Oculus Go: Providing Great Immersive 3D Entertainment at a Great Price

Despite recent successes, it remains to be seen whether virtual reality (VR) will find its footing among the general public. Consumer-grade VR tech has largely been split between two polarities: expensive headsets that need to be tethered to expensive computers, and cheaper headsets that use expensive smart phones as their operating systems. Sitting in the middle of this spectrum is the Oculus Go, the stand-alone headset that arrived on the market last May. I just got my own Oculus Go headset and I can definitely say that between high-end and low-end VR, Oculus Go is the best of both worlds.

Just about every tech-centric magazine, website and YouTube channel has reviewed the Oculus Go by now, so I've decided to approach my review from a different viewpoint. If you've read this blog long enough, you'll know that I'm a devoted fan of 3D entertainment. I've seen 3D photography, watched 3D movies, read 3D comic books, used 3D TV sets, and played 3D video games. From that perspective, I believe that Oculus Go is one of the most affordable and user-friendly 3D entertainment machines ever made. However, if you want to get the most out of the Oculus Go, you have to be willing to consider everything this headset has to offer in addition to its obvious VR capabilities.

Because a computer or a smart phone aren't needed to get the Oculus Go to work, all users have to do is put it on their head and press the power button to get it running--it's that simple. The Oculus Go's user interface makes it very easy to access the content that's ideal for this headset. The web browsers and media channels that are included in the headset allow you to quickly find the content you want, and you also have the option of loading other browsers and channels to access even more content. While it can chew up battery power to use the headset to browse and download apps from the Oculus Go store, the Oculus app for smart phones minimizes some of that burden by allowing users to select apps from their phones.

Even though I've only had my Oculus Go headset for two weeks, here's what I have done with it so far:

3D Games: The primary selling point for just about all of the VR systems that are on the market right now is their game playing capabilities. Oculus Go does have a decent inventory of games that are readily available, although these games are probably not as complicated as the games that are provided for the higher-end VR headsets. That's not to say that these games are horrible; in fact, if you prefer your gaming sessions to be relaxing diversions instead of personal commitments that take days (or weeks) to complete, then the Oculus Go game inventory is perfectly suited for you.

I've downloaded four free video games so far, which fall into two different categories: Dead and Buried and Merry Snowballs, which are shooting galleries, and Angest and Dead Body Falls, which are point-and-click games with branching narratives. Each of these games are fairly simple in terms of how they're played, but the 3D immersion and design aesthetics are amazing to experience. I've played 3D video games before on the Nintendo 3DS, but the hand-held 3D screen on that system doesn't come close to Oculus Go's stereoscopic visuals: When characters approach you while playing Oculus Go games, it really feels like someone is invading your personal space. The effect is as astonishing as it is uncanny, and I can't recall any other video game system I've played that can compare to that.

Here are some of the brats you can lob snowballs at in Merry Snowballs.

3D Movies and Videos: If you know where to look, there is no shortage of 3D movies and videos to watch on the Oculus Go. Some of the most impressive ones I've found are the 3D HD 360-degree videos, which make you feel like you're at specific events and locations. There are also plenty of 2D HD 360 videos that lack the depth of their 3D counterparts but are still amazing to watch. If you love 3D movies but have been disappointed with how Hollywood has been lackadaisically applying 3D effects in post-production to its latest blockbuster, then you need to pick up an Oculus Go to see how the new generations of media producers have been experimenting with 3D effects in movies and videos.

Oculus Go users can rent and purchase 3D movies on demand through the Oculus store, and they can also shrink their 3D Blu-ray collection into video files that they can watch on the headset. (You can see the video on how to do this here; even though it takes a few hours, I tried it myself and it works very well.) Yet even after you build an inventory of video files to watch on the headset, the video player apps themselves are a treat to use. The app that I've been using, the Skybox VR Player, provides a virtual movie theater to sit in while you're watching your videos. This makes me want to pick up a copy of the 3D Film Archive's 3-D Rarities Blu-ray, just so I can say that I've watched the oldest 3D movie from 1922 in a 3D simulation of a movie theater in 2019.

3D Social Apps: One of the promises that has been made about VR is the ability to interact with people at distant locations via avatars in cyberspace. To test the Oculus Go’s capabilities in this area, I downloaded three apps: Oculus Rooms, vTime and AltspaceVR. Oculus Rooms and vTime focuses on small-scale interactions with other users, while AltspaceVR facilitates social events of various kinds for larger groups.

I haven’t completely mastered the social etiquette of Oculus Rooms and vTime yet to get the most out of those apps, but AltspaceVR has been blast. I’ve been to several events so far, including a book club meeting that hosted Dr. Helen Papagiannis to discuss her book, Augmented Human: How Technology Is Shaping the New Reality. Not only am I having a great time meeting follow VR enthusiasts through an app that creates the illusion of three-dimensional space, but I’m also thrilled over how I can attend informative and insightful social events without having to worry about traffic jams and finding a good parking spot.

Avatars attending a social event in AltspaceVR.

3D Experiences: The Oculus store lists its apps under the heading of “Experiences”, and I can see why. Sure, the Oculus Go can provide the same content as other media machines (video games, movies and social interactions), but where this headset really shines are through apps that utilize stereoscopic media and interactivity to provide something that no other medium can. As such, calling these app “experiences” is well suited for what the user will get from them.

Some of the experiences were built to provide immersive educational purposes (Mission: ISS), others explore the new range of expressions that VR makes possible (Dear Angelica), while others are a combination of both (Zero Days VR). Regardless, these experiences show what the Oculus Go can provide to users that no other medium can, and they are well worth your time.

A woman says goodbye to her mother via an immersive virtual painting in Dear Angelica.

Other reviews of the Oculus Go have largely been dismissive of its capabilities, choosing instead to emphasize how less sophisticated it is in comparison to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. While that is true, what the Oculus Go is capable of doing should not be overlooked. It already provides countless hours of unique and engrossing experiences, with even more scheduled for release this year. If you’ve been curious about VR but don’t have the money (or technical curiosity) to access the more expensive headsets, then the Oculus Go is the perfect solution.


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