Oculus Go VR Headset Cuts the Cord

At the Oculus Connect 4 conference this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new VR headset called Oculus Go. The big news here is that it’s completely cordless and self-contained.

Up to now, there have been two basic types of VR headsets: those that use a smartphone for imaging and motion tracking, such as the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream, and those that must be connected to a computer with a cable, like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Computer-based systems tend to be higher quality, but it’s easy to get tangled up in that cable if you get too involved in the virtual world.

The Oculus Go needs no smartphone or computer; all processing is built into the headset. Few specs have been released yet, though we do know the display will be a “fast-switching” LCD with a combined resolution of 2560×1440. Presumably, that means 1280×1440 for each eye. Oculus claims the display “dramatically improves visual clarity and reduces screen door effect. And the next generation lenses are our best ever—offering a wide field of view with significantly reduced glare.” I’ll believe it when I see it; in my experience so far, the screen-door effect is very evident in VR images.

The Oculus Go is said to be super-lightweight, and a new fabric used for the facial interface is soft and breathable. Also, the headset has a pair of “spatial audio” speakers built into the sides, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack allows private listening.

oculus go

At the conference, Oculus announced that the new headset will be compatible with all apps and games already available for the Gear VR—including response to controller inputs. As a result, the new headset will have a large library of content the day is ships early next year, and developers who are building for the Gear VR are already building for Oculus Go. Even better, the price is right, starting at just $199.

However, keep this caveat in mind: “Oculus Go has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. Oculus Go is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained.”

Oculus also provided a sneak peek into Project Santa Cruz, which seeks to “bring the magic of a PC VR experience to an untethered form factor.” I assume that means a more powerful processor and higher-resolution display than the Oculus Go provides. The company revealed new positionally tracked hand controllers that use the same tracking technology originally developed for the Rift and Touch.

According to a post on the Oculus blog, “Getting the infrared LEDs on our new Santa Cruz controllers to work with the sensors used for inside-out tracking on the headset was a significant computer vision, design, and engineering problem…By using four ultra-wide sensors, we achieved a large controller-tracking volume, allowing for natural and unrestricted movement.” This is in direct contrast with the Rift’s external sensors that must be placed around the room.

It concludes by saying, “We have a lot more work to do as we build the next generation of standalone VR technology, and we look forward to sharing more updates on these products soon.” It looks like Oculus is well on its way to making VR an ever more compelling experience.