Oculus Announce the first ever stand-alone VR headset: Oculus Go
Currently there are two broad categories of VR headset: Dedicated, premium devices that plug into a PC or console and feature full positional tracking, and light-weight mobile headsets that are essentially shells for your smartphone to slip into. If you don’t happen to use one of the select few smartphones that work with the GearVR or DayDream, and don’t have a powerful computer or games console, you’re looking at an incredibly high cost to get into VR. Buying a proper gaming PC and a Rift or a Vive will set you back well over a thousand bucks at an absolute minimum, and nobody wants to buy a smartphone exclusively to use in a mobile VR headset. Sure, there’s the Google Cardboard and other 3rd-party headsets that can work with many different phones, but let’s be honest: these are basically just glorified phone cases, and really offer none of the magic that proper VR holds.
The Oculus Go offers a much-needed middle ground for people who love VR, but don’t have the expensive devices needed to fuel it. Retailing at $199 (price in sterling still TBA, but brace yourself for exchange-rate disappointment), you’re not only getting an extremely well designed headset, but all the hardware innards that provide the complete VR experience. It has a built-in 1440p LCD screen and better-designed lenses than those in the Oculus Rift itself (notably, these lenses have greatly reduced glare). Along with a dedicated, built-in audio driver (and headphones), plus a three degrees-of-freedom motion controller, this device really is a great-value all-in-one option.
VR purists will note, however, that – like traditional mobile headsets – the Oculus Go does not offer positional tracking. Such technology, being dubbed as “inside-out tracking”, is still in development for portable devices such as these, but full 3-dimensional tracking is no trivial task without the aid of external cameras (like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR all use). You’re also not going to have the graphical horsepower to render the more demanding VR games available on PC and PSVR. But let’s face it, for a device that costs less than a single mid-range graphics card in a computer, that was never going to be the case.
What it does do, however, it does extremely well. The tenants of a good mobile VR experience – comfort, visual quality and interface – are all top-class. Think of it this way: 20 years ago we’d pay this kind of price for a portable TV. Today what we’re getting for that is a portable (virtual) cinema. With extras.