Oculus Go Overview

Facebook’s long-awaited VR headset, Oculus Go, is out and it’s almost affordable. The big question: Is it worth the money, or is it just another piece of tech destined for the attic? By Brian Moakley.

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The Oculus Go Overview

At this year’s F8 developer conference, Facebook made a bit of a splash. Their long-awaited VR headset — Oculus Go — was released to the public for an affordable price of $199.99. In one stroke, Oculus Go addressed all of the issues that I’ve previously had with other VR headsets: This new headset has the hardware built right into it, so I was no longer tethered to my computer. With the headset being so affordable, there was less financial risk on my part. And, while it doesn’t have the horsepower of my computer backing it, the headset does provide the essence of VR.

The big question: Is it worth the money that Facebook is asking or is it just another piece of tech destined for the attic?

In this article, I’ll provide an overview of the headset and maybe, just maybe, I’ll show you how to get it up and running with the latest version of Unity so that you can build your own VR worlds.

Setting Up the Oculus Go Headset

My Oculus Go experience started with a package left on my doorstep. It was a bit dense, heavier than I expected for what essentially is a headset with a matching pointer. Paying coach rate for VR, I expected to receive a cheap headset thrown together from backroom parts but, opening the box and inspecting the device, it was clear that the headset is more than a plastic knockoff of its older brother.

The Oculus Go Overview

The box comes with a headset and a simple wand controller, along with a few accessories. I find the headset to be a good size for my face. It has a bit of weight to it — enough to make it feel snug. It also comes with an insert so that I can wear glasses while using it; unfortunately, the headset presses my glasses tight against my ears. For short sessions, this isn’t a problem but, after an hour of using it, my ears begin to throb. Granted there are lots of straps to adjust to decrease the tightness, but I have yet to find my sweet spot.

The headset’s screen is 5.5 inches with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. It looks good, with the projected image being clear with bright colors that don’t look muddled; however, at times, I can see the pixels — it’s most noticeable when there’s a lot of white being displayed. Also, at times, I find occasional light seepage around my nose; most of the time, I don’t notice it but, when I do, it can be distracting.

The headset also features spatial sound. This means I get the full surround sound experience, and it does the job nicely. The sound is piped through speakers, which means everyone nearby will hear any stray gunshots aimed at me. You can provide your own headphones, however; having used both ear buds and stereo phones, I have no issues while wearing the device.

The Oculus Go Overview

I didn’t know what to expect from the wand controller. It features a touchpad, two buttons and a trigger. Looking at it reminds me of the Wiimote, which isn’t a good thing; the Wiimote was always a mushy experience for me so I was shocked, despite its appearance, to discover that the Oculus Go controller is quite good. It feels like I’m simply holding a laser pointer while in VR. There are times when the pointer loses its orientation, but it’s quite easy to readjust by means a settings option. My only complaint is with the touchpad. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel responsive and, other times, it’s too responsive. Gestures are often muddled. Gestures tend to be confused so a simple vertical swipe won’t register or register as a different gesture. Thankfully, the rest of the controller makes up for the touchpad’s shortcomings.

Before I can power on the headset, I need to install the Oculus Go app on my phone, which is available on iOS and Android respective app stores. Naturally, being a Facebook product, I need to log in with my Facebook account. Unfortunately, this is a requirement as opposed to a suggestion. There’s also a bunch of privacy settings regarding whether I want to connect with my friends and share VR experiences via the social media platform.

Note to Facebook: When I’m using the Oculus Go headset, I’m basically wearing a brick on my face. Socialization is the last thing on my mind.

Unfortunately, even though I am mostly pleased with the look and feel of the headset and wand, my initial experience using them isn’t ideal. The headset has just enough power to get me through the installation process and then it keeps switching to sleep mode. I initially think that the headset is broken because, no matter how I charge it, the headset won’t stay active for more than thirty seconds. I have to charge the device to 100%, after which the sleep issue goes away. Thankfully, the online support forums and Oculus support team are helpful. Submitting a support request was as easy as filing an online ticket, and then working through the issues in a chat interface.

Once the headset is up and running, I really enjoy using it. There are lots of freebies you can download to get started. Some are expereiences like riding a bobsled or a rollercoaster. Additional games cost five to ten dollars. Like other mobile games, some feature microtransactions and the free games have a most of their features gated behind paywalls.

As you might expect, however, being a low-cost VR device, the headset is a bit limited. If you are coming from using the more expensive Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, you’ll be used to six degrees of movement — that is, full rotation and translation. With Oculus Go, you have only three degrees of movement. Moreover, without anything to track your position in real space (a.k.a. meat space), there’s no way for Oculus Go to determine certain movements. This means that, when I move forward in real life, my position in the VR world remains static. If you are used to the more expensive VR headsets, this may feel constrained.

The real question, though: How are the games?