Google’s Daydream VR platform is getting its first major software revamp later this year, nudging the interface toward being a more full-featured operating system. The update, codenamed Daydream Euphrates, will roll out to all phones with Daydream support. As part of a larger move to support self-contained headsets that aren’t powered by phones, it will add a 2D panel that pops up on top of virtual environments, giving all users better access to normal Android functions in VR.
“The whole idea behind this is, we don't want to take you out of the VR experience if you need to check notifications or change a setting or pause or do whatever,” says Mike Jazayeri, the Daydream director of product management.
The update adds more image and video sharing options, too. There will be a new screenshot and screen capture feature, and you’ll be able to cast your screen live to a Chromecast-equipped TV — which means that people can see what you’re doing in VR, similar to the “mirror mode” on desktop VR headsets. (For now, it’s just local Chromecast-based streaming; you can’t broadcast live gameplay sessions online with this option, for instance.)
There’s also going to be a version of Chrome that works inside Daydream. This gets a little complicated, because as some readers may remember, you could already access Daydream experiences through Android’s Chrome browser. In that case, you’d be navigating to a page normally on your phone, then launching WebVR-enabled experiences that you could view through Cardboard or Daydream. But with this new flavor of Chrome, you’ll be able to literally browse web pages while in a headset, while also launching WebVR content.
Daydream’s not the first headset to have a VR web browser — Oculus launched one for Gear VR a couple of months ago, and Samsung had one before then. And this isn’t exactly going to be most people’s primary Chrome experience. But it’s another way to keep people from having to take the headset off if they need to find something online. And if you’re already using Chrome elsewhere, it’ll import your bookmarks and other personalizations, like the normal mobile version.
On a slightly separate note, Google is also adding augmented reality features to Chrome for phones that support Tango. You could launch a web app that lets you preview furniture in your living room, for example, without downloading a full app. The AR browser options will be released in an experimental Chromium build today, so developers can check them out on Github, while the VR browser will hit Daydream this summer.