How to Make a VR App for Google Daydream

How to make your Google Daydream VR application

Even though Google’s Cardboard has been around for 2 years, it didn’t really take off as a huge virtual reality platform, mainly due to its simplicity. It is capable of turning any phone into a basic VR viewer and is very affordable. But it lacks more advanced features, such as good control methods for apps and games.

This is where Google’s recently announced Daydream platform comes in. The upcoming Daydream View headset, which was already called a VR game changer, brings affordable and accessible virtual reality to the average consumers. In the new article we will focus on how to make a VR app for Google Daydream, and on what do you need to kickstart your business ventures into the world of mobile virtual reality.

6 Steps to Start Developing Google Daydream VR Apps

Since Daydream View will only be released in November, you will have to set up the development kit, following Google’s instructions on their official Daydream developer’s page. You will need to use two phones: a Nexus 6P with Android N, and any other phone with Android 4.4 or above.

The Nexus will be used as a viewer inside a Google Cardboard or other similar VR headset, and the other phone will emulate the controller via Bluetooth. Since the controller will have physical buttons, Google also provided a printable overlay you can put above your controller phone to provide some sort of tactile feedback.

Here are 6 quick steps on how to create a VR application for Google Daydream:

Step 1: Follow Google's instructions to set up both of your phones and pair them via Bluetooth. Make sure to install the Controller Emulator app on the secondary phone.

Step 2:  Software-wise you will also need to install the SDK of your choice – Android SDK for regular Android apps or Unreal 4, or Unity SDK, depending on which platform you want to work with.

Step 3: Develop your application using the SDK, just like you usually do with regular apps. Your SDK might have special settings and requirements for compiling Daydream apps. Refer to their documentations for more information.

Step 4: When you are ready to test your app with Daydream, load your Daydream-specific app onto your Nexus 6P just like you would do with any regular Android apps you have developed so far.

Step 5: Place the Nexus inside the Cardboard headset, and launch the Controller Emulator on the second phone. Ensure that the two phones are paired via Bluetooth before launching the apps.

Step 6: To test the app you are developing, just launch it on the Nexus and put up the headset; controls will be simulated using the second phone, where you will need to use the Controller Emulator app.

Please note that the Nexus 6P will not support Daydream officially and only takes the place of a compatible phone in the dev kit. It can also overheat or throttle with heavier use, as it is not built with Daydream and longer gaming sessions in mind. Also, your Google Cardboard or compatible kit should have a head strap for easier use.

Daydream Development on Unity

Unity benefits the most from the collaboration with Google – the Unity dev kit will natively support Daydream with head tracking, significantly reduced latency and Daydream-specific optimizations.

If you are a Unity developer, you will need to download their latest technical preview, which is basically a custom, separate Unity Editor specifically built for Daydream. It can be installed alongside any other Unity Editors already present. When Daydream becomes publicly available, this feature set will be merged into the regular Unity Editor.

Daydream App Development on Unreal Engine 4

Daydream will also natively be supported on Unreal Engine, where it will benefit from built-in Daydream Controller support and a new “neck model”, enabling developers to realistically simulate the neck movement for other observers in the VR world generated with Unreal.

Unreal Engine developers showcased the capabilities of Daydream by creating a simple dungeon-delving RPG for the device. This was made using the Daydream integration of Unreal, which you also have access to if you use Unreal Engine 4 to develop your applications.

To enable Daydream-specific features, you need to install Android NDK version 11c, and point Unreal Engine’s Android SDK options to the new NDK files. A quick guide on how to prepare your project for Daydream can be found here on Unreal's documentation site. You will need to enable several features and build your app by using the Support arm64[aka arm64-v8a] option under Build.

Daydream Developer Communities

Daydream already has several communities built around it. Stack Overflow has a  section dedicated to Google VR, where you can browse questions related to the topic and share your knowledge with others. Google+ also has a group for Cardboard and Daydream developers. There is also a Daydream subreddit too, but it is targeted at virtual reality enthusiasts in general.

How to Join the Daydream Access Program

Currently you cannot publicly publish Daydream applications, you will first need to apply to the Daydream Access Program to have early access. In addition to publishing apps, accepted developers will also get in close touch with Google’s engineers and will be able to provide direct feedback about the process of developing Daydream apps. App submissions will be open to the general developer community sometime early 2017.

Business Potential of Daydream VR

When it first releases in November, Daydream compatibility will be limited to Google’s Pixel and ZTE's Axon 7 phones, but Daydream support will be an important selling point for any upcoming phones, making it more accessible as time goes on. Now is a good time to prepare and get into Daydream app development, as it will be a lucrative and profitable endeavor for current Android developers.

AppReal-VR - Your Google Daydream Development Partner

AppReal-VR, as an acclaimed outsourcing software development house with years of experience in VR and AR, is an ideal development partner. The Ukraine-based firm has worked with happy clients around the world and in many industries.

AppReal-VR is expert in the use of cutting-edge technologies, and is very accustomed to working in uncharted territory. Google Daydream is brand new, and its boundaries are not yet set. AppReal-VR, under the leadership of CEO Yariv Levski, is the perfect partner to help push those boundaries.