“I want to buy something.”
I said this to my wife a couple of weeks ago when we were relaxing at home after we both got off of work. Being the self-proclaimed tech enthusiast that I am, I often get an itch to play with a new piece of technology to keep myself engaged with what’s going on in the industry.
Thankfully with the nature of the job that I have, this usually isn’t an issue. I get to use the Galaxy S10 as my main Android phone, have an iPhone XS to stay on top of the enemy, and regularly get to check out new headphones, smart home gadgets, etc. It’s an incredible privilege and one I don’t take lightly, and while it usually calms my need to run out and buy a new toy, I’ve been getting a little antsy lately.
All of these new smartphones are sleek and powerful, but it often feels like we’re just getting minor refreshes of the same thing over and over again. Smart home tech is wickedly cool, but when my Roomba hits the same wall ten times in a row or my Google Nest Hub starts talking on its own, I’m reminded the tech has plenty of room to mature.
Because of things like this, I can sometimes feel that spark of excitement I used to get with every gadget release slowly fading out. The technology around us is awesome, but so much of it feels so familiar to what we had the year before.
Which brings us back to what I said above — “I want to buy something.”
On May 21, I found myself browsing through the Best Buy app just to see what was out there. Right when I was about to give up, I remembered that the Oculus Quest had just come out. After a lot of encouragement from my wife to Treat. Yo. Self., I caved in and bought a 128GB Quest. I figured I’d try it for a few days, see if it was really worth the money, and probably ultimately return it. But after my first battle in Robo Recall and inaugural Beat Saber song, I knew that spark was back.
VR has been around for a few years now, but unless all you care about is watching YouTube or playing small arcade games with devices like the Oculus Go, good VR experiences require not only the headset itself but a console/PC for it to be tethered to and some sort of external tracking camera or sensor. That’s a big barrier of entry, and in my experience with the PSVR, often results in inconsistent controls and tracking if everything’s not set up 100% correctly.
The Oculus Quest isn’t the first standalone VR headset we’ve seen, but what’s so damn cool about it is that it gives you a similar experience of using an Oculus Rift or PSVR without the need for any wires or tethering of any kind. And at least in my experience, it works almost flawlessly.
Writing that the Quest works well is an easy thing to do, but when you stop and think about what the headset is doing without needing to be connected to any external source of power or tracking, it’s astonishing what Oculus was able to achieve here. You can walk around in a virtual world, move freely without tripping over cables, and fully interact with what’s around you with Oculus’s Touch controllers that go as far to track minute finger movements.
Furthermore, the games you can play are on the same level as what was previously limited to much more expensive and clunky headsets. From Moss, Beat Saber, Vader Immortal, SUPERHOT VR, and plenty more, the content that’s being offered is about as good as it gets.
I haven’t been this excited about a piece of technology in years.
That’s all amazing from a technical standpoint, but in the real world, you don’t stop to think about all of the intricacies going on to make the headset work. Instead, you’re just focused on whatever game you’re in because of how well everything comes together when it’s time to play.
Whether I’m in my office or the living room, I can strap on the Quest without having to move any furniture, launch a game, and get instantly transported to a new world for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour, or however long I decide to stay strapped in.
And when I am playing a game, the feeling is almost magical. It can be easy to become jaded and cynical in the world that we live in, so having a device that allows you to escape and ignore the real world around you for a little while is an enticing proposition. Other VR headsets have been doing that for a while, but with the Quest, you don’t have to think about getting anything set up to go explore. Just throw it on your head and you’re done.
There’s been a lot of criticism surrounding VR, and understandably so, but I think the Quest has the potential to really make it a mainstream thing. Just like a PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch, this is a standalone game console. But unlike those other systems, the Quest makes you a part of whatever game you’re playing, and — if you’re going through Beat Saber songs on Expert — can net you a pretty nice workout, too.
There’s nothing else quite like the Quest out there, and I’m beyond excited that this thing exists. It’s something completely new that we haven’t seen before — at least not to this extent — and works far better than it has any right to.
That might sound awfully fangirlish, but trust me on this one. If you don’t already own a Quest, see if you can try one out at your local Best Buy. Once you do, I promise you’ll be just as enthralled as I am.