Oculus Go: Portable VR Fun

Oculus just released their latest headset the Oculus Go. This is basically a revamped GearVr but a standalone unit with the screen integrated into it. It maintains compatibility with a lot of existing gear vr software.

In terms of capabilities it boast a single 2560 x 1440 screen (rather than two screens one per eye of the rift or vive) which is actually a little higher resolution than the original rift or vive and it runs at 60Hz or 72hz (rather than the 90Hz of the vive or rift). It's got a qualcomm snapdragon 821 and comes in 32g and 64g flavours. It employs only 3 dof tracking (so rotational tracking no positional tracking like vive and rift) and has a single mini controller which is also only 3dof tracked. It can also pair to certain bluetooth controllers like the xbox. Currently priced at 200 dollars for the 32gb and 250 for the 64gb.

In terms of power the thing is obviously not a match for a high end pc but it includes some tricks to get more juice out of that simpler hardware with the reduced frame rate and the addition of fixed foveated rendering (foveated rendering being the technique of rendering only the point where you are looking at any great detail since the peripheral vision is basically crap, I assume this method doesn't use any eye tracking and just assumes the center is where you are looking and renders that nicely and everywhere else lower).

In terms of a fairly high quality experience at a relatively affordable price with a lot of the features of VR it's a compelling proposition. GearVR was always a very popular option as it was cheap and also untethered but the requirement of a particular model of samsung phone meant it was not really an option for most people. This widget basically taps into that market.

The quality is pretty good a great screen with the slight resolution bump and the newer optics making the screen door effect much less noticeable. The little controller works well acting as a pointer into the world with a trigger button and a swipe pad for other functions. It has built in apps for things like netflix and hulu you can use it like a massive tv with a variety of options for how it displays the virtual screen. It doesn't have native youtube or google play apps (despite it basically running android) but you can use the built in web browser to access youtube and any play movies you might have and it supports all manner of playback modes including 360 degree video and the various varieties of 3d. You can also load media onto it to play standalone rather than off of the internets.

Games wise there are some fun little titles I played a few rollercoaster shooting games where you run along a track and fire at targets also some simple interaction puzzle type games and a few of the 360 degree experience type apps. The graphics tend to run to the bold and colourful end of things which works pretty well. It has the same issue almost all VR stuff does at the moment that it all feels like tech demos rather than actual good content.

Audio is pretty well done, rather than speakers it has this mechanism where sound comes out near your ears on the straps using some sort of directed sound widgets. It makes the spacial audio work pretty well with clear good quality sound. It does mean that people around you can hear the sound of the thing to some degree and the unit does off a headphone jack to counter that.

Battery life is middling they say 2-3hrs of movie watching 1-2hrs of game playing it has a usb micro socket (not sure why they didn't go for C) on the side for charging.

The unit is grey plastic looks like the rift in design but uses a fabric strap reminiscent of the original vive strap rather than the more rigid strap on the rift or the newer vive deluxe audio strap or the vive pro strap. It works ok but has the same flaws as the original vive strap needing to apply pressure to your face to hold the thing on properly I can see aftermarket or official straps with a better rigid construction popping up soon.

All in all a very interesting product a much more limited vr experience but also one that is much cheaper and much freer than the desktop alternatives. There are a lot of other players in this market vive have the focus and there is a lenovo unit also vying for a cut of the portable vr cake so competition will likely increase in this segment.

I can see this as a great starting point for people a way to dip your toes in the vr waters for not a huge outlay of funds. It does give you a taste of what's possible and in a very appealing low impact way I imagine for a lot of people this or something like this will be their first VR experience.

For people that have vr stuff already it's less of an appealing proposition in almost every way it's an inferior product to the vive or the rift the tracking is worse it lacks the hand presence it's less capable in the visuals department but it does score in some key areas. It's entirely self contained you can just grab it strap it on and away you go no pc no cables no external sensors. You can experience VR anywhere on the bus on a plane on the sofa in bed. I can see that making it more used than vive or rift often is those devices offer incredible experiences but the setup time the space required the physical aspect of having to stand up make them less appealing for just jumping into for a quick game.

It's a fun gadget and as a portable vr system it's pretty compelling with a good price point and good enough features to appeal to a mass market audience.


It's not aimed at me but I can see the benefit as a whole to the market. By making VR more mainstream - even if it is with the limitations - will help grow the sector.

I've always wondered why VR isn't used with Kinect type technology. The accuracy of Kinect is surprisingly good and although it has occlusion problems, I imagine that they could be got around. With Kinect, you could more accurately model the whole body of the player and reduce the floating head effect.

Any ideas why no-one has done that yet?

brainwipe's picture

Probably as Kinect was a commerical and PR disaster, and no-one wants to release any product that could in any way be associated with it...

babychaos's picture

Kinect only worked in a cone infront of the sensor with a room scale type application you'd be going in and out of the depth sensors range quite a lot. You could probably fix that with multiple sensors distributed around the room but that's getting expensive and more complex to use. Also Kinect was always very hit and miss often completely misinterpreting motion or miscalculating things so you were several feet shorter than you were. Sure it was good enough for the sort of broad movements and flailing that most kinect games employed but anything subtle or small it's accuracy was pretty poor. Unless someone made significant improvements to the technology it's never going to be accurate enough for good body presence in vr.

There is a company that uses kinect like technology for hand tracking called leap motion. They made a small kinect like box that had better resolution enough for finger tracking that originally you set on the desk to act as a hand tracking like a virtual keyboard. It didn't do very well but then VR kicked off and they pivoted to have the thing glued to the front of a HMD to give hand tracking in VR.

Evilmatt's picture

It's also worth noting that with the current three points of tracking that vive rift and mixed reality offer you get a pretty good approximation of body presence run up things like bridge crew or rec room or the foo show that use those points to drive an IK model and it gives a pretty good illusion of a person being present in that space enough so it can trigger your sense of personal space invasion when an avatar gets too close

Evilmatt's picture

Some of the games are quite fun I played through "they suspect nothing" which was a series of minigames with this human pretending to be a robot to sneak into a city run by robots theme. The quality of the games varies some a great others not but the overall quality is high and since they are all short fun things if you don't like one of them you're on to the next thing quickly.

Evilmatt's picture

Will the Occulus Go titles be available on its big brother?

brainwipe's picture

possibly some of the games are ports of stuff on the rift already like keep talking and no one explodes or were cross platform games from the beginning like Catan VR. A lot of these titles are made in Unity so it would be fairly trivial to swap out the controller system for the rift's or put the same game onto the vive. Between the oculus products it's the same scripts with some slightly different options. To put it on steam it's not quite drop in replacement but it's not a massive effort. Of course if they are oculus studio titles they will likely never be available on the vive but the rift is a possible.

Evilmatt's picture

The Lenovo Mirage Solo VR just came out another stand alone VR headset it adds some interesting additions including 6dof on the headset based on the google daydream system. It sounds like it doesn't completely use the 6dof in the sense that currently you can't do room scale with it. It's controller is similar to the oculus go with a single 3dof controller. The strap is something like the PSVR which I find to be a good solution, it doesn't have any built in speakers which seems a miss. It's also 400 dollars which is the same price as the rift so not sure it's good enough for that sort of money of course with the rift you need a high end pc. It also sounds like the software support for it is not yet there.

Evilmatt's picture