Oculus announced Go, its first standalone (ie, untethered) VR HMD at its Oculus Connect 4 conference in San Jose. Although Oculus is being a bit tight-lipped about the specifics–a spokesperson told us we wouldn’t even be able to see it or try it at the event–there are several things we do know, including what Oculus VR VP Hugo Barra announced on stage during the opening keynote.
Go Uses Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
One key detail we learned from sources close to the matter is that Oculus Go is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 SoC. Further, the Go will support only 3DoF. Or put differently, this is a more powerful and lighter weight version of the Gear VR, without the need for a dedicated (and expensive) smartphone.
All of this is especially enlightening given that during Google I/O we learned that Daydream VR partners HTC and Lenovo would be coming out with Snapdragon 835-based standalone HMDs, although Google’s annual announcement showcase took place last week with nary a mention of it. Lenovo’s web site pegs this Winter as the timeframe for its version.
Sources have indicated that Oculus’ forthcoming Project Santa Cruz headset–which we first saw as a prototype last year–will also be based on the Snapdragon 835 as well. But it looks as if HTC and Lenovo will beat Oculus to the punch on the high-end mobile SoC.
Is Oculus Go The Sweet Spot?
Still, Oculus Go is an interesting interim development. It represents what Barra calls the sweet spot for mass VR adoption. At $199, it’s hard to argue, at least from a price perspective. The Samsung Gear VR (a joint development with Oculus) sells for $129 and requires a high-end (costly) Samsung smartphone that is dedicated to tasks other than VR.
Dedicating an SoC solely to VR is the aim of a device like Oculus Go. Santa Cruz will take that one step further still, but even the Snapdragon 821, when it occupies a modern smartphone, runs for at least $400, so we’re surprised to see Oculus sell Go for $199. Clearly the company is making a statement and trying to make a bold claim on the standalone HMD market. And frankly, if Go takes off, we may have just seen the last of Gear VR.
More Go Details
There are several details Oculus did reveal about Go. We know that it will be lightweight, although the company hasn’t provided specifics. The soft elastic straps are adjustable, and the facial interface has been upgraded and is more breathable and form fitting than previous Oculus HMDs (although Barra didn’t specify if he meant Gear VR or the Rift).
The lenses use what Barra called next-generation optics, which are designed to provide better clarity, reduced glare, and the same FoV as the Rift. The displays are WQHD (2560×1440) fast-switch LCD, which Barra said has a higher pixel fill factor than OLED, which is what gives it the extra clarity and reduces the notorious screen-door effect you sometimes see in VR.
The Oculus Go includes integrated spatial audio; the audio drivers are built into the headset so you don’t have to use headphones (but of course, you can, via a 3.5mm jack.)
Finally, Gear and Go apps are binary compatible, and the controller input is also compatible from Gear to Go. In other words, all of your Gear apps should work on Go. The Go has its own controller, but it’s nearly identical to the Gear VR controller, so any differences may be academic.
Dev kits will begin shipping in November.