Google’s Amit Singh, Vice President of Business and Operations for Google VR sat down to discuss what a smartphone needs in order to be ready for Google Daydream in a recent interview with VR Heads. Ultimately, Google requires that the host device provides the customer with a great experience. By the numbers, this means a minimum of a dual 60 fps video stream with very low latency, such that there is no visible lag during use. However, how the device manufacturer achieves this necessary performance is very much open to their interpretation with one exception: Google Daydream requires the smartphone to be running Android 7.0 Nougat or later. To date, we have only seen high end chipsets and display panels used in Daydream-certified devices, typically flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon or HiSilicon Kirin System-on-Chips paired up with OLED panels, but the manufacturer also needs to optimize the device for high performance virtual reality workloads.
For practical purposes, this means that not every device with at least the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, OLED display and Android 7.0 Nougat or later is guaranteed to pass the criteria. The device manufacturer may need to make any changes or optimizations as necessary to the device - which we have already seen with the Motorola Moto Z, the Huawei Mate 9 Pro and Huawei Mate Porsche Design. However, the Huawei Mate 9 is not being certified as Google Daydream ready. Here, Singh reports that the Mate 9’s LCD panel is the biggest reason for the device missing out on certification. In the words of Singh, “In the end, if we can reduce the motion to photon latency into the 22ms-25ms range, you won’t perceive that effect where there’s lag. You could do it at any level of the stack. You could do it in hardware, you could do it at the sensor, and you could do it at the display. Each of them has friction. We can optimize, and today the path to optimization has lead us to the spec we have today, but everything is changing so fast in this world that other options quickly become available.” In the case of LCD versus OLED panel, OLED technology is the more responsive of the two but there is hope for manufacturers using LCD panels. Google is “working working with Huawei and other[s] to see if there are solutions outside of OLED that would work.” On the subject of screen resolutions, Google recommends QHD, or 1440p, but Singh points out that not all displays are created equally and that a well-tuned device with a 1080p display is perfectly capable.
Going forward, the list of Google Daydream-ready smartphones is growing as more devices are tested. For those manufacturers seeking to have their devices Daydream-certified, they are cooperating with Google in order to reach the performance levels. It should be expected that many of the up and coming 2017 flagship devices will be presented for Daydream testing and it will be interesting to see if any of the manufacturers that have traditionally used LCD rather than OLED screen technology (such as HTC, LG and Sony) change their hardware in order to gain Daydream certification. Alternatively, those manufacturers pushing their own virtual reality technology may not care so much for the Google Daydream specification.