Hugo Barra talks about the new Android Daydream VR platform: it's a technological challenge

A few days ago, Google announced its new platform, aimed specifically at mobile VR solutions, called Daydream. The idea behind it is to have a set of unified specifications, so that smartphone slingers, controller makers, and software developers would have a very steady set of rules and a known list of requirements to work with, building a much more stable ecosystem. We also learned that large manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Huawei, and Xiaomi are on board and planning to build so-called "Daydream-ready" smartphones – devices that have Google-approved specs to run Daydream apps and hardware flawlessly.

Xiaomi's VP of International, Hugo Barra, sat down for an interview with Bloomberg, where he talked a bit about the new Xiaomi Mi Box for TV, the company's future plans, and the new Daydream platform.

"This takes a huge amount of engineering work", said Mr. Barra in regards to building a VR headset that doesn't cause headaches or nausea for the user. In order for one to feel comfortable wearing a headset for prolonged periods of time, we would need, naturally, a good display, but also a very fast response time. From moving one's head, to having the sensor pick up that movement, and the screen rendering the change of scenery accordingly, one would need to achieve response times of less than 20 milliseconds. Having a snappy user interface is one thing, creating complex 3D scenes, which respond to real-life movements in all three dimensions is a different deal.

So, according to Barra, this is more of a "2017 tech". There may be some Daydream-ready smartphones out by the end of this year, but in terms of chipsets and screens that have to be developed, a mass production of such devices should be realistically expected next year.

As for Xiaomi not meeting its phone shipping targets, Barra said that the company does not measure its success by how many smartphones it has sold. It is much more concerned with how many users it has acquired, and how much time they spend on the Internet, utilizing Xiaomi's proprietary services — services that the company monetizes. So, in that regard, Barra says, the company still feels like it's growing, and it's still battling an uneven supply-demand ratio, despite the fact that its trying to churn out handsets as fast as possible.

Offering Xiaomi smartphones in the USA? "Something that is further out than what I can clearly predict", Barra said. So, not in 2016, it seems. Well, at least the Android TV Mi Box is available in the US.

source: Bloomberg



1. Shocky unregistered

I'm guessing Gear VR with a Samsung phone is ready for this. Doubt Samsung would be on board if it wasn't.

3. sgodsell

Posts: 7605; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Hardware is one thing. Software is another. Google's Android N will have VR support built into the OS, so naturally Samsung will be on board, along with others. You are forgetting that Google came out with Cardboard in 2014. So this little project has grown since then. Besides mobile VR is where the vast majority of users are going to be. Yes there is the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, PS VR coming in the fall, and more. However they all require a big investment in new hardware which costs a lot of money. The Gear VR, Cardboard, plastic versions, and other mobile VRs cost peanuts in comparison. The most expensive parts are the sensors, display, CPU, GPU, ram, and storage. All of which is inside of a smartphone. You just have to make sure you have good sensors, high resolution display, fast CPU, GPU, ram, and storage. So if a user invests in a high end smartphone then that is most of the cost out of the way.

4. HomerS

Posts: 419; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

Maybe you forget that the VR support which Google is building into Android N is mostly thanks to an advancement made by John Carmack/Oculus, which came with the Gear VR in december of 2014. The faster and highly calibrated sensors were also in the Gear VR itself and not the slower ones used in the phone. The Gear VR can do 12-20ms motion to photon latency and that since 2014.

2. jellmoo

Posts: 2661; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Yay... Xiaomi VR. If it holds true to their other products: Low price, difficult to acquire, disappointing quality. Wait... Why do they even have a VP of International?

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