Oculus Go Shows Everyday VR Is Almost Here

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Oculus Go Shows Everyday VR Is Almost Here
May 27, 2018
Facebook's new Oculus Go

 

Virtual reality has been held back from sitting in every living room for plenty of practical reasons, not least price, comfort and the fact that having a bulky headset on is not the most sociable experience.

 

So far, VR headsets have been for the few, not the many - those able to splash £400 on a headset plus a powerful gaming laptop to go with it, not to mention the games.

 

Which is why Facebook's new Oculus Go headset is different. It is touted as the VR experience that anyone can enjoy. Facebook chief executive said the new device would be "the easiest way to get into VR". The Oculus Go comes in at a reasonable £199.

 

Plenty of first-looks at the Oculus Go are saying this could be the first piece of VR tech that you can give as a gift. It's no longer a headset for techie early-adopters, but the one you give to someone else.

 

So just how good is Facebook's Oculus Go, and is it time to finally buy into VR, for yourself or a friend? 

 

Oculus Go: design and feel

The first thing to note about the Oculus Go is it is a standalone virtual reality experience. This means that the headset requires no PC to hook up to, or mobile phone to plug in. Other mobile headsets, like Google's Daydream View come in cheaper, but require you to have bought an expensive Google Pixel smartphone to work.

The Oculus Go gives you VR in one tidy package. It comes in a pretty dull grey (so you won't stand out, but will still look ridiculous while using it). The Oculus Go weighs 468g, which is about the same as most other headsets, so it still feels a little heavy sat on your head.

 

The elasticated straps are a fairly snug fit, and the Oculus Go cleverly fits its speakers into the plastic strapping, so you can listen without needing separate headphones, although some sound does leak out.

 

It comes with a single handed controller, which has a trigger, home and back buttons and swipe pad. It is intuitive to use, although does limit some of the applications for games.

 

One annoyance is a degree of light leak into the headset, which no matter how I tried to set it still allowed some daylight to disrupt the VR landscape around me.

 

Screen and performance

The Oculus Go is fundamentally built to beat out mobile VR, with a Snapdragon 821 processor and 5.5-inch, 2560 x 1440 resolution screen panel. These specs aren't particularly world-beating, but it has helped keep the price down. 

 

In terms of the viewing experience, the Oculus Go is solid but doesn't exactly blow away the competition. The fast switch LCD displays look decent enough, although from time to time the screen appears over-bright or grainy, while white colours in particular seemed to blur no matter how I adjusted the headset. It is good enough to counteract the kind of motion sickness that some people associate with really bad VR image quality.

There are only a handful of decent games which look great, like futurist flight game Anshar

 

The battery life is just over two and a half hours, which is probably plenty unless you are a real VR head who wants to spend hours watching films or playing games in your VR cave. The charge time is long, however, taking around three hours to get back to full.

 

Killer apps, or lack of

Sadly, the big issue for virtual reality remains that there are hardly any decent games or apps to while away the hours on. The Oculus Go is no exception. 

 

There are a couple of fun and distracting apps to explore. Melody VR, for example, lets users immerse themselves in gigs and concerts, essentially streaming gigs in a virtual experience. This can let users get up close and personal at shows, and Melody say there are more experiences like live gigs coming soon.

Melody VR is almost an iTunes for virtual reality  CREDIT: MELODY VR

 

But for the most part, Oculus Go is a portal to a hundred fairly mindless gaming experiences. Most of these games sit between VR "experiences", where players have few choices as a story plays out around them, or "coaster shooters", where you ride a one-track experience like a roller coaster or a racing car. There are one or two passable flight simulators which you will have to pay for, and plenty of buggy free ones.

 

Games can be downloaded through the Oculus Store, which links up to a smartphone over Wi-Fi.

 

Due to the more limited features, you are also not likely to get any triple A games on the Oculus Go, so hardcore gamers will want to look elsewhere.

 

Social VR: Facebook's big pitch

Facebook believes that for virtual reality to truly take off, you need to make the experience social. That is why they have launched Oculus Rooms, essentially a rec-room within your virtual reality space where you can meet and chat to friends in virtual avatar form.

 

In each player's Room, which they can design themselves, users can listen to music, play simple board games or watch Netflix on a giant screen. 

 

This is an experience that is meant to be shared, and it works well in the demonstration I was given by Oculus staff. Yet are social VR experiences really about to take us into a Ready Player One-like universe? It still doesn't feel that way.

Facebook thinks you will spend time like this in VR CREDIT: OCULUS

 

Facebook has attempted to drum up interest in social VR before, but for now it doesn't appear like Facebook Spaces, its social VR push for Oculus Rift, is going to come to its new headset.

 

For now it's a fragmented experience. Rooms and Spaces are totally separate experiences and neither quite work. We are pretty sceptical about social VR. For now, the real social experience of VR, for us at least, is taking off the headset to share a cool video or 360-picture with your friends.

Watching films in Oculus Go

 

Verdict

For all the shortcomings of social VR, the Oculus Go is probably the easiest, takes-all-comers virtual reality experience you can buy. At just under £200, you can take off into a virtual world that would set you back significantly more on most other market leading headsets.

 

As a reasonably priced VR experience the Oculus Go ticks the right boxes, however the fundamental lack of decent apps still hold it back for now. 

 

Facebook and Oculus set out to make a cheap, everyday VR experience. At that I think they have succeeded. As a novelty that can be passed around for a quick game or video the Oculus Go is a perfect distraction. Whether a decent price and easy set up alone can make VR a mainstream experience remains to be seen.

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