In the end, the time has come: Oculus has officially revealed the name and the price of the Santa Cruz headset. Its name will be Oculus Quest and will cost $399.
I followed today’s OC5 conference via Facebook streaming only for this moment and Oculus has not disappointed my expectations.
After some minutes from the beginning of the keynote, Zuck has said that in his opinion VR should be standalone, 6 DOF and feature full hands presence. At that point we were all thinking “ok, now tell us about the Santa Cruz!” and he has satisfied us. He introduced us to “Oculus Quest”, that is the actual commercial name of the Santa Cruz.
My first thought has been “meh”, honestly I expected a more exciting name… “Quest” is in line with all other names of the devices, very short and effective (“Go”, “Rift”, etc…) but instinctively I thought that this name doesn’t fit the device at all. (Why quest? What quest should help me in going in? Mah. “Go” made sense, because it is a device you can carry with you and enjoy on the go… but Quest?)
Anyway, after the reveal we have been able to admire how the Quest is made: it is in line with what we have seen from previous Oculus Connect and from online patents. It basically seems an Oculus Rift without cables and with four cameras on the front. During the keynote, everyone has highlighted that the Controllers are almost identical to the ones of the Rift and this makes easier for developers to port PC games to Quest.
The reveal video has also confirmed the weird design with two audio plugs, one for each side of the headset, that opens up the road for a new audio accessory sold by Oculus.
Regarding the specifications of this new headset, gathering infos here and there we have a quite clear picture. The headset is clearly based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR reference design. We know this because Oculus has explicitly declared this on its developers’ blog:
Oculus Quest runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile chip set, providing the device with lightning fast performance speeds. The entire headset has been designed to maximize the performance of this processor, from advanced thermal venting to OS-level performance improvements.
This clarifies the doubts of people that were convinced that Quest would be able to play games like Robo Recall. It is just a standalone headset, based on the same reference design of Vive Focus and Lenovo Mirage Solo… and having tried the last two, I can assure you that the computational power is not even comparable to the one of a PC. Facebook people today talked about an experience with the same quality of the PC one, but they were clearly hinting only at the fact that Quest is a high-quality headset, that is well manufactured and has great games, exactly as the Rift. Furthermore, thanks to the fact that the Quest uses controllers identical to Touch, the Quest will feature a lot of game ported from PC. So, not an experience identical to the one of the PC, but one that will resemble it a bit.
At launch, Quest will feature more than 50 games and some of them will be very famous PC ones like Robo Recall, Moss and SuperHot VR. Of course, these will be optimized and reduced versions of the PC games, otherwise they couldn’t run on a mobile headset…. but I’m anyway excited. Robo Recall without wires! And without caring about the location of Constellation cameras… wow!! And then also a Darth Vader game is coming as a Quest exclusive! That’s an amazing move because the Star Wars brand can really move people into entering virtual reality!
So, again on specifications:
- Snapdragon 835 VR reference design;
- Same high-quality lenses of Oculus Go;
- FOV around 95°-100°;
- 1600×1440 per eye resolution;
- 72 FPS;
- Adjustable IPD;
- 4 GB ram
- 64 GB memory in its base $399 version;
- Integrated audio (with better bass than Oculus Go integrated audio);
- 6 DOF inside-out tracking of headset thanks to 4 integrated cameras (you will need to setup no camera in your room);
- 6 DOF tracking of both controllers thanks to the cameras of your headset.
As you can see, it appears as a solid 835 VR headset. The tracking seems optimal since Oculus is so sure about its performances that is making people try a multiplayer game in the OC5 arena. That’s impressive!
The nice feature of this tracking technology is that it works on reconstructing the environment around the user. This means two things:
- The Guardian system can be set up in multiple rooms and the system will remember the Guardian setup for each room. While reviewing the Mirage Solo and the Focus I complained about their fixed 2m x 2m safety box from the starting point of the experience that has absolutely no sense in helping the user in feeling safe inside VR. With the Quest you will be able to have a real safety cage for each room… and the system will also remember it! This will be possible thanks to some CV + AI magic… and it reminds me a lot what HoloLens already does in its system;
- In the future, the Quest will allow for Mixed Reality experiences. Oculus just teased it, saying that it is a work in progress, but if the headset is able to reconstruct the whole environment, it will be possible to create experiences that merge the real and the virtual. IMHO it is a pity that it doesn’t also have two frontal cameras where there are the eyes of the user, because this would have allowed for an almost perfect MR (like the one we are doing for Beat Reality), but even without them some cool MR experiences are possible.
