After checking out Oculus' latest headset at PAX East, I'm convinced this is the next major step for VR.
It’s rare that I get to spend some valuable hands-on time with hardware when I go to events like PAX East. While there’s often a large swath of hardware to check out, my schedule at these conventions is instead usually filled with checking out upcoming games rather than new accessories. When I received an invite to go check out the upcoming Oculus Quest VR headset though, I knew I had to make time in my schedule.
For those unaware, the Oculus Quest is the next hardware revision of the famous VR headset, although this time it is a completely independent product. Yes, that means you don’t need to tether it to a PC or anything else in order to strap it to your face and start playing games. It’s a hard thing to imagine at first and coming into my own appointment to check out the Quest, I was hesitant to believe it would work as intended. Boy, I sure was wrong.
The Quest works just as Oculus said it would. As soon as you put the headset on, all you need to do is select what game you want to play and you’re ready to go. There was no calibration needed, no standing in front of a camera to track your movements, nothing. The Quest is as simple as it comes in the realm of virtual reality gaming.
The other staggering thing for myself as someone who owns a PlayStation VR headset was the lack of wires. While I’ve had my own PSVR headset since launch, the one thing I simply cannot stand is how the wires always are lying under my feet. While it’s a small gripe, I’m always nervous I’m going to get too tangled up if I move about more than I should. The Quest is entirely wireless, meaning that you feel even more sucked in to what you’re playing. It felt so much more freeing than what I’m used to and it’s going to be hard to go back to PSVR at this point as a result.
Plus, the lack of any wires makes it all the easier to set up. As it is, if I wanted to go over to a friends house and show off my own headset, I’d have to not only pack my PSVR and all of the necessary wires, but also my PS4 itself. This problem is that much worse if you own an Oculus or Vive where you’d need to essentially bring your entire PC tower with you. The Quest eliminates all of these headaches so that you can evangelize to your friends without hauling around so much gear.
As for what I played on the Oculus Quest, I tried out a few songs in Beat Saber, a game I’m already pretty familiar with. I chose Beat Saber primarily because I wanted to test out the Quest’s built-in listening device and see how well it sounded. Even in the midst of the busy (and loud) show floor at PAX East, I was still able to clearly hear the music pumping out of the device’s speakers very clearly. This proved to me that these speakers are more than capable of being your main way of listening to games. While you can still tether your own headphones to the Quest if you’d like, the fact that I was able to hear so well in a loud area leads me to believe the sound quality would be that much more satisfactory in a quieter environment.
Everything I saw of the Oculus Quest in my brief time with the platform left me incredibly impressed. Even though it won’t boast all of the same games or match the power of the Oculus Rift on a one-to-one scale, the trade-off when it comes to price and accessibility seems more than worth it. Even though I’ve been concerned about the prospect of the VR market growing past where it is now, I think the Quest could be the best chance for virtual reality to get a bit more mainstream once it releases this year.