Google is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece in virtual-reality films and programs, part of a plan to line up exclusive content for the debut of its new Daydream service in the coming weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.
Google will help promote projects from Hulu LLC and fund the production of 360-degree videos with YouTube stars like the Dolan twins and Justine Ezarik, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deals. The division of Alphabet Inc. has also partnered with video-game producers and sports leagues to boost its biggest virtual-reality initiative.
“It’s apparent they’ve spent a lot of money internally,” said Finn Staber, co-founder of TheWaveVR, a virtual-reality startup developing a music app for Daydream.
The company is relying on apps, shorts and games to promote Daydream, a hybrid store and software service that Google hopes will be the dominant way people engage in virtual reality, much like Android is for smartphones. An update to Android software that will support Daydream began rolling out Monday. The idea is to encourage the growth of the technology and ensure Google maintains a central role in helping people find things to watch.
Google is entering what has quickly become a crowded marketplace, with products from Facebook Inc., Sony Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. Whereas Sony’s Morpheus headset is tethered to its PlayStation video-game console, Google is focused on mobile-based VR, whereby consumers snap their phones into a visor or headset. With the headset on, Daydream presents users with an array of apps, from YouTube to HBO Now.