The future of VR

Daniel Lim

In between the announcements made by Sony and Nintendo in their September digital showcases, a similar gaming hardware company has also made a splash that has the potential to impact a certain sub-genre of games for the foreseeable future – virtual reality (VR).

The announcement came on September 16 as part of the first-ever Facebook Connect.

The company that is now a subsidiary of Facebook, Oculus, is one of the well-established companies in the industry, and the introduction of the all-in-one Oculus Quest last year has paved the way for the announcement made this year.

Since then supply has never really caught up with demand as Oculus Quest continues to be difficult to find.

Prior to the announcements via the Facebook Connect livestream, rumours had surfaced that Oculus was planning to release a successor to the untethered freedom of the original Quest.

Among the leaked rumours that came true included the use of the latest Snapdragon XR2, which is exponentially better than the Snapdragon 835 used in the first Quest, as well as the use of a higher density pixel screen resulting in 50 per cent more pixels.

The all-in-one Oculus Quest 2. PHOTO: NORMAN CHAN

While I did not have the chance to try out the new Oculus Quest 2, I did put most of my VR time into the first Oculus Quest; and one of the most intriguing aspects of the new Oculus Quest 2 is its price.

Starting at USD299, it competes aggressively with PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

However, this price comes at a cost, as people who had an early preview of the new Quest 2 did suggest that the downgrade to a cloth strap made it uncomfortable to wear.

That, coupled with the fact that I personally spent more on accessories that I now deem a necessity for my Original Quest, means that USD299 is not the base starting price.

Another cost associated with the Quest 2 is that it is now compulsory to use a Facebook account. Knowing that Facebook has information not only on your activities on Facebook but also on what you do in VR can be disturbing to some.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg highlighted during the livestream how the new platform that is Facebook Reality Labs aims to combine both VR and Augmented Reality (AR).

Among the announcements that caught me by surprise was how Facebook aims to use the VR platform as a social platform, which is further made relevant in the pandemic, with social distancing and remote work.

The livestream also highlighted how VR has made fitness and workouts easy. This was evident as games such as Beat Saber and a new take on music fitness genre, Oh-Shapes, has incentivised working out.

Similarly, Vice President of Facebook Reality Labs Andrew Bosworth spoke about how AR and VR can help to connect, such as changing the way we interact with people especially in the era of social distancing, noting that “we might have lost the commute to work, but we also lost the community”.

Following the livestream, information on Oculus Quest 2 continued to surface with people getting an early look into the device, with the headset slated to be released on October 13.

While I am looking forward to getting one, it will be a chore as only 25 countries are officially importing or selling it, leaving the rest to scour the after-market and forwarding companies for a chance to experience untethered VR. Other concerns include the use of the Snapdragon XR2 at around 50 per cent to conserve battery life and the white colour of the headset being a dirt magnet.

If 2020 has any merits that can be highlighted, it might as well be the start of a revolution in providing users to play VR without being tethered to a PC, anywhere and at any time.