There was more than enough news to digest from the Oculus Connect 5 (OC5) conference this week, but the headliner was the Oculus Quest VR headset. Under the project name Santa Cruz, this has been the long-awaited standalone HMD to follow up on the successful Oculus Go. The latter is more of a 360° headset with a low price and stripped down features (only 3DOF tracking) to match.
Oculus Quest comes feature-packed with good graphics, 6DOF tracking and of course, no cable. In cutting the cord, room-scale VR suddenly takes on a whole new meaning; you’re no longer confined to remaining within the range of base stations. That could present a new issue – bumping into your surroundings (a few experienced that at OC5).
At $399 for the complete unit, the Oculus Quest VR headset is a steal given what we’ve been paying for decent HMDs which need a gaming PC. The final verdict will only come when it hits the market, but the early reviews are promising.
Oculus Quest VR headset
Here are a couple of quick takes on the device (unfortunately, conflicting events kept us from being at OC5 this year). For a quick video overview, Engadget provides the essential details.
If you’re looking for a more complete review, take a look at the initial conclusion from Wareable:
The Quest delivers an excellent VR experience. While there is a nose gap to prevent you from feeling fully immersed, it’s easy and comfortable on the head, and I could easily see wearing this for an extended amount of time.
It also provides very good sound, and was able to create a genuinely scary experience with Face Your Fears 2. Scary is hard to do, because immersion needs to be nearly unbroken so you don’t get sucked out of the experience and can stay on edge.
All of this adds up to a freedom that really is liberating. You’ll feel like you can run across a court and smack a tennis ball, or wander around outside a haunted house, or walk down a twisty hallway.
For a counter perspective, CNBC’s Salvador Rodriguez clearly is not a fan. He sees the free-roaming feature and the lack of a killer app as major issues. We disagree on the latter point – VR doesn’t need a killer app, just good technology.
The big question
Wareable and CNBC were not alone in noting that Facebook said nothing about battery life at OC5. With a standalone HMD, that’s a critical issue. Equally critical, the time it takes to recharge the device.
And when the information is not public, it usually means the news is less than ideal (remember Magic Leap and the FoV issue?).
We do have some questions though. We’re still unclear on battery life. We observed a number of Oculus Connect attendants trying out the headsets one after the other, but there’s no telling how many hours of life you’re going to get here.
Moreover, unlike Oculus Go, Quest is being marketed as a gaming device. Businesses and the academic community may tolerate an under three-hour battery life but the gaming community won’t be pleased.
Is this the VR headset we’ve been waiting for?
So is this the HMD that VR needs to go mainstream? It’s hard to say right now, but if it delivers on its promise, it will be a breakthrough device that will make implementing Virtual Reality in education and other areas significantly easier. We are all tired of wrestling with finicky base stations and temperamental HMDs. It’s time for VR to just work.
Stay tuned as we’ll add more reviews as they appear.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.