Other than motion sickness, the uncomfortable bulkiness of VR headsets has always stopped me from dropping hundreds of dollars on one. If only they were more like Geordi LaForge’s visor. That’s some fashionable VR design I could get behind. But it seems like Facebook’s Oculus division is trying to change that, according to Bloomberg.
Nothing has been publicly confirmed by Facebook, but the company might be building a smaller and lighter version of the current Quest, which also might include redesigned controllers and a faster screen refresh rate of at least 90Hz, up from the current 72Hz. There is testing being done on a 120Hz screen, but that could drain the Quest’s battery much faster. There are a few prototypes that are being tested.
One prototype will eventually go into production, and it could be 10-15 percent smaller than the current Oculus Quest, weighing only a pound. It could also entirely replace the current Quest. The next Quest might also have more plastic on the sides, like the Oculus Rift S, instead of the fabric that’s there now. Designers are also testing different strap materials that could be elastic instead of rubber and Velcro.
Again, it’s all unconfirmed news. Facebook had planned to launch a new model near the end of 2020, and might have also planned to announce it at its annual Oculus Connect conference, but sources within the company say that the covid-19 pandemic might delay the launch until sometime in 2021. Facebook also announced last month that it would be moving its Oculus conference to a digital platform due to the pandemic.
The current Oculus Quest is the same size as the other Oculus headsets and weighs about 1.25 pounds. But it’s a stand-alone device, so you don’t need to plug it into a PC or console to use it, and won’t have to worry about getting tangled in cords or tripping over them. But it only comes in two storage sizes, 64GB and 128GB, and can only handle small VR games that don’t need the power of a PC or console. For instance, I Expect You To Die only takes up just over 916MB of space, and the graphics are simple enough for the Quest to handle. Same with a game like Beat Saber. The Quest is perfect for those sorts of games, and in my experience, it causes the least amount of motion sickness or none at all.
There are still many issues for Facebook to solve the VR space. If Oculus is redesigning its Quest to be more comfortable, then will it do that to its other wired headsets too? Its limited storage capacity (and hardware overall) prevents the Quest from ever being able to handle something like Half-Life: Alyx. As much as I like Beat Saber, I’m not buying a VR headset for a limited catalog of games.
And what about hand tracking? Will that be an included feature on the redesigned Quest too? Maybe not since that tech requires more cameras and Oculus wants to slim down the Quest, and hand tracking isn’t used in many VR games at the moment. Redesigned controllers are great and all, but my ultimate VR fantasy is to play as a mage and attack things with nothing but my hands.
Update: This article previously listed the Oculus Quest refresh rate at 60Hz. It’s 72Hz. The Oculus Go has a default refresh rate of 60Hz.