ARTICLE BY ROBIN SANDERS

Since 2008, Google has announced it's major technology advancements at Google I/O. This year, virtual and augmented reality has taken over as the focus of the conference with developments on Daydream, Tango, WebVR and more. 

Increasing Performance for Developers

Google’s Android products share the majority of smartphone-oriented content with Apple’s iOS. This year, Google introduced a number of tools with which developers can build and create Android applications faster than ever. Speaker Tim Murray, who works on the Android Performance Team, talked about optimizing performance on Google Pixel. For example, updates further ensure all content is displayed at 60 frames per second, an issue many VR developers are aiming to hit as well with their standalone headsets. By also increasing the speed with which content loads on Pixel devices, Google hopes to streamline the content experience for users.

Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, VP of Product Management for Google Chrome, touched on the mainstream acceptance of the modern web and its impact for future developers and content. With over two billion downloads, Google Chrome gives a significant portion of devices access to the internet. Updates include Chrome loading speeds to be 35 percent faster on Android devices than its predecessors. User experience-oriented developments like scroll anchoring optimize page loading without jumping from one section to the next. With computing evolving at a faster pace than ever, Google wants developers to use Chrome’s API platforms, like Web VR API, to experiment with new technology. Developers now have access to powerful content-creation software that companies like Within and SketchFab have begun using to develop content. Web VR is now fully supported through Chrome, making it the first browser of its kind to open its doors for VR development.

VR, AR, and Immersive Computing

Clay Bavor, VP of VR development at Google, spoke to clarify and shed light on Google’s current state in VR innovation. Google VR/AR research has culminated in several projects, including Cardboard, Daydream, Tango, Jump and VR apps like Tilt. With their project ranging from fully immersive to augmented experiences, Google coins its development “immersive computing.”

VR/AR will allow users to experience computing similar to how we experience real life. In other words, Google wants its immersive computing to work more like we do as humans. Such experiences open up access to experiential information or information tied to the real world. This will change how we live, play, and learn. Google hopes its Daydream platform will push development within the VR world.

Takeaways from Daydream’s Market Performance

Daydream, which is Google’s current platform for experiencing virtual content, will be available on eight different phones by the end of 2017, including Samsung’s S8, LG’s flagship device (to be rolled out later this year), HTC, and Motorola. When also considering the standalone headsets Google is currently offering to the public, millions of devices will soon be VR-accessible through the Daydream platform. With over 150 apps and games currently in the store, Google has tripled the amount of current content when compared to the start of this year.

Brahim Elbouchikhi, Group Product Manager at Google, shared some data and insights Google garnered from Daydream’s 6-month market exposure. According to their data, 25 percent of sessions begin with no specific intent. This deviates from how users tend to use smartphones, for example, which is almost always task-oriented. 40 percent of sessions include at least one click on a “Discovery Window,” one of the featured panels on the main page. 35 percent of all sessions include a Play store VR visit. Such usage of Daydream is similar to when the app store first came out, suggesting now is the perfect time for developers to be creating content for the VR store.

Gorillaz’s music video for their newest song, Saturn Barz, allows the viewer to watch the music video in a VR train station, paving the way for artists to immerse their listeners within a virtual environment

To further this narrative, Daydream has experienced three times as many buyers per active users relative to 2D apps, with 32 percent more money being spent per active users relative to 2D apps. In other words, users are highly interested at what this new medium has to offer and are willing to pay for high-quality content. When compared to smartphone apps, VR users interact with VR content in fewer sessions, but for longer per session. Google suggests that users are looking for quality experiences they can immerse themselves into. Gorillaz's new VR music video was viewed over three million times in less than 48 hours, making it the most popular debut of VR content ever.