If 2016 has been the year of VR then Google wants a piece of the action.
With the launch of PlayStation VR imminent and with the likes of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR already on the shelves, Google's now added the Daydream View into the mix. Announced alongside the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones and the new 4K Google Chromecast Ultra, the View is a funky VR headset which the Big G hopes will further spread VR to the masses and which will run on Google's own Daydream platform.
At US$79, it's very competitively priced against its biggest competitor, the Samsung Gear VR, and is massively cheaper than the likes of the Rift, Vive and PS VR.
We were lucky enough to strap the Google Daydream View on to our faces at Google's launch event in London. Here's what our hands and eyes made of it:
Google Daydream View - Soft, fluffy, and functional
OK, so it's not exactly fluffy, but compared to the harsh plastic of its rivals, the Daydream View is like having your face hugged. Covered in soft fabric, with plush, comfortable innards, it's by far the most comfortable VR headset I've tried - and I've tried them all. It's rather handsome too, and beats the Gear VR in the looks department.
Its soft material, coupled with its lightweight design, really do make me think I could use it for hours without feeling like a Half-Life-style facehugger has assaulted my mug, which is obviously a good thing.
The bundled remote is also decent, and offers an incentive to choose the Daydream View over the Gear VR - which has no such controller. It's sturdy, comfortable to hold, and easy to use, with two simple navigation buttons and a clickable trackpad for navigation and selecting on-screen options.
Google Daydream View - It just works
Unlike the Gear VR, the Google Daydream View doesn't require you to plug your phone into a fiddly port: setup is as simple as slipping your handset into the headset, then closing it up.
NFC tech automatically and instantly pairs your smartphone with the View, and you're instantly transported into the main VR menu.
Note - only Daydream-compatible phones will work with the Daydream View. At the time of writing, this only includes the Pixel and the Pixel XL, but future Daydream-ready devices from other manufacturers will also work.
Google Daydream View - Screen dreams
The demo I tried at the launch event was using a Google Pixel XL. This isn't a massive surprise, given that it has a larger screen with a higher resolution than the 5in 1080p Pixel.
I can't comment on what the regular Pixel experience is like, but I can say that the Pixel XL/Daydream headset combination was crisp and clear.
From the short time I spent with it, everything seemed a tad sharper than my experiences with the Gear VR, and the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them demo I played looked superb, with stunning visuals and no noticeable lag or screen tearing.
The remote control was intuitive to use too, though I did notice that the virtual magic wand I was holding was a little too far to the left of my actual hand position. Whether this was an intentional part of the game's design itself or not, I'm not sure. It seems unlikely.
Google Daydream View - Initial Verdict
From the brief time we've spent with the Daydream View so far, we're really, really impressed with it.
It looks great, is extremely comfortable, and it serves up simple, easy functionality, thanks to its easy pairing system and bundled remote - all at a very reasonable price point.
The Samsung Gear VR is also a very strong contender, but it's held back by the fact that its limited to Samsung devices. If the Daydream content store can match that of Samsung's Oculus app store, then Google has a clear winner on its hands here.