Oculus Quest review: can this save VR?


– When I reviewed Facebook’s
Oculus Rift in 2016, I thought it might be the
start of something huge. But VR hasn’t blown up the
way a lot of fans hoped. SuperData estimated that
around 354,000 Rifts shipped in 2018 and around 4.2
million headsets shipped across all the major brands. For contrast, Sony alone shipped more than 17 million
PlayStation 4s that year. VR had a long history in
training, medicine, design, and research before the Oculus Rift and it’s still big in those fields. But home entertainment is another matter. A lot of VR headsets are still expensive or they’re not very comfortable or they’re just sort
of weird and isolating. But Facebook, of course,
thinks it has the answer with the Oculus Quest,
a completely standalone VR system that doesn’t need wires, tracking cameras, or a separate computer and can play full-fledged immersive games. The Quest is basically Facebook’s vision of an ideal VR gaming console right now. It solved some of the problems that have kept VR on the margins, but it’s also a compromise. (relaxed music) The Oculus Quest’s first big selling point is something called the Insight system. It uses four built-in cameras
to track your head motion, and a pair of hand controllers
instead of making you set up a whole VR room
with mounted cameras. But there’s a new a Oculus
Rift that uses Insight, too. So the Quest’s big unique selling point is that it’s self-contained. The Quest isn’t connected to a computer and you can use it
basically anywhere indoors, as long as you’re not
completely in the dark. Oculus thinks this makes a
huge difference, and I agree. I’ve been using VR for a long time and I’ve gotten used to
stepping around wires. But not having to worry about tripping while I’m jumping around a sports game or pausing an adventure
game to face the cameras feels even better than I thought it would. The battery lasts around two
hours playing games nonstop, which is longer than
most of my VR sessions. Oculus already has an all-in-one headset called the Oculus Go. But it doesn’t have the
Quest’s sophisticated tracking and it’s meant more for
watching movies in VR, which people keep telling me they like, but I still just can’t get into. The Quest supports some of the best games for just moving your body,
like the rock climbing game, The Climb; the awesome
rhythm game, Beat Saber, which is like Dance Dance
Revolution with lightsabers; and a new VR version of the
Kinect game, Dance Central. There were a lot of questions about whether the Quest’s
tracking and latency would work as well as the Rift. After all, you need to
keep your controllers in view of the Quest’s wide-angle cameras and you don’t have a powerful
gaming PC to run the games. But my experience has been good so far. The Quest has been
responsive and precise enough to play a fast-moving
game like Beat Saber. My controllers have occasionally
lost tracking for a moment, but that also happened with the
Rift’s old external cameras. A lot of companies have either released or announced self-contained headsets. But in our experience, they’re
rough around the edges. They’re mostly geared toward businesses where people don’t always
need to have fun using them. If you are using VR for fun,
you want a seamless experience and that’s what Oculus is
trying to deliver here. It’s simplified things
that used to be annoying. You can just draw a line to set up virtual boundaries, for instance, instead of physically
walking around the room. Like the Oculus Go, once the setup’s done, you can pretty much just
pick it up and start playing. But unfortunately, the Quest
still has some problems that basically no VR company has cracked. The screen is higher-resolution
than the Rift, but it’s still a little grainy. There’s a whole computer and
four cameras in the headset, so it weights substantially
more than the Rift. If I don’t adjust it just right, my head starts hurting very quickly. And look, I’ve used VR a
lot, but I still feel silly and socially awkward wearing the Quest. Oculus has tried to make the experience more natural by adding a casting feature, so people can see what you’re seeing through a Chromecast or NVIDIA Shield. That doesn’t change the fact
that you’re jumping around a room with something
strapped to your face so you can’t see other people. I’m not sure anything can change that. And it’s still a legitimate barrier. Another problem is that
Oculus is owned by Facebook, which is constantly accused
of invading users’ privacy. Oculus says it’s got a
strong privacy policy, but VR is, by definition,
tracking your every move. And people might be rightfully hesitant to give that data up. Maybe it doesn’t matter if
the content’s good enough. The Quest is launching
with about 50 titles and it’s bringing over some
of the Rift’s greatest hits. But it doesn’t include
some of the Rift’s biggest, most gorgeous upcoming games. It’s still got the computing
power of a mobile headset and if you want to guarantee
that you’ll get all the latest and best VR experiences,
it still seems like the Rift is your only option. Oculus seems to be betting
that a lot of people will be happy with a convenient,
lower-powered headset that plays a smaller
number of smaller games. That’s a bet that, honestly, very few companies are making right now. HTC and Microsoft are mostly focused on selling to businesses,
and Google hasn’t said much about its Daydream platform lately. Nintendo just released a very cool VR headset kit for the Switch, but it’s more of a clever toy
than a whole new platform. Sony is the one company that’s making the same play as Oculus. It’s pushed out a lot of
games for the PlayStation VR, which isn’t the most
powerful tethered headset, but is the most successful. It sold more than 4
million units since 2016. Oculus could tap into that market with something that’s
even more convenient. And at $399, the Quest doesn’t cost too much more than the PlayStation VR. I like using the Quest. And I think it’s a good
compromise headset for people who want several of the
best VR games on the market that aren’t worried about
missing some titles. But I’m not sure it’s overcome some of VR’s basic clunkiness
and social awkwardness, and that makes it hard to see as the next big gaming platform. So what’s the non-VR game that you really, really want to play in VR? For me, it’s the fighting game, Zeno Clash, because that game’s incredibly weird and I love punching things in VR. But let me know what you think.

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