Controller brings Google headset to life


By ANICK JESDANUN

AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK

The best thing about Google’s new virtual-reality headset isn’t the headset at all.

In fact, Daydream View would pale compared with Samsung’s Gear VR headset were it not for Daydream’s controller, a handheld device that responds to gestures and other motion.

With Gear VR, I have to move my head to point a cursor at something, then reach for a button on the headset. With Daydream, I can just aim and click the controller in my hand. Sensors in the device tell the headset what I’m trying to do, whether it’s swinging a tennis racket or casting a fishing rod. The headset’s display responds accordingly.

The headset and controller are sold together for $79. No rush in getting one, though, as the virtual experiences built for Daydream are still limited. And for now, it works only with Google’s Pixel phone.

While sophisticated systems such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive let you walk around in the virtual world, Daydream View is a sit-down experience in which you use the controller to move yourself around. (You could walk around with the Daydream on if you wanted to, but you won’t go anywhere in virtual space – and you might run into the wall.)

But the Rift and the Vive each costs more than $1,500, once you include powerful personal computers they require. Suddenly, $79 sounds like a bargain. Daydream stays cheap by using the display and processing power of your phone, which you insert into the headset at eye level.

Gear VR, at $100, takes a similar approach, but it works only with Samsung phones. While Daydream works only with Pixel for now, several other Android makers plan to make compatible phones. Sorry, iPhone users.

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