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Google Ships Pixel 4 Without Daydream VR Support, Stops Selling Daydream Viewer

Google is effectively phasing out its Daydream virtual reality (VR) platform: The company’s latest flagship Pixel 4 flagship phone, which Google unveiled at a press event in New York Tuesday, won’t support Google’s Daydream mobile VR platform anymore, a spokesperson confirmed to Variety.

The company will also stop selling the Daydream viewer, but continue to support Daydream for existing users. “There hasn’t been the broad consumer or developer adoption we had hoped, and we’ve seen decreasing usage over time of the Daydream View headset,” the company’s spokesperson said via email. “So while we are no longer selling Daydream View or supporting Daydream on Pixel 4, the Daydream app and store will remain available for existing users.”

Google already omitted Daydream from Pixel 3a, the budget-priced phone released earlier this year. At the time, some had suspected that Google may want to reserve Daydream support for its higher-end phones. But now, Daydream is effectively being phased out; not a single phone released in 2019 supports the platform.

“We saw a lot of potential in smartphone VR—being able to use the smartphone you carry with you everywhere to power an immersive on-the-go experience,” Google’s spokesperson explained. “But over time we noticed some clear limitations constraining smartphone VR from being a viable long-term solution. Most notably, asking people to put their phone in a headset and lose access to the apps they use throughout the day causes immense friction.”

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Google launched Daydream in 2016 as the company’s answer to Samsung’s Gear VR headset. It allowed consumers to access VR simply by putting their phone into the cloth-covered Daydream viewer. However, support for Daydream had always been limited to just a few phones, including Google’s own Pixel phones. Without support from key industry players, usage remained low.

Limited engagement and a small addressable audience also led a number of publishers to pull back support from Daydream. HBO discontinued its Daydream apps earlier this year, and Hulu dropped support for Daydream over the summer. And in June, Google itself discontinued Google Play Movies for Daydream.

Google’s phase-out of Daydream is just the latest retreat from VR for the company. Earlier this year, the company shut down its Jump cloud-based stitching service for 360-degree video footage. A VR camera jointly developed by Google and Imax never saw the light of day, and the company’s VR180 video format seems to be stalling, with key hardware partners dropping out.

Internally, Google has refocused much of its resources on augmented reality, something that Google’s spokesperson also stressed in the statement provided to Variety Tuesday: “We’re investing heavily in helpful AR experiences like Google Lens, AR walking navigation in Maps, and AR in Search that use the smartphone camera to bridge the digital and physical worlds, helping people do more with what they see and learn about the world around them.”

In addition to introducing the new Pixel 4, Google also used its event Tuesday to announce a new Nest Mini speaker, unveil its latest Wifi router system, and announce a launch date for its Stadia game streaming service.

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