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Oculus Go hands-on impressions; plus: why it’s important for the VR industry (updated May 2, 2018)

Oculus Go hands-on impressions: real VR for everyone
Oculus Go hands-on impressions: real VR for everyone

Oculus Go was finally released today! Here are my hands-on impressions as an owner of several VR headsets, and my analysis of its potential impact on the industry.  Update: added additional info on using the Oculus Go to view 360 photos and videos.

Using oculus go for 360 photos and videos
oculus go for 360 photos and videos

TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is it?
Intro to VR
Why Oculus Go matters
First Impressions
Using Oculus Go to view 360 photos and videos
Easy setup; software
Where to buy

Six months after it was first announced, Oculus Go has finally been released. It’s a standalone VR headset with no cables, and doesn’t require being connected to a desktop or smartphone, and most of all, it’s relatively affordable at $199. In this post, I will discuss its significance to the VR and 360 industries, along with my first impressions as an owner of all major VR headsets at the moment: the Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, Windows Mixed Reality, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Daydream.  I used to have an htc Vive too, and I will have Lenovo Mirage Solo (a Google Daydream 2.0 headset) by next week.

WHAT IS IT?

Oculus Go affordable standalone VR headset
Oculus Go affordable standalone VR headset

Oculus Go is a VR headset that doesn’t have to be connected to an expensive desktop or high-end smartphone, and it needs no cables.  It is also one of the most affordable VR headsets.  Whereas some VR headsets can cost $399 or more, the Oculus Go comes in at $199.   It’s designed to make VR accessible to everyone.

Intro to VR

If you’ve never tried at least the Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream, or any of the desktop-based VR headsets, then it can be hard to understand what VR is like.

Babies aren’t born with a sense of objective reality.  Instead, they first believe that if they stop seeing something, then it must have disappeared from existence.  This is why peek-a-boo is surprising and delightful to babies — mommy seemingly disappears and magically reappears.  But babies quickly learn that there is a world out there that has an independent existence, that even if they lose sight of an object, the object is still there, i.e., object permanence.

Virtual reality creates an illusion that virtual objects have permanence.  It has nothing to do with how realistic the graphics are.  Rather, VR creates this illusion by displaying objects that seem to stay solidly in place regardless of how you move your head. When a VR headset does this accurately, your mind is persuaded to believe that the objects have their own independent existence just like objects in the real world, hence virtual reality.

You may have tried Google Cardboard and wondered, isn’t that VR?  Yes and no.  Yes in the sense that it has a similar function of tracking your head movement and allowing you to look around a photo or video or even a game.  However, the tracking on a Cardboard headset is not as good as a ‘real’ VR headset.  The end result is that with a Cardboard headset, you remain fully aware that whatever you’re viewing exists “in” the headset, instead of fooling you into feeling that they exist outside the headset.

True VR has such persuasive power that some new users have jumped face first onto the floor, believing that they were jumping down some virtual platform (search YouTube).  And of course, VR has famously persuaded Mr. Zuckerberg to take a figurative leap himself — to invest billions into Oculus to develop VR for the masses.

Of course this description doesn’t really convey the sensation of being “in” VR.  It’s one of those things that must be experienced first hand.

WHY OCULUS GO MATTERS

Oculus Go is just the latest headset to become available — what impact could it possibly have?

Until now, decent quality VR (excluding Google Cardboard) has been available to very few people.   Desktop VR systems such as Oculus Rift, htc Vive and Windows Mixed Reality all require a desktop with a powerful graphics card.  Other than gamers, most consumers simply don’t have such a PC (and Mac owners only recently got the chance to use htc Vive, and only if they bought Macs costing thousands of dollars).  The most accessible desktop VR system is the Playstation VR, which requires a Playstation 4 (indeed, the PSVR has the widest user base among all desktop VR systems).

It’s possible to get affordable decent-quality VR with a $99 Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream, but those mobile VR headsets require high-end phones.  Gear VR works only with Samsung S6 or above.  Daydream works only with a few Android phones.  Perhaps more importantly, excluding Cardboard, there is no ‘real’ VR headset available for iPhone users.