This is the first true feature that has excited me about the Quest: all the other ones were something I was expecting (in the end it is a 835 VR headset), but environmental tracking at this quality was not. I imagined that they were working on MR somehow, but I expected something less. So, kudos to Oculus for this.
Then it came the moment for the announcement of the release date and price. The release date is “Spring 2019” and I guess that this means that the Quest will be released in May during the F8 conference… and the price is $399! When I heard $399 I couldn’t believe it… I thought they were talking about the Rift. And instead, they were talking about the Quest! My predicted price range was $400-$700, but I expected something like $500, so in line with the Vive Focus, but here we are at $400, so the price of the Lenovo Mirage Solo. But the Mirage Solo has lower resolution, less content, no integrated audio, and only one 3 DOF controller!
As you can see, that price is a complete killer for competitors. For sure Facebook with its deep pockets can afford to sell a headset earning very little from it (or even nothing) if it thinks that in the long run, this strategy will take all the money back when it will be the leader of the new mainstream technological platform, that is XR. $399 for those features is really an incredible price. As I’ve said above, Lenovo Mirage Solo will have hard times to compete with it, because for the same price offers a lot less. Google has teased some MR features and an additional accessory to enable 6 DOF tracking, to try to stay in par, but we have to see how much people will love these things. Vive Focus has the same headset specifications of Quest and also allows for MR and in the future will offer 6DOF controller tracking emulation… but it is predicted to cost $100 more and has a game library that is far inferior to Oculus’s one (to not speak about lenses quality and controller ergonomics, that are worse than the ones promised by this new headset).
This shows how on the consumer market, Oculus Quest will have almost no competition. It is a high-quality headset, featuring high-quality content at an affordable price. If competitors want to survive, they will have to offer more services or lower their prices. Or move to a different market. Vive is already a premium product on the PC platform and could position the Focus as a premium headset with dedicated services for education and such, for instance. HTC has the advantage to having the monopoly in China, where Oculus can’t sell its devices, so it could go all-in on the Chinese internal market (where B2B use of VR is enormous) and come back in the Western world only when it is ready to fight again with Oculus, maybe with a cheaper 6DOF Focus 2.0. Or it can start adding even more features to the one currently offered by the Focus through accessories and such.
These are all interesting possibilities, but what’s for sure is that today Oculus sets to be the most successful brand for consumer standalone headsets. Anyway, we have seen in these years that competition is beneficial for VR… I am sure that the other brands will fight back and we will benefit from this war.
Notice that the low price of $399 could start cannibalizing the Rift itself. Rift isn’t getting any hardware updates and the company is clearly starting giving always more importance to Quest and Go (think how today’s event live stream in VR was not accessible through Rift…). Zuck itself said that VR in his opinion should be standalone. The Quest now costs exactly as the Rift, but it offers more freedom and easiness of use. Yes, it has not the computational power of a PC, but if you are not a hard gamer that cares a lot about graphics, you could really enjoy a simplified version of Robo Recall on the Quest and have tons of fun with it anyway. So, I envision the Quest stealing market shares of the Rift. It is a common consensus that standalone will be the widespread version of VR, while PC VR will be the premium products… Facebook knows this and so bets more on what will be the more popular headset.
A last thought about games: people with a Vive didn’t care much about Oculus exclusives because there was ReVive. But now that the Quest is standalone… how can a Vive Focus user play a game for Oculus Quest? He has not the Oculus Store and all the Oculus OS… maybe, in the end, exclusive titles will be really exclusive this time. And since Oculus loves releasing amazing exclusive games, this can be another big competitive advantage for them.
And this may also be bad for Steam… if all VR companies go standalone, VR players won’t buy games on Steam anymore… maybe this is the reason why there are so many rumors regarding a headset made by Valve itself. Who knows.
Oculus Quest has not been released yet, but it has already caused an earthquake in the VR ecosystem. Great move, Oculus.
(Header image by Oculus)
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