Google helps developers take VR ideas from a Daydream to reality

Google made several big VR announcements during its annual I/O developer conference including the launch of new tools which aim to further improve the quality of content.

The VR industry has matured significantly over the past year – so much that BAFTA has rightly begun recognising some of the best examples alongside its renowned awards for film and TV. But for every good example, if we’re honest, there are more terrible examples as designers and developers get to grips with this relatively new category.

Google plans on making VR development easier while also improving the quality of content in a variety of ways. The first is with an ‘Instant Preview’ feature which reduces the amount of time (and subsequent frustration) it takes for a developer to preview changes made to their code.

Previously, Google quotes it took around three to seven minutes to preview changes whereas now it’s only a matter of milliseconds from making the change on a PC to seeing it on a phone. There are two Instant Preview modes supported:

Full VR Preview mode: reflects your editor changes onto your Daydream device in VR. The Instant Preview mobile app streams head pose and controller data to your game engine, where the plugin will render the scene in stereo and stream video back to your device. This allows for an instant preview of your app with low enough latency to enable comfortable use over longer sessions.

Controller-only mode: allows you to stream only controller data over to the editor. Use this when you are only iterating on your controller interactions in your game engine to save your phone the computational burden of running in full VR preview mode.

A further announcement intended to aid VR app development is that of ‘Seurat’ which is named after a French painter. Seurat only renders the parts of the scene that are visible which makes it possible to render high-quality scenes on mobile VR in a fraction of the time it takes a high-end PC. This feature isn’t currently available, but Google intends to launch it later this year.

Finally, Google has released ‘Daydream Elements’ which is a demo app intended to show best practices for VR development. In this past article, we’ve already gone over some of Google’s advice in this area to prevent common issues such as making the user nauseous, but it helps to have a dedicated app which shows it all in practice. Documentation is available which explains the various aspects in more detail, and full source code is on GitHub for your perusal.

It’s clear Google has big plans for VR and made several further consumer-orientated announcements during the event including that standalone Daydream headsets will be available by the end of the year which do not require a smartphone, that starting with Android O users can “cast” what they’re seeing on a TV with a Chromecast for others to see, and that a version of the Chrome web browser will be available in Daydream so users can spend even more time in VR.

Are you impressed with Google’s VR announcements? Let us know in the comments.

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