For the many people who would otherwise not have access to a desktop VR system, or a decent quality mobile VR system, Oculus Go provides a way of getting access to decent quality VR.  And yes, it’s available for iOS as well.

First impressions

I already have several VR headsets but I was still excited to try Oculus Go.  Oculus Go looks similar to the Oculus Rift, but they’re actually different.  Besides being white / gray, Oculus Go is made out of a more rigid plastic.  Oculus Go’s lenses are also smaller than those of the Rift.

Ergonomics: Oculus Go feels reasonably comfortable.  However, I did not see any diopter (like the Gear VR) or a way to adjust the distance between the lenses (like the Rift).

The Go does feel a little lighter than the Gear VR or Google Daydream.  More importantly, Go feels much more balanced, whereas the Gear VR and Daydream feel front-heavy when a phone is inserted.

Another thing I liked about the Oculus Go is its invisible speakers.  It doesn’t have built-in earphones but it does have speakers that are invisible yet mysteriously direct sound to your ears (the secret is that the sound is channeled through the headstrap frame).  The speakers feature spatial audio that will change the sound depending on which way you are facing, so you won’t need to wear earphones, although it does have a standard 3.5mm earphone jack.

Display:

I thought the Oculus Go looked pretty good with barely any screendoor effect.  The display and tracking accuracy felt similar to that of the 2017 Samsung Gear VR.  It is much sharper than the Rift or Vive.  This is not surprising, considering that the Oculus Go’s display is 2560 x 1440 (5.5-inch, 538 ppi), higher than the resolution of the Rift or Vive (2160 x 1200), and comparable to the resolution of a Samsung S8+ (2960 x 1440, 529 ppi).

The Oculus Go uses fresnel lenses and does have a bit of flare (aka “god rays”) when viewing bright objects against dark backgrounds.

The Oculus Go’s diagonal field of view is almost the same as that of the Rift, but somehow it looks squarish while the Rift’s looks somewhat round, so the Go’s field of view feels smaller.

Tracking:

Oculus Go has 3-axis rotational tracking, like the Samsung Gear VR.  This means it can track your head movement, but cannot track horizontal or vertical movement.  To get the best experience with Oculus Go, I highly recommend using it while on a swivel chair.

In terms of performance, Oculus Go uses a Snapdragon 821 and uses foveated rendering.  It was able to smoothly play apps that can be challenging for my Samsung S6, such as Cerevrum and the opening sequence in Suicide Squad.

oculus go for 360 photos and videos
oculus go for 360 photos and videos

Viewing 360 photos and videos:

Oculus Go works well for viewing 360 photos and videos.  As I mentioned above, its display is actually sharper than that of the Rift.

It’s easy to load photos or videos on Oculus Go.  I just connected the Go to my desktop via the USB cable, and a dialogue box showed up in the Go to confirm that it’s ok to allow the desktop to access the files.  Once I confirmed that, the Oculus Go’s folders appeared in Windows Explorer.  I transferred videos to the Movies folder and photos to the Pictures folder.  In Oculus Go, they appeared in the Gallery menu option, under Internal Storage.

Oculus Go was able to display a 134mp photo from the Panono (16384 x 8192) from local storage with no issues.  It also had no problems with 4k video or 4K 3D video, and played them back smoothly with spatial audio.  It was also able to correctly recognize the 3D 360 video without having to change the settings.  However, it could not play a 6K 3D 360 video nor a 6K 2D 360 video (5760 x 2880) — the screen was simply black.

I also tried watching 4K 3D 360 video from YouTube (using the Oculus browser app).  The first time I tried it, it could not play the video smoothly but it turned out that it was because the Go was downloading apps at the same time.  Otherwise, it was able to play 4K 3D 360 at 60fps (the Blu: Whale Encounter) smoothly.  However, it could not play 8K 360 videos.

Oculus Go with controller
Oculus Go with controller

Controller:  Oculus Go includes a controller with a clickable touchpad, trigger, back button and menu button.  The controller has 3-axis rotational tracking, just like the headset.    The controller’s tracking accuracy seems similar to that of the Gear VR, and better than Daydream’s controller tracking.

