VR 20/20: Reducing Friction Key to VR Adoption

Making the technology simple, mobile will drive scale, Google’s Amit Singh says
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NEW YORK -- Reducing friction to virtual reality technology and the applications and services they it enables will be key to scaling up consumer adoption of this emerging market, said Amit Singh, vice president of business and operations, VR, at Google said.

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Singh, an opening keynoter here Monday at VR 20/20, the first event for NewBay Media’s NYC Television & Video Week, said that’s part of the reason why everything Google’s doing around VR these days centers in large part on smartphones.

Making VR simple and mobile will enable Google to “bring it everywhere” and “make VR a daily habit,” he said of that mission.

Google gave the world a taste of VR with Cardboard, an entry level platform that must be paired with a smartphone, but is now taking it to another level with the introduction of Daydream, an Android-powered platform featuring the Daydream View headset and controller that will be launched at retail in the coming weeks for $79.

Daydream will initially be compatible with Google’s new Pixel smartphone, but several more partners area also working on devices that will work with Google’s new VR platform, he said, noting that Google has built VR “optimizations” into Android, starting with its new “Nougat” release.

Singh said consumers will soon see eight to ten Daydream-compatible smartphones hit the market, which will help to scale up the platform’s ecosystem.

He also reiterated that Google went for comfort with a headset that is fabric-based and akin to another piece of clothing.

And the platform begins to run when a smartphone is matched with the headset because the two sides talk wirelessly. “As soon as you drop in the phone, you’re in VR,” Singh explained. “It takes all the friction out of being in VR.”

That thought also went into the Daydream’s controller, which features a clickable swipe pad with nine built-in sensors. “You can actually write your name in VR,” he said, noting that “it’s not for the hard-core gamer…it’s for all of us.”

On the content end, Daydream will work with Google’s own platforms, including YouTube (both 2D and newer content product in 360-degrees) and Google Maps, which will feature more than 70 “curated journeys” for VR. More than 70 Daydream apps will be available before the end of the year, Singh said.

Singh also was asked about Google’s interest in augmented reality.

‘It’s a great future platform technology,” he said, noting that it’s also complex, but was an area where Google is investing. “I’d just say, stay tuned,”