Great for home-use; a bit hit and miss for the office
We’ve had the Oculus Go in the office for a couple of weeks now, and even delivered our first project using the headset. So what’s the verdict from our developers?
Cheap and cheerful
Let’s start with the pros. First and foremost has to be the price. At around £200 all in, this little headset is affordable in a way that not many all-inclusive VR headsets are. It’s certainly cheaper than its nearest competitors, the Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream, which both include the hefty price of the phone. So this is a big plus.
The screen is also good quality, it’s roomy and comfortable to wear (although you can’t easily clean the headset in between uses, which could prove a drawback) and it doesn’t overheat in the same way a phone-powered headset does, which is a definite advantage. Battery life is necessarily better too. The hand controller too makes it easy to point and click to operate once the headset is set up – and all of these things mean it’s great as a bit of consumer kit for use as entertainment at home.
A bit clumsy for developers
So what are the downsides? Well for something that’s sold as standalone VR, we were disappointed to find that you have to download the Oculus app to your own smartphone to set up the headset. This really doesn’t do much for the user experience – and neither does the fact the headset is so completely tied to the hand controller. This is all very well for home-use, but when you think about its use in other sectors – such as use at trade shows or educational events, this makes it harder to get people in and out of the headset quickly. The other downside of hand controller is the lack of Gear VR apps in the software catalogue that actually make use of it, although obviously this is something that will change in time.
It’s straightforward to develop for, although again there were a few surprisingly clumsy aspects of the user experience, especially for the purposes we would generally be using it for. For example, when the headset is removed for any length of time, the next time it’s put on it presents you with a screen telling you to use the controller to re-enter the experience. Whilst this makes sense for consumer use, in a busy trade show environment this is the last thing you want and there is no way to disable this step. Fortunately you can use the volume buttons on the front of the device to skip past it. Another problem is that any apps which are side-loaded directly on to the device are hidden away in the incredibly un-user-friendly ‘Unknown Sources’ section of the device library, so it’s a shame Oculus hasn’t considered this more carefully.
There are also aspects where Oculus seems to have stopped short of making the headset much more capable. For example, given the similar design of the headset to the Rift we’re surprised Oculus didn’t look to integrate their infrared tracking LEDs and give the user to the option to use an external camera wirelessly linked to the headset to provide 6 degrees of freedom positional tracking. Alternatively they could have licenced tech from Qualcomm or Intel to do inside out tracking instead. Maybe it's something we’ll see in the future.
We confess we had high hopes for the Oculus Go, but it hasn’t quite lived up to our expectations. However, for an affordable stand-alone headset it’s good. For businesses looking for a better solution to use VR, it’s still got a little way to go but on balance the affordability outweighs the cons in many cases. We hope the next version will offer a smoother, more versatile experience but our overall impression of the Oculus Go it that this edition is still very much a Gear VR at heart and fails to move lower-end consumer VR much further forward.