One issue re compatibility is that Oculus Go has no touchpad on the headset, unlike the Gear VR.  And so far I haven’t been able to pair it with a Bluetooth gamepad that otherwise works with the Gear VR.  As a result, I haven’t been able to play some of the games that require a gamepad such as Hero Bound.  Hopefully they will enable gamepad support in the future.

No expandable memory:  Oculus Go doesn’t seem to have a Micro SD or SD card reader, which would have been nice.

Battery and charging: Oculus Go has a battery that lasts about 2 hours for video or 1 hour for games.  It can be charged via a Micro USB port on the side, and it’s possible to charge it while using it.

Easy setup; software

Setting up the Oculus Go is easy. You simply need to download the new Oculus app for Android or iOS.   After turning on the Oculus Go, it will pair automatically with your app.  The app will then update the software on the Oculus Go.  After the Oculus Go is setup, it’s ready to be used independently from a phone.

Oculus Go uses the Samsung Gear VR’s software and has the same exact interface as Gear VR.   This is good because Gear VR has a very solid library of over 1,000 games, apps, and 360 videos.  If you already have Gear VR, games that you purchased will also be available for use with Oculus Go.  I saw a few titles that seemed like they might be exclusive to Gear VR, although I haven’t confirmed that.

Where to buy

Oculus Go is available on Amazon with either 32GB ($199) or 64GB ($249).  I highly recommend getting the 64GB version because VR apps and 360 videos take up a lot of space.  With 32GB, you’ll find yourself constantly deleting apps and videos.  Even 64GB is actually not a lot.

You can bookmark this page – I will be updating this page with a more detailed review of the Oculus Go.

About the author

Mic Ty

35 Comments

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    • Hi Jeremy. If you upload the MiSphere to youtube or any of the Gear VR 360 video sharing apps, yes. I will also try to see if there’s a way to transfer the file directly to the Go’s memory for local playback.
      Best regards,
      Mic

      • Thank you Mic

        I must admit my interest is uploading stills or videos from my MiSphere of places I have visited to act as a record of events to the Oculus Go. I travel a fair bit and this can help me remember where I have been when I no longer frequent these places.

        I will be so very interested if the system can handle this scenario.

        Many thanks.
        Kind regards
        Jeremy

  • What surprises me in your headset reviews is that you seem to have always ignored the Nibiru Standalone headsets that have been available for at least two years on EBay, GearBest and other online stores at very low prices (between $70 and $160).

    Those headsets are designed primarily as VR video viewers and are outfitted with a microSD card port as well as flash drive ports. Some of them even feature HDMI-in ports. It is one of those that I acquired over a year ago to view all the 180 and 360 content (both 2D and 3D) that I was interested in. My headset actually can play 3D 4K 360 clips. In fact it can play just about any format of 180, 360 or regular 2D or 3D content.

    So the price I (and many others) paid to step into a VR experience is still much lower than that of the Oculus Go.

    • Hi Francois. I prefer to review only products that I’ve personally tested and I can’t test them all. I didn’t get the Nibiru because, among other things, the lack of software for it. Anyway I’m glad it works for you for viewing videos and photos. In that regard, i updated the Oculus impressions re performance for photos and videos http://360rumors.com/2018/05/oculus-go-review.html#video
      best regards,
      mic

      • > I can’t test them all

        Well, in this case, it looks like you’ve tested just about every other one but a Nibiru ! 🙂

        > I didn’t get the Nibiru because, among other things, the lack of software for it

        I’m a bit puzzled by this comment. Nibiru is not a product but an OS consisting of a 3D skin over an Android OS. The skin itself acts as an app designed to play any VR or 3D media (no stills) which are tagged when first opened so they will open in their respective formats when clicked afterwards. In other words, you could have a 3D 180, a 2D 360 and a 3D movie file all in the same folder and Nibiru will play each file in its respective format without any further adjustments. The Nibiru OS is used on many of the Chinese standalones.

        Anyhow, my point here is that those headsets are extremely low cost and have been around for two years. In other words, there have been for some time now low-cost options to explore VR even though their initiators did not have the marketing power of the much larger enterprises that are now introducing such products.

