category of entertainment on Daydream. YouTube is the most popular app in terms of time spent and a number of users (more than 50 per cent), as it offers a bunch of 360 videos people can enjoy watching.

“We’ve built Daydream with lessons learned from Cardboard. It’s more comfortable, interactive, and immersive,” he said.

“For a lot of people, the first VR interaction might be that bite-sized chunk to get them excited about something. Now people want that lean-back experience, they want immersive content,” Singh said.

“You will start to see significant series coming out this year. We had over one million views of an NFL series in the US,” he said.

He said that Google expects to sell tens of millions of headsets this year with six smartphone manufacturers already in the Daydream platform.

Jefferson Wang, senior partner at IBB consulting, said that according to a survey on 3,200 US adults, 71 per cent said they weren’t interested in VR.

However, he said that doesn’t mean nobody is buying it. IBB found that of those who are interested, 30 per cent already have their own equipment while 44 per cent said they got it for free or as part of a bundle, another 30 per cent paid up to $99 (Dh363) — about the same price as View or Samsung’s Gear VR. Another 20 per cent said they spent between $100 and $500.

The survey showed that gaming is still the most popular type of content, with 37 per cent responding they are most interested in the genre. However, travel was also a key interest for 20 per cent of those surveyed, while another 17 per cent said they’re interested in movies, TV and news.

He said that content will be key to driving interest.

Arthur van Hoff, chief technology officer and co-founder of Jaunt, a VR app maker, said that 2017 is an inflection year for the VR.

“We think that brands have a great opportunity to use VR to sell or advertiser their products to consumers,” he said.

Singh said that Goggle is also trying to bring great new original content to the Daydream platform.

Google announced that the Sky VR app is now available, which offers a bunch of 360 videos including those from Sky’s partners like Star Wars: Red Carpet, Anthony Joshua — Becoming World Champion, and others. The Sims, Chelsea Kicker and The Wall Street Journal apps now can overlay 3D graphics over real world images.