How Facebook Made Oculus Go ‘The Most Approachable VR Product’

by David Jagneaux • May 3rd, 2018

I’ve found that the more I use the Oculus Go standalone VR headset, the more I like it. Facebook just launched the $199 new device — an all-in-one VR head-mounted display (HMD) that lets users access VR immediately without the need for a smartphone, PC, or game console as power — and the reception has been largely positive.

Prior to the headset’s launch we got the chance to speak with both Madhu Muthukumar, Software Product Manager for Oculus Go and Sean Liu, Product Manager for Oculus Go, about the device, what it means for the VR industry, and what they did to make it so easy to use and accessible.

“This is the most approachable VR product that’s coming to market,” said Muthukumar. “This is about as simple as possible. Buy it, take it out of the box, spend about 10 minutes on quick setup, then put it on and you’re in. That’s it.”

For me, this is the most attractive aspect. As someone that writes about VR for a living and spends a lot of time inside headsets, I’m often not looking for extra reasons to be in VR in my non-professional life. Plugging in all of the cables, booting up a PC or game console, docking my phone, or doing any of the other setup steps needed to enter VR is a huge turn off for me. Most of the time I’d rather just pull my phone out of pocket and zone out that way for a bit than go through the hassle of setting up one of my VR headsets.

The Oculus Go totally removes those barriers and allows for nearly frictionless VR. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the amount of time it takes me to reach in my pocket, unlock my phone, and launch a game or video app is the same amount of time it takes me to put on the Go and launch a game or video app. Only with the latter I can be fully immersed in VR.

“A lot of people are interested in VR but are scared of which GPU they need, how to set up the computer, the wires scare them off, not wanting to use up phone,” explained Muthukumar. “So this solves all those concerns for people that really want VR but want it be simple.”

This note can’t be overstated. Having a Go just sitting there on the side table by my couch ready to use means I am far more likely to put it on than if I need to plug in my phone or go to my PC. I can gift a Go to someone without needing to worry about which phone they have or if their PC can handle it. Everything you need is right there in the box. It’s the first VR headset I’d feel comfortable gifting without the need to help them set it up.

And the price itself is so low at just $199 that I’d wager most people could glean enough value from it to feel like it’s “worth it” according to whatever their subjective value standards might be. Specifically, it’s a great little device for non-gaming media.

“We talked a lot to the Rift and Gear VR community to see what we should be building and heard a lot of things that we expected, such as making it comfortable, or making it great for playing games, making a better controller, better performance, and so on,” said Muthukumar. “We did all of those things. But we also heard some surprising things and the most surprising thing is that they loved using their headsets for TV, movies, and media.”

Gear VR was a great device for media, whether it be watching Netflix on a giant private screen, watching 3D movies, or streaming content to the headset wirelessly. But now with Go, it can do all of that and more without the need for a phone to be plugged in. That last bit is important because it doesn’t lock you out of one of your other devices just to function.

Plus, it helps that everything looks really, really crisp and sharp on the Go.

“These optics are actually derived from the Rift, but a little better,” explained Liu. “That glare you get on Rift with high contrast colors is actually gone now. We’ve been working a lot on making that happen. It’s a fast-switch LCD display with bigger pixels so the fill factor is better and the screen door effect is reduced.”

On top of that, the built-in audio solution is surprisingly good as well. Instead of the over-ear caps that come standard on all Rift headsets, the Go has tiny little slits with speakers that project towards your ears but can also be heard from outside of the headset. If you’re looking for full immersion though then I’d recommend plugging in a nice pair of over-ear headphones instead though.

“We’ve ironed out a lot of the things we learned from building Oculus Rift and Gear VR,” said Muthukumar. “We’ve made tons of improvements with the overall hardware, the software, and the quality of what you get and it’s all in one package for just $199.”

For more on Oculus Go, make sure to read our full review and breakdown of what’s new in the updated Oculus Rooms social hub. We’ll have more on Go, including game and app recommendations, coming soon.

Let us know what you think of the headset down in the comments below!

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What's your reaction?
  • I’ve been saying this ever since it was announced. THIS is the product that will finally take VR mainstream. The easiness and the affordability are two killer features. Some say “but it is only 3DOF, you need to recharge it often” and other such things. They are missing the point.

    • VR Geek

      It completely is not the product that will take VR mainstream. Even if ViVe/Rift were wireless, did not need a PC and was only $200, the masses would still not jump in as it is just not good enough yet. People want and need wider FOV, much much much higher resolution and depth of field tech plus 6dof tracking and controllers. Oculus Go is no better than Gear VR Or Daydream and while easier to use, does no advance any of the must have features for mass adoption. Oculus Go is nothing more that FB putting out a product so they can collect data and improve over the years. I suspect we are 1-3 years away from a mass adoption HMD.

      • John

        I agree that Go wont make VR mainstream, but it breaks down some barriers for sure. And the point is not to be better then Rift or Gear, but to do kind of the same but way cheaper and alot easier for anyone. With the Go Oculus basicly made every other mobile VR headset obsolete as an option when new people buying into VR.

  • Deewin

    Tested made me change my mind on this (and vr) and getting one today. Oculus has come a long way since Palmer left the company. I was so convinced that vive was the only way to go for vr with room scale but then oculus lowered the price significantly with their vr headset and controllers. Now they have this while vive has the pro and even the most enthusiastic vr users on the vive subreddit are saying it’s not a dramatic enough improvement to justify the cost when you can get the original one with the controllers and sensors for less. I can’t wait to try this out!

    • polysix

      I had a vive and PSVR (sold both) and now have Rift. Rift is way better in almost every regard (except extreme room tracking). Ergonomics, quality, controllers, feel, fit, finish, fun, usability… I’ll take all of that over the paltry/daft vive pro updates that don’t address half of the issues I had with the awful vive.

      • Deewin

        Interesting. I used to be all about the Vive because of the room scale and I’m hearing budget cuts takes full advantage of that because you actually look up at the ceiling and down on the floor. I think that’s probably the only game that uses it to that extend though because all the devs these days cater to both systems. I hope the experience on the rift won’t feel too compromised.