    • Hi Francois. At CES 2017 (not 2018) I tried several standalone headsets from China. I don’t know if they were Nibiru but most of them were laggy.
      Anyway, is it true that the headsets are limited to 1080p at 30fps? That’s what I saw on Amazon…
      Best regards,
      Mic

      • I have never experienced lag with my unit. The unit I have has a 1080p display. Some Nibiru headsets have 2K displays. As I mentioned elsewhere, I have played 4K 3D 360 clips on it without any problems. But I can’t vouch for all the other devices using Nibiru.

        All I am saying is that these devices have been around for two years and did offer a low cost option to try out the VR “effect” without spending a fortune. It may not be the best but it’s good enough to help one determine if one wants to spend serious money on it. Let’s see if a two-hundred dollar device (Oculus Go) succeeds in catching the public’s attention. I personally doubt it. I think most people will just be content viewing the odd VR clip on their phone with a five-dollar viewer !

    • Interesting, must admit I hadn’t paid attention to these headsets and had been gradually losing interest in my “cardboard” headsets, the Homido v2 is half decent though I suppose…do you have a link for yours ? I can only see 170€+ models on GB right now so with the Oculus Go now out I can’t see them generating more interest…

      • > do you have a link for yours ?

        At this point, I am not sure I would recommend mine simply because it has a 1080p display. It was a great way to acquaint myself with 3D 360 and 3D 180 viewing because I essentially downloaded clips from the net and viewed them on this low-cost headset.

        Since then, they have introduced a few 2K headsets that are close in price to the Oculus Go. Not sure which would be best. I personally dislike fresnel lenses so I really would need to test a Go before purchasing one. What I like about the Nibiru headsets is they have USB, micro USB and micro SD card ports. Some even have HDMI-in.

        The 2K model is the XGody S900 at US$190 postpaid. For 1080p, there’s a Cawono model at US$107.25 and a Shinecon model on eBay for US$122.50. Keep in mind I have tested none of these so you’re on your own.

        • Thanks for the insight, yes a 2K model would probably make more sense now and be a definite improvement over my 1080p Lenovo P2. These Nibiru headsets do look interesting but the XGody, like te Oculus GO, doesn’t seem to have any width or focus adjustments like say the Homido v2. This seems like a strange oversight (technical issue maybe ?) as I’ve found that this allows for some much needed tweaking sometimes.

          I’m also a bit wary of the comfort level as headsets generally rest on my nose, which is quickly unbearable ! The Homido is decent in that respect but the lenses get easily fogged up…The Oculus Go is apparently quite good for both these potential issues.

  • Some believe headsets are not the right interface for virtual reality and will be replaced with other technologies in the long run. We’re probably still at least a decade away from that point.
    Headsets where you need to add a phone are only an intermediary technology and I think they will fade from the market starting with the Go and the other headsets that become available in 2018.
    I produce 360 content for my own leisure, though it’s only 4k. For a better experience it should be 8K and 16k for true VR. It’s not the resolution that kept me from using headsets though. I rarely bother putting on a headset, because of the wires and the fiddling with the phone. More expensive solutions like the Rift never impressed me.
    I think the Go is a great solution for where we are technology wise today. Battery time, screen resolution, storage size, CPU power are factors that need work and can be worked on. We’ll go through updating these cycles until we get decent quality VR. The devices to help us create immersive content will keep getting better as well meanwhile.

    • I think it basically has to do with most people’s reluctance to strap on a big headset to their heads and the fact that, although it immerses them, it also isolates them. In Japan, there actually are VR theaters so that many people can experience the same things together.

      • Hi Francois. Yes that’s a good point. And it seems FB is thinking along the same lines, so it has added features for share photos, videos and live streams from your vr view.
        Best regards,
        Mic

    • Thanks Sascha. I agree, inconvenience is a big issue and so the Go is indeed helpful for that. So far, I have found it a pleasure to use.
      best regards,
      mic

  • Between Occulus Go and Kimax 4k, what is better? i would use it less for games, and more for videos and photos

    • Hi Paul. I’ve tried pimax 4k only a couple of times and that was more than a year ago, so I don’t have a reliable answer to that at the moment. But at VRLA, if I see a pimax 4k, i’ll try to compare.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Hi, Mic.

