We had to wait a long time but today it can be ordered: the Oculus Go, the completely standalone VR headset from Facebook-daughter Oculus. The company that was the first to start working with virtual reality a couple of years ago now has a headset that does not require a big PC or a mobile phone, but that does it just when you’re on it put your head. The prize is striking: the Oculus Go is available in two flavors, one with 32GB of internal memory for 220 euros and one with 64 GB for 50 euros more.
That’s a price you might want to think about as a VR-curious, but that must be the thing. I have been able to play with it in recent days and to my surprise I can not really see the difference between the Oculus Go and my Rift connected to the PC. In fact, I can not escape the impression that the quality of the lenses and the screens in the device are even better, and that for less money. Also nice: the sound comes from the headset itself, so that you no longer have to turn over your ears or stop to hear what happens. There is a connection for a separate headset, but if you find that awkward, it does not have to.
There is, however, one aspect of the Rift that the Go does not have and that is that your position in space is not seen. The camera system that comes with the Rift is extra hassle to set up, but it does ensure that you can seriously move in VR. That is not possible with the Go: your head can go in all directions, but that is it. You will have to simulate all other movements in a different way.
The wireless controller that comes with this is perfectly suited for. That is (to keep the comparison on hold) no Touch controller with a separate analog stick and buttons, but a simplified controller with a pinch button for your index finger, a touch area on top, a ‘back’ button and the menu button that you can also use to calibrate. You can hold the latter at any time and then both your view and the position of the controller are restored. In my testing the touchpad was not perfect on top: there seemed to be recorded all kinds of movements that I did not do and vice versa I occasionally rubbed like a malle without the desired result.
Furthermore, the Oculus Go is ergonomically very similar to the Rift, if you ever had it on your head. It does not have the design of a Playstation VR (the only front on which the otherwise very moderate PSVR is superior) but it’s nice and even after an hour or two of playing I did not suffer from that thing on my head. Also to eyeglass wearers is thought by the way, because for that a separate ‘spacer’ is included that you can put in the headset so you do not come with your glasses against the lens. In that sense, the Go is therefore very suitable to watch the video in the car or train, for example – although you can no longer see what is happening around you. The headset has no see-through mode or button that lets you see what happens IRL for a while and certainly for something that seems to be meant to be used on the go, that is a loss. That said it is quite nice to watch the latest Netflix series on an admitted virtual but huge screen in the app.
More than 1000 apps
Speaking of apps: the Oculus Store is already filled with all kinds of apps that are also pleasantly priced, if you do not have them for anything can play. That also has to do with the fact that the Go is simply not as powerful as a Rift or HTC Vive with a full PC behind it, so the apps are closer to the things that you on a Gear VR looks at the ‘real’ VR games: it is exactly in between. Of course, there are many video viewers where you can watch images in 360 degrees, but there are already a lot of fun free games.
With all those apps in the Oculus store, there are also at least a hundred that are either new or fully adapted for the Go, so even if you already have some VR experience there is something going on, and so to speak for not all to bite too much. That’s right, because many of the games and apps are things that you play or watch once and then you go on to something else. Exceptions are a number of those games that also have an online component, such as Catan VR, Poker VR or – if you want a gamers experience – multiplayer shooter Anshar Online. You can continue to play that in the long term.
Oculus also has high expectations of Oculus Rooms: these are rooms (comparable to what Mark Zuckerberg left on F8 see last year) where you can hang together with several people and do things like watching TV, playing board games or just chatting. A more extensive variant of this is Oculus Venues which are intended for large concerts, sports competitions or other massive events. Venues will not be launched together with the Go, but will be tested in the US in the course of the year, after which it will probably also come to Europe.
Software aside it is quite impressive what Oculus has managed to cope with technology in this headset without making it very big or very heavy. It is of course not the first step in the wireless VR experience, but it does know how to bridge the power of ‘real’ VR glasses and the ease of use of a separate device. Certainly because it is completely in itself (you need a one-time phone to set up the glasses and then you are done with it) this is the logical next step in VR, and one that many other manufacturers also want to make. Apparently Oculus does not suffer from a braking advantage, because the Oculus Go just does very well what he has to do, and for that price that is quite remarkable. Will this personally introduce a new VR revolution ? No, but it is a nice gadget.