I think VR is really interesting. I have been following it in science fiction depictions for decades, and I saw my first demos during Dot Com One, circa 2001. I also kept tabs on the Oculus Rift developments, but I was stalled by the price of putting together a high-end PC to run it, as I have standardized on Macs for law school work, and my Xbox One has enough power to run games that I like.
So when Facebook bought Oculus and came out with the stand-alone Oculus Go, I was pretty stoked to be an early-adopter. But after three weeks with my new VR gizmo, I think there are still some design issues that need to be worked out before the Oculus Go will become ubiquitous.
But first, I do want to speak about the good things about this VR helmet. The standalone feature is really awesome, as it means I don’t have to tether it to a PC, and when it is fully charged it becomes as mobile I am (with certain restrictions). The reduced weight is low enough to wear it for hours at a time, and the breathable strap system fits well, with plenty of Velcro for adjustments. I also like the prescription glass interior extension, which I seriously needed, and the fact that prescription lens inserts are available for it at launch time is also a nice feature.
Now for the Oculus Go issues…
The resolution is painfully low, and bandwidth issues make the issue worse. The entire interface is fuzzy around the edges, and when the system is trying to put together content, scaling goes from bad to worse.
Along with the low-resolution issues, the avatar creation system is awkward, resulting in what looks like an animated Playschool figure for yourself. For combination venues, where several VR users can get together, this results in a group of these weird, low-res avatars getting together. I couldn’t imagine running a real-world conference in VR this way.
There’s a LOT of shovelware out there. I couldn’t find a really compelling app in the bunch in my three-week search. The system has a bunch of low-res demos, but nothing stood out. The most compelling games were multiple versions of VR roller-coasters, which gave me a serious dose of motion sickness the first time I used them. The most compelling video apps were location-based travel apps, including a seafood market in Shanghai and a tour of the Galapagos islands, and even a walkthrough of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor account site. I’m not giving up on finding the right immersive game / app, but it sadly hasn’t;t shown up yet.
The hardware interface is awkward. You’re supposed to be able to connect to a Mac or a PC via USB, but all I got was a “System is Locked” message I really couldn’t understand. Therefore moving files over to the Oculus Go was a no go. This was sad, because I really wanted an easy way to kick back and watch my own movie files in the various theater modes for this device.
The power cord appears to be 2 feet long. That means I can’t charge the device and even move my head, or stand up, without yanking things around.
There should be a locator button for the controller on the VR unit, because being inside the VR space means you can’t see where you put down the controller. I lost mine for about a week that way. Hitting the locator button would make the controller beep, so locating it would be much easier…
There should an outside camera for the main VR unit, and an app to “see out” through it. This would stop the crazy situation of having to drop out of immersive VR for simple extrinsic activities, like checking on a kitchen timer, and would also stop most VR accidents, where the area you see in VR isn’t the same area you’re trying to move through.. This outside camera would also be a way to bring snapshots and videos from the outside world into the VR world. If I’m using Facebook VR, I have to have a way to get cute live cat pictures into my posts, right? 🙂
The exterior of the Oculus Go should be streamlined. There’s no reason to have such sharp angles on the device.
Exterior colors for the Oculus Go would be good, as well. Grey is grey, after all, but what about red, green blue etc etc etc? My personal favorite color would be clear, with LED lights inside… some variety would be nice.
To close, even with all of these caveats, I’m still not giving up on the Oculus Go just yet. I think the unit does what it should OK as a VR demo unit, and I hope that changes right around the corner will improve the Oculus Go into an iPod / iPhone -like device.