So long, Cardboard: Consumer Android VR is called Daydream, turning Android N phones into VR headsets

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Daydream announced on stage at Google I/O

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As expected, Google announced a new virtual reality component for Android at its I/O conference today, setting the foundation for new VR apps, standalone headsets and more. It's called Daydream and the technology will be built into the upcoming Android N release when it arrives later this year.

There are three parts to Daydream: a special mode in Android N, a reference design for a headset and controller, and an app portal called Daydream Home that lets you get at all of your VR content.

While Android is already great for day-to-day tasks, games and entertainment, high-quality virtual reality requires leaps forward in terms of processing power and low latency, so turning your head matches exactly with what you see in front of your eyes. Android N will come with a special VR mode that optimizes Android handsets' ability to do this.

Google has also set down the smartphone specs that will be required for Daydream to work: specific standards in the phone's sensors, display and internal components that make it capable of running VR apps, a bit like the minimum PC specifications for running an Oculus Rift. Look for phones that are Daydream compatible in the coming months.

Google says it's also been working with its hardware partners on a reference design for a standalone headset and controller system – think a more powerful, more stylish Google Cardboard with the addition of a gesture-control remote. Headsets and remotes will be arriving this Fall (Northern hemisphere), Google says, along with Android N.

Curiously, there was no mention of Google's highly-rumored standalone VR headset, so perhaps we won't hear about that until later this year.

Essentially, we're looking at Gear VR-style devices, but built for a wider range of phones beyond Samsung's range, plus a motion-sensitive controller.

Finally, the Google Play Store is getting a Daydream update too, so you'll be able to browse for and buy apps while enjoying the VR experience. Everything is managed through an interface called Daydream Home, and YouTube, Google Photos, Street View and Google Play Movies will be getting updates to make them Daydream-ready.

Gizmag is in Mountain View for this year's Google I/O event and we'll bring you more news from the event as it happens.

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