Given the exciting special guest we’ll be having on Wednesday, I found it fitting to do some research on Sophie Miller and the facet of Google that she has been involved in. Miller currently leads business development for shopping across Google’s Daydream AR and VR products. She has been working at google since 2007, taking a two-year education leave in 2011 to study at Stanford Business School. Her focus since 2016 has been content/ shopping partnerships for the Google Daydream team.
First, a quick summary of augmented reality and virtual reality:
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR’s dictionary definition goes as follows: “a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.” Essentially, it’s an enhanced version of reality where generated images of physical objects appear to be moving about in the real world, changing a person’s perception of reality. See below for a terrifying, Halloween-themed AR video I found on twitter.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual reality’s definition is “an artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (such as sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one’s actions partially determine what happens in the environment.” Below is a video demonstrating a number of applications made possible by VR.
Essentially, the main difference is that virtual reality appears entirely artificial, while augmented reality combines digital images and real-world surroundings.
Dream with your eyes open
As for Google Daydream, the product encompasses virtual reality and immersive experiences. Google’s Daydream VR product, Daydream View, is a comfortable, easy-to-use headset designed so that a wide range of phones can be used with it. Different versions of Pixel, Galaxy, ZenFone and LG phones can be used with the Daydream View headset — all the user has to do is slide their phone in and adjust the straps to comfortably fit their head.
Daydream users not only can use the soft, lightweight headset, but also get a Daydream controller that allows them to further interact with their new reality and can share that experience with friends. The software can connect to a TV and display what the headset wearer is seeing, so the rest of the room can be involved in the excitement as well.
The View is a more recent improvement to Google Cardboard, a product aimed to be an affordable strategy to allow anyone and everyone to experience VR is a simple, fun way. Cardboard doesn’t have head straps or any high-tech abilities –it’s a $15.00 product compatible with screens up to six inches. Basically, users “get it, fold it and look inside.” Google Daydream View is a much more technologically advanced product that handles some of the headaches commonly associated with VR headsets and applications and viewing adjustments. When a user wants to use the View, they slide their Daydream-compatible phone on a flat tray that clamps it to the headset. The tray is held closed by a small elastic loop, making sure the phone stays secure. If the phone is in fact Daydream-compatible, has the Daydream app (with dozens of games) installed, and is placed with the volume and power buttons facing up, the user will experience a much smoother entry into the VR world. An NFC (near-field communication) chip on the tray stimulates the phone to launch VR. The new View is among the more comfortable headsets, as the weight is primarily distributed to the forehead, not the cheeks. The headset retails for $99–a more expensive, but much more satisfactory choice.
A downside to the View is that it’s only readily available for Android users. The product is tightly integrated with Android and has the ability to leverage customer’s existing Google accounts to make Play Store purchase seamless. However, iPhone users simply don’t have access to the product; the aforementioned integration with Android makes the possibility of iOS inclusion unlikely. It’s an issue because the company could be missing out on a large share of iOS-centric developers.
No cables, phone, or PC? No problem.
iPhone users, rejoice. Daydream View isn’t the only headset that Google Daydream offers. There’s a new standalone VR headset that utilizes WorldSense, a new technology that understands a user’s movement in space without the use of external sensors. Everything is built-in; there’s no need to secure a phone or download an app. The Lenovo Mirage Solo is the first standalone VR headset, offering the same immersive capabilities as its Daydream View counterpart, but with no wires, extra sensors, phones, or complications. The WorldSense software utilizes a new technology by Google, 6 degrees of freedom (6dof) that is able to sense the user’s movement in space with no external sensors. Mirage Solo has access to over 200 Daydream apps and a 2.5 hour battery life (compared to the View’s 12 hour life). Like the View, it offers personalized adjustments and distributes weight so the customer is as comfortable as possible. Further, the device offers a 110-degree field of vision (humans have 114 degrees, horizontally).
Google has been trying to put information right in front of our eyes for a while now. We all probably remember the unfortunate demise of Google Glass, the company’s failed attempt to offer technology that’s “there when you need it and get[s] out of your way when you don’t.” Although Google Glass didn’t find much success in the consumer market of years past, Google Lens, an image recognition app, seems to be working towards fulfilling Glass’s mission. Sean’s (seanmcwilliams1) blog (https://wordpress.com/view/bcsheatechtrek.com) about Google’s AI Innovations dives deeper into this topic, but it’s important to note the continued progress Google is pursuing.
I can’t wait to meet Sophie Miller on Wednesday and receive some firsthand insight on Google and her responsibilities within the company. I hope this blog gave you a better grasp on Google’s innovations in VR and please feel free to comment any questions you have below!