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Oculus Go: should you get Facebook’s affordable standalone mobile VR headset?

Oculus Go affordable standalone VR headset
Oculus Go standalone VR headset

At Oculus Connect, Oculus revealed its $199 headset announced back in July.  How is it different from other VR headsets and should you buy one?

As of Q3 2017, VR has not yet become mainstream.  There are several reasons, including cost – VR headsets are perceived to be too expensive and the requirements for a PC capable of running one are too steep.  Although VR adoption has been slow, mobile VR headsets have been getting a bit better headway.  The most popular VR headset right now (excluding Google Cardboard) with over 5 million users as of January 2017 is Samsung’s Gear VR (reviewed here), a mobile VR headset that uses high end Samsung phones to provide VR with 3 degrees of freedom (it can track pitch, roll, yaw).

Could mobile VR headsets such as Gear VR be the key to making VR mainstream, and if so, how do you improve it?  Those questions seem to be what Facebook and Oculus had in mind with the Oculus Go, their new standalone mobile VR headset.

Oculus Go looks pretty much like the Oculus Rift’s headset, except that it is light gray instead of black.  In terms of function, it appears to be similar to (and indeed compatible with) Samsung Gear VR, and will have access to the entire Gear VR library, in addition to its own library.  However, unlike the Gear VR, it is standalone and you can immediately pick it up and use it — you won’t need to connect it to a phone.  This solves two issues with the Gear VR: you won’t need to have a high-end phone to run it, and you can immediately use it without having to attach your phone to it.  Moreover, at $199, it costs significantly less than a high end Samsung phone.

Oculus Go also includes a motion controller, similar to the motion controller included with the 2016 and 2017 Samsung Gear VR.

Oculus hasn’t disclosed the screen resolution, saying only that the screen is high resolution and will have less screendoor effect.  The Go also has spatial audio.

Oculus Go will be available in early 2018.

Is it worth getting?

If you don’t have a Samsung Gear VR yet, I think it could be the most practical VR headset to get.  No, you won’t get the immersiveness of a desktop VR headset because there are only 3 and not 6 degrees of freedom (i.e., it can’t track forward, sideward, or vertical movement).  But if you stay seated on a swivel chair, it can provide a reasonably good VR experience.  Moreover, if you are watching 360 videos or photos, then the experience will be about as good as that of a desktop VR headset.  This could be a great headset for 360 photo or video professionals who want to showcase their work to clients.

If you already have a Samsung Gear VR, the key advantage of the Oculus Go is that you can immediately pick it up and use it.  It seems like it’s not a big deal but I think it would be much more convenient, especially if your phone has a case.   It could be the difference between deciding to view something in VR or being lazy and just viewing it by swiping the smartphone screen.

Another factor to consider is the Oculus Go’s exclusive library.  However, I don’t think there will be many apps that are developed exclusively for Oculus Go when developers could instead create apps for Gear VR that will be compatible with both Gear VR and Go.  But that’s just my speculation.

I think Oculus Go will have measurable impact on the industry especially in the US.  In the US, the most popular phone is still the iPhone, and there isn’t really a true VR headset for iPhone (again excluding Cardboard).  Moreover, smartphones are among the most important personal devices, and the Go liberates us from needing to consider VR capability when choosing a smartphone.  Therefore I believe the Go can expand the VR market by appealing to people who have previously never considered a mobile VR headset (especially iPhone users).

If you’re interested in Oculus Go, you can sign up to be notified here.  In the meantime, check out the other announcements from Oculus Connect at our friends at Immersive Shooter.  I will definitely order the Go as soon as it becomes available.