While Oculus Rift S is largely just an upgrade on the current Rift hardware, Oculus Quest is the more significant of the two product launches: a self-contained headset that doesn’t need a PC to operate, and allows freedom of movement.
The Quest is what many VR enthusiasts were probably wishing for in 2016, when the first consumer-geared virtual-reality headsets came out, such as Oculus’s Rift and HTC’s Vive.
Oculus Quest will have more than 50 compatible games at launch, including Beat Saber and Space Pirate Trainer. Both headsets start at $399, and will begin shipping on May 21. But the Quest is a higher-end device, targeting gamers who may want to take the plunge into VR but don’t want to be connected to a bulky computer.
The Quest is the first headset to make more-capable virtual reality affordable and portable. There’s no tether to a computer or external sensors, so it’s relatively simple to set up and use. It can track the position and rotation of your head, and monitors your hands via the Oculus’s Touch controllers — all to help you get a sense that you’re really somewhere else.
However, many would comment that the headset is still too heavy, the controls not intuitive enough, and, despite the best efforts of Oculus and numerous outside developers.
Oculus Quest: Is it a Success or a Flop?
Looking at the Quest headset, it’s clear that virtual reality has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. Though the technology has existed in some form or another for decades, both in research labs and in mass-market entertainment, it was Facebook‘s multibillion-dollar purchase of then-startup Oculus in 2014 that set the stage for the technology to go mainstream. The social network has spent the years since trying to convince consumers to buy into its vision and content makers to create games and other experiences for it.
While VR is alive and well in a number of places, such as arena-scale group gaming experiences such as The Void, most of us don’t have a VR headset at home. Most of us don’t even know anyone who does.
ABI Research analyst Eric Abbruzzese said:
“I think a lot of people see value in a VR arcade, something like that, a dedicated experience. The home’s a different story.”
The Oculus Quest is an opportunity to change the status quo. It is easy and fun to use, and the battery lasted for several hours — plenty of juice for playing games by yourself or sharing it with others. You can play in a fairly large space; I felt like my living room, with about seven square feet of carpet space, was mostly enough to get lost in VR, and the headset and controllers were great at tracking my head and hands.
The headset can scan and save up to five different real world spaces to use it in, to encourage you to take it to a couple friends’ houses or other spots in your own home. Mercifully, setting up a new space takes seconds.
But do you really want to spend more than a few minutes boxing or dancing or swiping an imaginary sword through the air with nearly 1.3 pounds of plastic, fabric, and electronics on your face?
At first glance, there’s plenty to do: it’s launching with more than 50 titles, and while trying it out, I had access to a range of them.
Yet unlike the first time I encountered the original Angry Birds game on an iPhone, I didn’t feel compelled to come back to the VR version of that game again and again. Nor did I really need to thrust the headset at family or friends and force them to try it for themselves.
“It could really come down to that killer app not being there,” said Abbruzzese.
Until a VR headset maker — Facebook, HTC, Sony or some other company entirely — can marry a great all-in-one headset with experiences that you want to use over time, there’s no point in shelling out for the hardware.
The name of the headset, Quest, signifies a journey, and conjures the danger, glory, and romance of knights, castles and dragon slaying.
Yet at this point, five years after Facebook announced it would pay billions to buy then-startup Oculus in hopes of turning VR into a mass-market technology, it’s not quite clear if we’re still trudging down the path, slaying any dragons that get in our way, or if Quest is, itself, the destination. But many tech reviewers would say Oculus Quest is the best VR yet.