More than a few VR companies are working on a standalone VR solution right now. It’s an idea that makes a whole lot of sense, since right now your only real choices are between a clumsy phone-in-box solution or an expensive HMD tethered to an even more expensive computer.
It’s no surprise that one of the big contenders for this new category of phoneless mobile VR is Oculus. The Facebook-owned VR pioneer is largely responsible for kick-starting the modern VR revolution, but is under heavy pressure from technologies such as Windows Mixed Reality, which might very well eat their breakfast in the high-end VR market.
Now it’s almost time for the Oculus go to make it into the hands of actual consumers. Reporters and other tech tastemakers have however already tried the device out and first impressions are coming in.
Going, Going, Not Here Yet
Just to be clear, we still don’t have a firm release date for the device. Oculus is still sticking to the rather vague “in early 2018” promise. Given that we are now at the end of the first quarter of 2018 it’s reasonable to expect the Go’s arrival any day now.
Oculus says there will be more than 1000 individual content titles spanning games, social apps,, immersive video and other odds and ends. That’s good, because people are unlikely to drop the starting price of $199 if there’s no content.
That is however a fantastic price for a VR device and I suspect plenty of people are going to be buying these for the holidays.
Journos who have had a chance to play with the Go (not us, boo!) are pretty positive about it in general. The quality of the construction is not in doubt and Ars Technica describe it as a serious VR device.
However, it has the same sorts of head tracking limitations as existing mobile VR solutions. High-end VR solutions such as the Rift use external trackers in order to implement accurate depth tracking. Microsoft have effectively solved this with their Windows Mixed Reality inside-out onboard tracking sensor, but that needs the horsepower of a PC to work.
If a future iteration of the Go gets that technology it will be a game-changer.
More details have now come out about the device thanks to trade shows and demos shown to journalists. I for one was very curious as to the performance of the device and it seems Oculus have implemented an aggressive over- and under-clocking system for their hardware.
App developers can specify where the sweet spot is for their app and the Go will comply within set limits. This means optimized battery life and VR experiences.
The screen is now capable of ramping to 72Hz, which is better. Still far off from the 90Hz minimum tethered HMDs adhere to though.
We still don’t know what hardware is in the Go, but Oculus have implemented “fixed foveated rendering”. This is a version of the technique we’ve been seeing more and more of. The HMD does not have eye-tracking however, so Oculus have created a model that predicts where your fovea (the sharp vision part of the eye) will look and transfers rendering power to that spot in order to either save on CPU and GPU cycles or provide you with a perception of quality significantly more than the hardware promises.
So, the bottom line is that this is a well-made, low-end, VR device that is going to introduce a lot of people to simple games, great video and of course next-generation VR social applications.
Are you getting one? I’m getting one.