The tech may not be cut­ting edge, but with no wires, af­ford­able price and 1,000+ games and apps al­ready, Oculus Go is the VR head­set the world’s been wait­ing for

T3 India - - Contents -

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The Oculus Rift kick­started the cur­rent wave of in­ter­est in vir­tual re­al­ity. So far it has proven to be more of a gen­tly lap­ping, Mediter­ranean kind of wave rather than a Mal­ibu-style point break, but there is def­i­nitely a lot of in­ter­est.

Re­al­ity bites

What no­body has quite been able to do so far is put vir­tual re­al­ity in an af­ford­able, sim­ple for­mat that doesn’t re­quire don­ning a mas­sive pair of as­tro­naut gog­gles teth­ered by wires to a PC or con­sole. Okay, there is the Gear VR, also made by Oculus, but that’s only for Galaxy phone own­ers and it re­quires you to use your phone as the screen and pro­ces­sor, which feels a bit weird to us.

But now Oculus has re­leased the Oculus Go and is self-con­tained: the head­set houses the com­puter re­quired to run it, and the fas­tre­fresh­ing LCD screen, which has a res­o­lu­tion of 2560x1440 pix­els and an ex­cel­lent spa­tial sound sys­tem. You also get a sin­gle con­troller, with a thumb pad, two but­tons and a trig­ger.

The res­o­lu­tion is higher than the full-size Oculus Rift, although we wouldn’t say the re­sults are any­where near as good. That’s down to the re­fresh rate be­ing slower at 72Hz to the Rift’s 90Hz, and the fact that your Rift is teth­ered to a mas­sive PC with an ex­pen­sive gam­ing graph­ics chip that costs more than the Oculus Go’s smaller price tag on its own.

As VR head­sets go, the Oculus Go is quite at­trac­tive.

It’s ob­vi­ously been de­signed to sit stylishly in the homes of

‘nor­mal peo­ple’, as op­posed to hard­core gamers, and comes in a chic yet neu­tral putty tone.

It’s the eas­i­est VR head­set we’ve come across to put on, and the most comfortable to wear. That’s not to say it’s en­tirely ob­jec­tively comfortable, be­cause it’s not. But, as large plas­tic masks full of elec­tron­ics that you strap to your face go, it’s hard to imag­ine any­thing more pleas­ant.

Even with glasses on the lenses sit com­fort­ably, and a spacer is in­cluded if you pre­fer them to sit fur­ther away. You can also buy Vir­tuClear cus­tom pre­scrip­tion lenses for the head­set.

VR for be­gin­ners

Us­ing a ma­te­rial sourced from ‘the in­ti­mate ap­parel in­dus­try’ – yes, this is the bra for your face that you’ve al­ways dreamed of! – the Oculus Go sits com­fort­ably over your nose and cheeks, block­ing light ef­fec­tively.

Ad­mit­tedly, the con­troller isn’t amaz­ing. The trig­ger is good but the two sup­ple­men­tary but­tons aren’t very sat­is­fy­ing, and the touch joy­pad thing didn’t ex­actly feel like a pro-gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Set­ting up is easy: down­load the Oculus app to your iPhone or An­droid, cre­ate a new ac­count or log into an ex­ist­ing one, add a credit card if you in­tend to buy apps or games, and pair with your head­set, which will then pair with the con­troller. And that’s it. Com­pared to the HTC Vive this greatly sim­pli­fied ver­sion was among the most pleas­ant set-up pro­cesses of our lives. Yes, Vive pays off with a far more so­phis­ti­cated ex­pe­ri­ence over­all, but at least Oculus Go didn’t re­quire us to stick small cam­eras to the walls with duct tape, then spend 97 hours try­ing to get its Win­dows app to run.

The thing about Oculus Go is that it’s res­o­lutely not aimed at peo­ple who are al­ready well into VR. Some of the most fun things we’ve done in re­cent years (in­volv­ing tech, at least) have been on full-fat Oculus Rift and HTC Vive rigs. There is noth­ing here to match that crazed level of adren­a­line pump­ing, two con­troller, full-body­tracked im­mer­sive glee. With the ma­jor caveat that the Oculus Go is a com­plete cinch to set-up and so af­ford­able, we’ll say that no VR power user is go­ing to be ter­ri­bly im­pressed by it. How­ever, those look­ing to dip a toe into VR for the first time should be knocked out by it.

Vis­ually speak­ing

The qual­ity of the graph­ics is okay, but the field of view (Oculus doesn’t spec­ify what that is) feels de­cid­edly tight. De­vel­op­ers might want to have your in-game char­ac­ter wear­ing a hel­met – or snood, in Oculus Go games – in or­der to ‘ex­plain’ this. It’s not like hav­ing toi­let roll tubes taped to your eyes, as such, but you sure as hell don’t get much pe­riph­eral vi­sion.

