Last weekend my wife and I were in London. The kids (5 and 9) were at their grandparents. Back at home it’s hard to explain what we’ve done. We show some photos on our phones, but that just didn’t get through. Then I showed a VR 360 degrees movie about London in the Oculus Quest. Suddenly they were talking about the Big Ben, the Tower bridge and red buses.

This shows how powerful VR already is to get a more powerful experience than other medium devices. Now I own the Quest for some weeks, here are some other things I found out.

Unboxing

May 21st, just in time, my preorder Oculus Quest arrived. Facebook’s first all-in-one gaming system for virtual reality. This VR headset should first combine the ease of mobile VR with the immersion of high-end headsets like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. In the same week also a lot of reviews arrived. Most reviewers came from one of the high-end sets. As I came from the mobile side (Cardboard, Gear VR, Daydream) this review is more from a novice point of view.

  1. The quest comes something like a luxury shoe box

2. Contents

The box contains the headset, controllers (left/right), a USB C Adapter and batteries for the controllers.

Set up

After unboxing the first thing is to create an Oculus account or use a Facebook account. Second step is to install the Oculus app and configure Wi-Fi. This set up process is a rather painless experience.

Finally, time for the real thing. Well, the real virtual thing...

First thing I noticed is that the headsets smells new. Like a new car. Fortunately this goes away very quickly. Second thing I noticed is that the headsets turns on as soon as you put it on your head. No need to push a button. Start up time is similar to for example a television.

Once started you’re asked to create a virtual fence, so that you don’t walk against a wall or furniture. To do this, it asks if you're using it standing (room scale) or stationary. When choosing room scale you draw the fence borders on the ground. Oculus automatically creates a fence all the way to the ceiling. This works extremely well.

In this sense VR already feels very mature. Because the Oculus is so easy to bring to different locations, you need to set it up every time though. The wizard to create the fence is a bit cumbersome. After setting it up for a room it should recognize it the next time, but my experience is to walk through the wizard every time.

Demo

After the set up is done, the magic starts. A virtual fence appears in front of you and suddenly you are in complete virtual world. Immediately you forget about everything and start to look around.

The best thing to do, when letting other people share the VR experience, is to do the set up themselves and then let them click through the demo. Most people are pleasantly surprised by the immersion as well as the resolution. After the intro you get a walkthrough to play with virtual objects and play some simple games.

Beyond the demo

Most people were impressed when first trying VR, whether it was the Oculus Rift or just a Google cardboard. The question is how long does it stay interesting. A demo of a 4K television is often optimized to bring the fullest image, but after that it’s often more about the television programs. In VR this was often the same. First there was a wow-factor, but soon it was getting boring or even annoying.

I think the Quest is different, because it easy accessible. There is no big hurdle to put it on. It’s completely wireless, while still offering a good visual experience. I wouldn’t say it’s the end of the road of VR. It’s more of the beginning of a road where it is easy to walk on. Most things like the set up, creating a fence and basic things like app store, browser and YouTube app are ironed out.

There are about 55 titles on release date and more to arrive in the coming months. The quest reminds me of first black-and-white televisions, the first Atari or Nintendo SNES. No, the graphics weren’t always brilliant, but they were fun to use for the whole family. Well, the Oculus isn’t for the whole family. The headset size is too big and heavy, so not suitable for children (sorry kids, only a short London tour).

Beyond games

Besides games there are a number of apps to watch videos, like YouTube VR, Netflix and Facebook TV. The Netflix app is the simplest. You can watch series and movies in the app like you would on other devices. The fun is that the setting is a movie theater. I didn’t use the Netflix app a lot, because of three things:

  1. Netflix doesn’t have content optimized for VR.
  2. Resolution
  3. Headset is too heavy for watching whole series or movies

With YouTubeVR and Facebook the story is different. There you have a lot of short movies, music videos and clips optimized for VR. You can choose between 180 degrees view, 360 degrees view or 3D. In general the 360 degrees view is the most impressive view.

Preliminary conclusion

There is still a lot to wish for in VR. First is more content created for VR. When using material from National Geographic especially for VR it looks amazing, while ordinary content doesn’t bring the same experience. For longer usage there still needs some steps taken with the weight of the headset, the resolution and refresh rate.

Compared to all my previous VR devices I used, the Quest is a major leap. Those old VR headsets were just bad. The Quest isn’t perfect, but it’s good. For the first time VR is fun.

See also:

The road to better VR specs

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