We tested the Oculus Go
Autonomous, cheap and fun, the latest model from Oculus sets a new standard for virtual reality headphones.
Hitherto best known for its Rift virtual reality headset, Oculus is changing its guns and launching a standalone headset that works without being connected to a PC or a game console and without the need for the screen of a smartphone. All electronics are built into the headset, which only needs to be recharged to work. It will still have to configure it from a smartphone, if only to connect it to the Wi-Fi network and to supply it with content. The operation is done quickly: once launched the Oculus app (for Android and iOS), simply log in to your Oculus or Facebook account, and choose which games or virtual reality videos to transfer to the headset’s built-in memory (32 GB). Some of these contents are paid, between 0.99 and 9.99 euros, others free. Oculus claims that a thousand apps, games and videos are already available, including those for Gear VR. We can also view with the headset the photos stored on the mobile and take the opportunity to invite friends to join us in the virtual universe accessible with the Oculus Go. This is the real good idea of this model, as we will see. The other good surprise is the price of the product: 219 euros.
An elegant look
Physically, the Oculus Go is rather attractive with its minimalist design and pleasant to the touch gray coating. Elastic straps keep it on the head. It will be necessary to take care to adjust them well so that the effect of immersion is perfect without compressing the face. The weight being shifted forward, you can quickly end up with marks on the face. But the helmet is quite light (467 g), and a comfortable foam alleviates the pressure around the eyes. A good point in comparison with competitors, provided you do not wear it too long. “We followed the advice of sports specialists to choose skin contact materials,” says Madhu Muthukumar, Oculus Go Product Manager. And we provide an adapter for glasses wearers”. To control the device, a wireless controller comes as standard. Small downside:the battery of the headset only ensures an autonomy of 2 hours, 2h30 maximum.
The Oculus Go adopts a minimalist design. Oculus
A simple interface
As soon as it is styled, the Oculus Go displays a remarkably simple interface. On a wallpaper representing a 360-degree landscape, we discover panels representing the contents: games, videos, panoramic photos, etc. Just point at one of them with the controller, which draws a light beam, and pull the trigger to access it. At the bottom, an icon bar allows you to access the virtual home and app store, connect with friends, and customize settings.
A pleasant display
Let’s move on to practice. Small disappointment with 360-degree demonstration videos: more or less blurred images, approximate contrast… The result is better with home videos shot using a 360 ° camera. But it is especially remarkable with games. Moving from one app to another, we find ourselves exploring the planets of the solar system, pacing a virtual maze (with a funny feeling of moving forward without moving), practicing aerial acrobatics or dodging monster attacks on a roller coaster… And all these experiences, which are overall very fun, finally do justice to the Oculus Go. With a definition of 2560 x 1440 points, the image is very sharp, much better than with a Gear VR and more accurate than that of the Rift. According to Madhu Muthukumar, “lenses are more evolved than on the Rift”. It is hardly if one glimpses, on the sides, a few green or red pixels that protrude slightly from the contours of the objects without really hindering. Another good point: the image is very stable, without any latency between the movements of the head and their impact on the display. As for the sound, it comes from two small speakers directed towards the ears. The stereo effect is good, and this system helps to stay tuned to the real environment. You can however connect a headset to the mini-jack of the headset if you want to completely isolate yourself.
Two is better!
The real good idea of the headset is the ability to share images with friends who also own an Oculus Go or Gear VR and find them in a virtual home. The system works perfectly. Once in the Home application, we find ourselves in an interior where we can (moderately) choose the decoration by changing the paint, the floor coverings or the images to hang on the wall. One then personalizes his avatar by drawing from a (modest) collection of hairstyles, masks and clothes. It remains only to invite a friend. I sent a request to Julien, who is also testing the Oculus Go, to join me in my virtual living room. His avatar then appears to my left, and he greets me with a small sign of the hand (the one in which he holds the controller). I hear his voice distinctly in my left ear. We decide to create a musical atmosphere by choosing a webradio that broadcasts sounds rather “lounge”. With one click, we then find ourselves on the terrace around a game table. First we experiment with a kind of Memory, in which each player must find pairs among the cards spread out on the table. The joystick allows us to point the cards and flip them. Julien beats me but I didn’t say my last word. After giving up checkers and chess, we decide to compete in a version of Simon, where each player must reproduce a sequence of sounds associated with a surface of colors. This time, it’s me who wins. The finale will pit us in a gun duel with the game Dead and Buried. Balance: draw … due to lack of ammunition before the end of the game.
Relaxing sequence now. One click on an icon and here we are sitting in comfortable armchairs facing a curved screen. I first show my guest photos and videos of the 360-degree recorded holiday. The images are displayed on the virtual screen and I continue to chat with him by turning my head to his avatar. It’s time to watch a good movie: while we are physically miles away, we enjoy the same show, at the same time, and we can comment on the scenes as if we were watching TV from a couch. One can easily imagine the interest of this process for a couple of fans of the same series separated by distance… The fact of being placed in a kind of movie theater reinforces this impression. A full screen display would lose the magic of the moment. As a bonus, you would lose image quality and the brain would be confused if you moved your head without the screen following. In addition to movies and series, including those from Netflix, the app gives the possibility to attend (without moving) shows, concerts and sporting events.
The Oculus Go marks a small revolution in the world of virtual reality. It is easy to use, cheap and requires no binding to a computer or game console. Its good display quality and responsiveness make it an accessory of choice for VR games and discovery apps, the number of which is growing steadily. But it is above all its ability to share content and enjoy it to many, remotely, that seems to us the decisive argument of the product. It should be noted in passing that despite the fact that Oculus belongs to Facebook, it is quite possible to use the Go without even being a member of the social network. In short, a whole series of good points that should ensure him a good success.
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