We knew that the Oculus team was gearing up to announce an all-in-one virtual reality headset, and the Oculus Go has now been revealed at the Connect 4 conference. That means no wires, no PC and, unlike a lot of devices in this range, no smartphone providing the brains and display. Everything you’ll need for an entry-level VR experience will be included for $199 (and likely the same figure in pounds and euros).
Meet the Oculus Go
Firstly, it’s evident that Oculus has been careful not to displace its flagship Rift device. The Oculus Go is a much closer relative to partnership platform the Gear VR, which requires a Samsung smartphone to act as the eyepiece and computer. According to Zuck, up on stage at Connect 4, the Oculus Go will be compatible with the existing library of Gear VR content, so straight off the shelf it’s going to have a great catalogue of software available.
Details on the hardware design are still a little thin, but it seems clear there’ll be no inside-out tracking, so this is a stationary VR experience. It comes bundled with a Gear/Daydream-style controller, and the displays are a pretty standard spec for all-in-one devices at a resolution of 2560 by 1440. That being said, Oculus promises a “fast-switch” LCD display (thereby reducing latency) built specifically with VR in mind, offering the same field of view as its bigger, tethered brother while reducing glare and the screen door effect.
It has built in spatial audio, with speakers nestled away almost invisibly in the headset straps. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack should you want to plug in your own earphones.
No detail yet on dimension, weight or battery life.
Oculus Go’s Place in the VR Market
You have to wonder if there hasn’t been some awkward conversations between Oculus and Samsung in the lead up to this announcement. While the Oculus Go is undeniably an entry-level VR platform — “your first virtual reality, for all the family!” — it seems that the Oculus Go’s closest contender is previous partner.
But where exactly does it fit into the broader VR landscape? Well, it allows Oculus to take up a very defensible position at either end of the VR market, with the Rift at the premium end and the Go now setting up camp at the budget frontlines. It’s only $199, after all (just $70 more than an empty Gear VR), and while Cardboard and Daydream may appear to have a much smaller price tag on face value, they also need a decent Android smartphone accompaniment. And since Apple doesn’t seem interested in getting into this battle, the Go could reveal itself as a pretty easy decision for tech-hungry iPhone users.
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the Oculus Go from a technical standpoint, but factor in the affordability, pre-built content catalogue and complete VR package, it could be a very smart move.
Speaking of Oculus Go Content
It was announced that Gear VR games and apps will be compatible with the Gear VR’s content, but what wasn’t mentioned was any potential for compatibility with Rift games and apps. It’s a much taller order, admittedly, but there are plenty of VR titles out there that offer an identical experience on the Gear VR as they do in the Rift version, so there’s scope for this brand new piece of kit to beat out its closest rivals in terms of software availability from day one.
“It’s awesome for watching movies or concerts, playing games, or just hanging out with your friends in VR,” proclaims the official blog post over at Oculus, which also hints at other avenues of consumer engagement that Facebook has in mind. Namely, Facebook Spaces; the official VR social platform. The price point and parent branding of the Oculus Go gives it a lot of power, and adoption is likely to be high; and that’s what Facebook (and Google and Samsung and all the other awesome VR brands out there) need.
This is the beginning of the industry’s serious drive to get VR into the mainstream. It’s a gateway drug into VR media consumption for the average smartphone user. Get them watching Netflix, sports, communicating (if you’ve a keen eye, you can see a microphone hole on the bottom of the Oculus Go in the reveal video) and browsing Facebook in a simple and accessible device, and hardware upgrades will become a much easier sell in the future.
Of course, there’s a Vive competitor on the horizon too, which will only strengthen the appeal of these all-in-one VR headsets, so it’s hard to deny that this budget-range Oculus headset is a very smart move.
Dev kits go out in November, and you’ll be able to get yours here on WEARVR in early 2018.