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Google unveils VR-ready phone, headset

AlphabetInc. on Oct. 4 released what one product manager called "thefirst phone made by Google, inside and out," as well as a new virtualreality headset that along with the phone creates a mobile VR experience.

The new Pixel smartphone will feature machine learningfunctionality through a virtual assistant called Google Assistant, which iscontrolled by voice command and can incorporate contextual information from thedevice's screen or stored text messages.

The phone was introduced in two models: Pixel, which sportsa 5-inch screen, and Pixel XL, which has a 5.5-inch display. Both offer 4Kvideo with video stabilization. Google will offer Pixel owners free unlimitedcloud storage for photos and videos. The company boasted that 15 minutes ofcharge can provide seven hours of battery life for the devices.

The aluminum-body phones are available for pre-order in theU.S. on the same day at $649. Google partnered with fordistribution in the U.S. Unlocked phones will also be available on the GoogleStore.


Google's new Pixel phone and Daydream View VR headset.
Source: Google

One of the most prominent features of the phone is itsintegration with a new feature called Daydream VR, a VR platform that seeks tomake the technology "simpler … and more accessible," said Clay Bavor,Google's head of VR, during the release event. The Daydream platform integratesthe Pixel phone with the new Daydream View headset. The phone acts as thescreen for the headset, and the two devices pair wirelessly. The phone alsoauto-aligns with the View's eyepieces.

Taking a step beyond most mobile VR headsets on the market,the Daydream View includes a small remote control, a two-button device thatnests inside the headset when not in use. "When you gosomeplace, you want to be able to do things there," Bavor said.

The remote is packed with positioning sensors that allow theuser to point and aim inside the VR environment. It also assists with movingthrough the environment in some instances. Bavor said the remote is accurateenough for a user to draw and write with it.

Being able to move through and interact with the environmentallowed Google to create custom experiences with several partners, saidAdrienne McCallister, director of VR partnerships. For example, the companylinked up with the creators of the upcoming film "Fantastic Beasts andWhere to Find Them" to create a VR game experience where the user is awizard and the remote is a magic wand. There is also a custom integration with The New York Times' VR documentaryprojects.

Daydream View also integrates with Google's own mediaplatforms. In Google Maps, users can launch a VR Street View, offering a moreimmersive experience than using Street View on a computer. The company created150 Street View tours for users, allowing virtual visits to various globaldestinations including the Taj Mahal in India and the Faroe Islands in Denmark.

The company also integrated the View with YouTube, allowingusers to watch 360-degree and VR videos posted on YouTube and traditional videoon a virtual theater-sized screen.

The new headset will be available in November for $79,controller included.

Google hopes the View will represent "the next step tomake high-quality VR accessible to everyone," Bavor said.