    Thanks for your review. Maybe you can help me with a question. I am a photographer and I am looking for a VR device where I can share my clients pictures, 2D, 360º and stereoscopy images.

    So far, it has been easy to solve the problem with android users as I have cheap VR headsets and bluetooth joysticks. I send them a link of an album inside my google photos and they browse the stereo pics easy. My problems is with iPhone users as bluetooth controllers are more expensive and hard to find.

    I though that would be great to have the oculos go as an option for clients that would use to display my architectural pictures and their portfolio as I is a great device for their entertainment too.

    Do you think that, after loading the pictures inside oculos, it would display stereo pictures correctly? I just need a way to have them displayed at full screen size, without any distortion and to be able to browse inside its album with the oculos controller.

    Hope you have good news for me…

    Thanks!

  • Hi, I finally managed to transfer my Insta360 movies to my Oculus Go using Android File Transfer but when I go to galleries I have no data. Could it be that the the oculus does not support .insv and .insp format from the insta360 One. If so, do you have any suggestions for the best way to convert my videos and pictures. Thank you

    • Hi Alex. You need to stitch the insv and insp first. Use insta360 studio to do that. Open the insp and insv files in insta360 studio, select the options you want (e.g. gyroscopic correction) and specify the save directory and file name, then click on “export” button. You can then put the stitched files into the Oculus Go’s Picture or Movie folder as the case may be.
      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Great article!

    I have done this with GearVR and Daydream, but I’m not sure if it’s an option with the new GO headset.

    I don’t need to use the camera or take pictures with the go headset, I simply want to view the pictures that I took with the Ricoh Theta on my go headset. That way I can take the 360 pictures, upload them to the headset, and then put them on and view them through the Ricoh Theta app whenever I’d like.

    Is that possible?

    Do you think the go headset could handle these 360 jpegs natively?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Matt. Yes you can. There are several ways to do this. One way is to connect the headset to your desktop via USB. Then copy the 360 files into a directory in the headset called Pictures. The photos will then appear in the headset’s gallery. It will auto detect 360 or 3D 360. you can also do this for videos.
      best regards,
      Mic

  • Hi Mic. Have you tried Lenovo Mirage photos and videos in the Oculus Go yet? I doubt that they would work correctly viewed as raw files. But probably need to be viewed through Google photos and YouTube. Appreciate your thoughts.

    Bill

    • Hi Bill. Funny, I was testing that this morning. I haven’t found a way to view VR180 photos correctly on Gear VR. When I use the browser to navigate to Google Photos and then view the VR180 photo, it is shown as a static / non-360 cropped photo. When I use the Gallery app to view the photos stored in my phone’s memory, they don’t show up. Haven’t tried putting them in the Oculus Go’s internal storage yet but i suspect it will not be viewable either.
      Best regards,
      Mic

    • Hi Mark! Yes you can put 360 photos or videos in the internal memory and view them in 360. For videos, the video must be 4K or less so fusion videos must be rendered as 4k. For photos, I’ve tested 16K with Panono (134mp) and there was no problem, so panohero 65mp will be ok.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • how does it compares to your gearvr ? is battery life better ? you say it less front heavy but does it makes a noticeable difference in term of comfort for short/long cessions ? is 72hz noticeable better than 60hz ? is the new lens much better than the one on gearvr (no god rays on gearvr) ?

  • Mic,

    Is there way to control the headset while not wearing it? For example putting students in the headset and then controlling the content they are watching. Think Google Expeditions. Also is there a way to mirror what the user is seeing in the headset on an external display in some way?

    Thanks,

  • I got my Go this week and I absolutely love it! The screen image quality is just fantastic with no lag. And so easy to use, just pop i ton and go.

    I have just transferred some of my photos today, and they look fantastic. They were taken on a mi-sphere and post processed to improve the image quality.

    The only issue I have is scale, they look super big. Mic, or anyone else, any idea if the scale can be changed?

    Maybe in app, with another app, or some form of post process? Maybe its just a side effect of 360 cameras.

    I have tried some apps on the Go, and the scale is spot on.

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