In nearly 15 years of cutting-edge technology, there has never been a single product line that improved so fast. With Quest, there are no PCs required. There are no wires to run. All you do is grab the cloth headset and pull it around your head. Grab the two motion controllers, and you’re in VR. Full, walk-around-and-lift-things VR. All of the computing happens right on the headset, while the tracking happens from the “inside out” instead of requiring external points of reference. The Quest uses its own cameras to make sense of your environment.
Here are the problems the Quest has solved:
Using the Quest feels casual instead of a time-sucking commitment, because the Quest turns on when you put it on and it goes to sleep when you take it off, instantly.
You don’t have to download new firmware and constantly plug in the controllers to update them. It’s an automatic, wireless patch. All three pieces of hardware feel and act like one single system.
To make VR less isolating, you can broadcast your first-person view to local Android and iOS devices, so anyone in the room can see what you see.
If your controllers are sitting on a table, a little R and L will float above them so you grab the correct one in the correct hand.
Most importantly, Oculus’s design team has figured out how to let you walk around your house in a headset without hitting anything in the real world.
When you put the headset on, you see a black-and-white feed of your surroundings. This allows you to navigate your home safely.
To program a safe play area (in other words, a virtually fenced-in space to walk around without hurting yourself), all you do is point your controller at the ground and draw the boundaries. The Quest responds perfectly with a flowing, digital chalk line. Complete your polygon–just sketch around that kid’s toy in the way instead of moving it–and a wireframe of digital walls pops up around you. Inside any VR game, if you get too close to a real wall, it will display a wireframe boundary. Leave the play space, and your view automatically turns back to that black-and-white feed.
VR still needs developers to create more games and experiences to make the Quest something you’d use a lot for a long time. Because most developers prefer to build mobile apps for billions of phones instead of virtual reality apps for millions of headsets, that content problem might not be solved anytime soon. But after just a few years, Oculus has delivered VR hardware that’s good enough to feel like VR but simple enough to feel like an iPod. That alone is remarkable.