The newly launched Oculus Quest is a landmark product in the history of virtual reality. For the first time we have a standalone VR kit that can be played out of the box, without the need to connect it to a smartphone or computer. By eliminating almost all the hurdles that made VR so daunting in the past, Oculus Quest is a clear bid for mainstream appeal. But does it have what it takes?
Facebook knows a thing or two about making a product that conquers the world and its investment in virtual reality clearly sees the company pushing its Oculus acquisition in this direction. Rather than push graphical technology to the limit, the Quest, like the Oculus Go before it, focuses on accessibility and ease of use.
In my full review of the Oculus Quest, I could only conclude that it's a very successful product from a technical perspective. Even experienced VR users like myself can only be impressed by how it 'just works', and can be carried anywhere, started up and used within less than a minute, because we know only too well the pitfalls of tethered VR right now.
Seeing is believing
The Oculus Quest aims to be the VR device that everybody wants, a game-changer on the level of the Walkman, the iPhone, or at least the Switch. Can it succeed? One thing's for sure, this device makes it easier than ever before to spontaneously introduce people to VR and see their reactions. So, that's exactly what I did.
I've been using the Oculus Quest for over a month now, and during that time I've hosted VR parties in my apartment, carried it over to friends' homes, and offered to anyone who wanted try it right here in our office in an effort to gauge its wider appeal. You can see the results of the latter in the video below:
For most of my colleagues, this was even their first time ever putting on a VR headset. As you can see, it didn't take long for our participants to experience both a genuine sense of wonder and also get caught up into the action and realize the potential of the wide freedom of movement the Oculus Quest offers.
So, were our VR neophytes convinced by the Quest? While everyone had a good time, that doesn't necessarily mean they were converted for life. I'll let my colleagues speak for themselves.
"I am not used to diving into VR, but I can tell once I wore the headset I found myself sucked into another dimension. And I liked it! I definitely want to try it again, I like the experience with action games but personally I would not spend $400 on it. I think it’s still more of a niche thing for gamers, but a cheaper price can maybe convince more people to jump on it, but I think it’s important to find other [non-gaming] use cases."
- Jessica Murgia, Global Head of Content
"I expected to be freaked out by it, and frankly, I was at the beginning. Playing the game ended up being super fun, sucking me into it even if it appeared blurry for me [we couldn't fit his glasses inside]. I can imagine there’s a market for it, but I personally find VR more interesting in other segments, such as medicine, etc., than home entertainment. I am sure it will attract gamers, but I can’t judge whether the provided games are interesting enough for them. However, I can see how it makes it easy to enter VR without spending a ton of money."
- Julius Stiebert, German Editor
"This was my very first VR experience and I was not expecting it to be so real, or to enjoy it so much. Just a few minutes and you are completely immersed into a different world. It's super fun, especially when you get to try to pick up some objects and throw them or in shooting games. That really got me! I was completely happy about the freedom of movement. As a first time user, I can say it was super good and realistic, also it is not so heavy, and it is easy to use."
- Silvia Santos, Spanish Editor
"I was scared about losing my sense of space or feeling sick, but now, I'd love to play more, especially sports games. It's sad that people aren't so aware about the possibility to play VR games at home, so I think it’ll stay a niche product. It still needs to be cheaper to go mainstream."
- Juliette Bassine, French Editor
"I tried almost all of the currently available VR sets but I wasn't sure about buying one. The Oculus Quest instantly impressed - easy and fast setup, no need for a PC or external sensors. The last two points are such a big plus. I can define a huge play area and run around in games in a way I can't with the high-end models. And I can put it in my bag and visit a friend. That's why Quest will be the first headset I'll buy on the earliest sale. Will it lead to VR going mainstream? I hope so! The possibility to bring that headset to friends and family and let them try it and experience VR can be a real burst for the technology."
- Christopher Gabbert, German Editor
One clear thing that came out is that, while the Oculus Quest does a lot of things right in its ease of use, it's still primarily a games console, and even if people enjoy a nice game session when invited, not everyone will make a place in their lives to invest in a game console. Don't get me wrong, you can do other things on the Quest, like use VRChat and Rec Room for VR social interaction, or watch immersive 360 degree videos, but it's a relatively underdeveloped area compared to gaming.
Sowing the seeds of success
When it came to showing the Oculus Quest to my friends outside the circle of technology critics, I can only offer some interesting takeaways from an admittedly small sample group. Out the 12 people I've introduced to the Quest, only one immediately bought a VR headset, but instead went for the Oculus Rift S, opting instead to connect to his gaming PC for a more high-end graphical potential.
Another, like my colleague Chris, was impressed enough to decide on the Quest, but he's waiting for the first autumn sales.
But there's another factor that shouldn't be discounted, and that is that most friends who were introduced to VR by the Quest now want to try VR more and more often, ask me to bring it over again, and have started researching what else is on the market and asking questions. And since anyone who does get the Quest will likely want to show it off, this factor will no doubt lead to an exponential increase in interest in the technology
Personally, I would say that the Oculus Quest isn't quite VR's iPhone moment, but it's still a very important device in VR history. Thanks to its portability and ease-of-use, it's planting many seeds of curiosity beyond those who initially buy this specialist gaming console. In about 2 or 3 years, when these seeds come to fruition and more refined products appear on the market, the grandchild of the Oculus Quest will be well-placed in people's minds to become a much-coveted object of desire.
Are you interesting in getting a VR headset? Which ones have you tried?