How I use Google Daydream without a View headset (with Cardboard)

Google Pixel users are now able to work and play with Google Daydream without the official Google Daydream View headset. While Google would rather that Daydream VR users use their first Daydream View headset, for sale in their store, there's another way to do it. Google has graciously allowed the Google Daydream environment to be fiddled with by anyone in an effort to draw developers for massive app and game creation.

The Google Daydream VR environment is made for the next generation of Google-approved Android smartphones. Daydream is said to require a certain set of hardware and software bits and pieces, as outlined in our big Google Daydream View Review. In reality, though, quite a few smartphones without these specs can participate in this VR environment.

Above you'll see our early demo of the Daydream Controller back when we needed to keep it connected between phones with USB. The newest version of this app – for developers – only requires a Bluetooth connection. This is just like the real controller device which connects to Pixel phones with Bluetooth as well.

A couple of requirements do seem to be absolutely required by the Daydream app. These include running Android 7.0 Nougat on our prospective Daydream smartphone. Requirements for a secondary phone – to be used as a controller – are that a gyroscope and Android 4.4+ be present.

First, I needed two smartphones, one to run the Daydream app, the other to act as a controller. The Daydream app requires that a controller be present – otherwise it shows an overlay box searching for said controller. While some apps may (eventually) not require the controller, the vast majority seem to so far.

The Daydream smartphone will need to be running the Daydream App (here on APK mirror) and the Daydream Keyboard app (also on APK mirror). A third app will be required, this one headed for the controller phone.

This third app is the Google Daydream Controller Emulator app we showed working on a Samsung Galaxy S7 back in May. Courtesy of Google's own Developers portal, the Daydream Controller APK can be downloaded from Github. Once these three apps have been installed, follow the instructions that follow this sentence.

1. Pair the two smartphones via Bluetooth.

2. Open the Daydream app.

3. Tap the menu button (upper right, three horizontal white lines).

4. Tap Settings.

5. Tap "Build Version" 8 times – Developer Options should appear.

6. Tap Developer Options.

7. Tap Controller Emulator Device.

8. Select your other phone from the list and press OK.

9. Tap "Skip VR entry screens" and press OK.

10. Tap back, back until you get to the first Daydream home screen.

11. Tap the blue button with the viewer icon.

12. Open the Daydream Controller app on the controller phone.

13. Place the Daydream phone into a Google Cardboard viewer of some sort – or don't, if you want to view without VR, for whatever reason.

The Daydream phone should show VR in a fashion not all that unlike what Cardboard has done for the past couple of years. The secondary control phone should act the same way as the standard Daydream Controller does with the official Google Daydream View headset. Users MAY get a headache after a while, the same as they would with any other VR headset setup.

I don't have a Google Pixel!

It does not currently matter (for the most part) if the Google Daydream app is used outside of a Daydream-approved smartphone. We've tried a couple of Nexus devices to see if they work with the Google Daydream app and they do. They might not be working nearly as well as a Pixel or Pixel XL, but they work. They're also not covered by any claims Google might make to avoid headaches – but they work.

I've lost my Daydream View controller, now what?

This solution is potentially helpful for people that do not have the Google Daydream controller. While we'd originally set out to show now non-crucial the Daydream View was to the equation, we found that the controller wasn't either. You're still going to get the best experience with all the Google-approved pieces of hardware, but you don't NEED them to use Daydream.

We're crossing our fingers that Google allows the Daydream Controller to be sold without the headset in the future. The controller does live safely in the headset, all snug and nice, but there's still a chance it'll be lost. There's always a chance of something like that happening.

And again, if I really want the full Daydream experience, I'm going to need a Pixel or Pixel XL as well as the real-deal Daydream View. The Daydream View costs around $80 and includes the controller, and the controller has a rechargeable battery via USB-C. Cords that come in the box with the Pixel and/or Pixel XL also work with the Daydream Controller. Have a peek at the timeline below for more information on this VR environment.