Oculus Quest 2: Two steps forward, one step back
With the original Quest, Facebook has set a benchmark for wireless VR Headsets. A benchmark not only on quality, but also on price. Because of these two factors the headset is considered the best on the market. This doesn’t mean there is nothing to improve or there aren’t any critical notes. A few days before Facebook Connect I created my own wishlist for the Oculus Quest 2.
In this blog I wrote that I had mixed feelings on the way forward. Then shortly thereafter some hardware specs leaked which surprised many of us positively:
Especially the Snapdragon XR2 processor brings a lot more juice to the Quest:
So first there was a lot of discussion about the need for a Facebook account and then there was a lot of enthusiasm because of these specs. The following meme sums it all:
Now that the Facebook Connect conference is over and the Quest 2 is introduced let’s recap. As I haven’t tried to Quest 2 yet, it’s hard to say something on comfort and ease of use, but we now at least have the hard numbers. A direct comparison with the original Quest is obvious, but also comparing them to the first Oculus Headset and the high-end Index gives more perspective.
As the table shows there have been clear advancements with resolution and refresh rate. The first Rift was just below a million pixel, the Quest more than doubled that and the Quest 2 put another 50% on top. This is even higher than the Index.
Also, you see the refresh rate steadily rose from 60Hz to 72Hz and then to 90Hz. This is of course still far from the 144Hz of the Index, but a noticeable upgrade. 60hz is considered a minimum for a good quality display. The 90Hz should give a better motion. The strong hardware together with the competitive price are two steps forward for the Quest.
Better specs seem also come with a higher weight. The Oculus Quest 2 found a fine balance for this. The field of view hasn’t improved yet and is still smaller than the original Oculus Rift. A status quo.
A dubious hardware change is the display change. The original Quest offers 2 OLED displays for each eye one. This has an excellent contrast, deep black levels and low latency response times. Because the Quest 2 uses 1 instead of 2 panels the IPD (interpupillary distance) is also not granular anymore. This means not every one has the best distance for the lenses before their eyes. But with the better resolution and refresh rate this is a trade off.
In the beginning of VR everything new had the wow-factor. Now we have more experience and comparisons we are more critical. So what is the step back? For most reviews these were privacy concerns, the head strap and unlocked potential. The issue with head strap is that it is changed from a rigid one to a soft one. This is a deterioration from the Quest 1 and you are almost obliged to buy the additional rigid head strap. The unlocked potential is that 90hz and the better chip doesn’t have matching content yet. But the real step back is privacy.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the privacy concerns. For a lot of users this means a no-go. This is at least my conclusion from reading a lot of comments on tech websites. Facebook as a social media company is tightly coupled with keeping you as a user as long as possible on the platform. The longer you are on the platform the more valuable you are. In the documentary the social dilemma this is put as follows: Mostly people use technology as a tool, but within Facebook people are the tool caught in the technology. People are used to collect data and use this for contextual advertisements, analyze behaviors and keep you addicted.
The question is: what has this to do with VR? The strange thing is (opposite to using Facebook itself) that you pay for the headset and the games, but you will now fall under the EULA of Facebook. This means that even if you pay for the hardware, you don’t have complete control. For example if you don’t use your real name your account can be blocked. You’ll need to verify by uploading a copy of your ID. This is like buying a car and then suddenly you can’t start your car because Toyota thinks you drive badly by their rules.
It also means that data is collected on everything you do in VR and outside VR. The first can be simple mean that Facebook tracks what games you buy, what videos you look at and how long you play and watch it. The headset also has several cameras so it can also film your house, what books your reading and your actions while watching porn. Facebook can choose to store this footage for an indefinite period of time.
It all doesn’t mean that they’ll do it or use it, but recent history has shown how cautious we need to be. This is why the Oculus Quest will not be available for sale in Germany for now.
So at the end the mixed feelings stayed. Considering the value-for-money and the untapped potential of the new hardware, the Quest 2 is a solid hardware upgrade. The comfort and privacy issues remain. Which forces will be the strongest we will see in the next year. We will see what a lot of people wrote in the comments will really do.
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