Also, if you’re look­ing for ver­sa­tile dual-handed con­trollers, you won’t get them here. Want to phys­i­cally

move around in a 3D VR space? Not on the Go. You can ei­ther stand or sit, with the Go track­ing your head move­ments. This caused us a cer­tain amount of con­fu­sion when play­ing space flight games such as An­shar On­line. With these you steer with your head, as in your ship moves in the di­rec­tion you’re look­ing. To be­gin with we thought there was a bug in the game be­cause we could only steer in a lim­ited way, un­til we re­alised that we needed to be stood up or sat on a re­volv­ing chair in or­der to ex­e­cute a 180. Most games have you mov­ing ‘on rails’, which is prob­a­bly just as well for dum­mies like us.

The Oculus Go’s in­te­grated au­dio sys­tem is ex­cel­lent, though. Speak­ers in the head­set do a very good job of de­liv­er­ing mu­sic, speech and sound ef­fects, giv­ing you a de­cent amount of spa­tial aware­ness where ap­pro­pri­ate. It’s also im­pres­sively loud for you with­out be­ing ex­ces­sively noisy for oth­ers nearby. On that note, if you want to be com­pletely con­fi­dent of not an­noy­ing oth­ers sat in your front room or along­side you on the bus to work, you can plug in some proper head­phones in­stead.

As noted, the Oculus Go’s vi­su­als may be prim­i­tive com­pared to a full-on PC gam­ing rig or cur­rent-gen con­sole, but you still get that ex­tra in­ten­sity that the best VR games all rely on. If you suf­fer from pesky mo­tion sick­ness in ac­tual re­al­ity, un­for­tu­nately you may well get it in vir­tual re­al­ity. Even if you don’t, the ver­tig­i­nous drops of some­thing like Coaster Com­bat gets your adren­a­line pump­ing. Played in non-VR, Coaster Com­bat would seem rea­son­ably dire; VR is trans­for­ma­tive.

The Oculus app store has a lot of quan­tity, with over 1,000 ti­tles, and a fair amount of qual­ity, but there isn’t one app or game we would point to as the must-have, killer ti­tle. That’s hardly sur­pris­ing, as it’s the same even on PlayS­ta­tion VR. Fun­nily enough, that leaves Net­flix

as prob­a­bly the most recog­nis­able ti­tle in the store. If you’re one of the many users of Plex, you can ac­cess all your Plex­i­fied me­dia in VR form. Be­cause of the way VR head­sets work, you can also watch stored or streamed 3D films and pre­tend it’s 2012 again.

As you know, Oculus is owned by Face­book, so it’s nat­u­rally hav­ing to at least pre­tend that there’s a so­cial pur­pose to the Go’s ex­is­tence, and so it makes great play of its com­mu­nal ex­pe­ri­ences. These in­clude an up­dated Oculus Rooms, which lets you doll your­self up as an avatar and in­vite fel­low Oculus users around to your groovy vir­tual pad, where you can hang out, play board games in­clud­ing Bog­gle, and watch movies.

Game on

Oculus Rooms and Oculus TV (the over-arch­ing space within which con­tent providers can ped­dle their wares) are a lot of fun. How­ever, and with the best will in the world, watch­ing a movie on a VR head­set is just not like see­ing it on a big screen. It’s kinda like watch­ing a live video feed of a movie, very, very close to your eye­balls, on a sub-HD screen with a rel­a­tively slow re­fresh rate. It’s po­ten­tially handy on a long plane or train jour­ney, but per­son­ally we’re not go­ing to call up a friend on the other side of the world and watch The Mar­tian like that with them.

Much more use­ful (and weirder) is Oculus Gallery. This en­ables you to view your pho­tos and videos on a sim­i­larly ‘huge’ screen. Be­cause your home movies and pho­tos lack the pro­duc­tion val­ues of a Hol­ly­wood film, this is much less jar­ring. It’s also, fi­nally, the per­fect way to view all those ne­glected panora­mas and 360 videos you’ve shot.

Oculus Gallery dis­plays pho­tos so they’re not only seem­ingly enor­mous, but also in such a way that you feel very near them. In fact, it’s rather like you are lit­er­ally in the pic­ture – when watch­ing a demo video of a tod­dler tak­ing their first steps, the pic­ture was so big we got dis­tracted by ad­mir­ing the decor else­where in the video. A 360 video cam­era’s-eye-view of cats be­ing fed in a Ja­panese cat café, by con­trast, was ab­so­lutely freaky, border­ing on scary. We liked it.

So, we kind of have two ver­dicts to give here. First, those seek­ing the most in­tense gam­ing thrills and a peak into a near-fu­ture world where re­al­ity and com­puter-gen­er­ated fan­tasy are in­dis­tin­guish­able will not find it in the Oculus Go, un­less they’re very eas­ily im­pressed. How­ever, as a sell­able con­sumer de­vice it’s fan­tas­tic and ex­actly what the sec­ond wave of VR has been cry­ing out for since day one and con­sid­er­ing its af­ford­able, it’s hard to get too an­noyed about its lim­i­ta­tions.

Will the Oculus Go rev­o­lu­tionise so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and en­ter­tain­ment? No. But it will open more minds to the pos­si­bil­i­ties of VR. It’s not a door to the fu­ture, rather a stylish hall­way that even­tu­ally leads to that door.

Screen 2560x1440 75Hz Stor­age 32GB, 64GB Weight 468g

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