By Bernard Wong
The following reflection comes from UC Berkeley Student Bernard Wong, who recorded his first impressions upon trying out an Oculus Quest 2 for the first time.
Opening the box was quite an amazing experience for me and gave me a very good initial impression. At first glance, the Oculus Quest 2 comes in a very sleek and beautiful-looking case. You could tell that every single piece of equipment is of good quality, right down to the very box it comes in. The Quest 2 wastes no time in getting into it; opening the box presented a very gorgeous headset along with two alluring controllers. The case also included two batteries along with a USBC charger.
I wasted no time excitedly putting on the headset and trying it out. It came already partially charged and I quickly put it on. Overall the headset was very comfortable and as an Xbox player for most of my life, I quickly adjusted to using the controllers as well. Overall, the setup was intuitive and was similar to setting up any other smartphone device. I inputted all of my information and entered my wifi password and was in. However, I was a bit disappointed to find out that you are still not able to use a non-facebook account to log in. I tried to find a loophole to use my Gmail account to no avail. Nonetheless, I ended up using my Facebook account instead and was introduced to the very first tutorial. In the tutorial, they taught me how to use the controllers and all the different functions for each button, as well as learning how to adjust my headset for optimal use and vision. You can adjust the goggles to either be wide or narrow. Unfortunately for myself, I found that my eyes happened to be just something in between, but I stuck with the narrow option instead. Going through the tutorial was a fantastic experience for me. It was my first experience in a virtual environment and I really felt like I was actually there. It phased me through different worlds and I found that the audio from the headset seemed to be coming from all different directions as well. For the first time, I actually had depth perception in my headset, which was completely different from using only my phone. It really felt like I was actually in the environment I was in and it felt so real. I could reach out and grab things and throw them around as well. I could positively say that the tutorial was a very pleasant experience which gave me all of the knowledge I needed to use the rest of the Oculus functions.
After the tutorial, I was introduced to the home screen, and I set up my first virtual environment. Navigating through the menus was very similar to any other smart device and the Oculus gave a lot of tips and indicators to give you an idea of what to do. Overall, going through the tutorial was very intuitive and easy for me. I had plenty of experience setting up devices in general and was very used to the controllers. The interface was very simple and ergonomic. I would say that one of the only things I hated was typing in the interface. Moving your controllers to hit each key is not exactly the most efficient way to type and I found myself struggling to accurately type in a lot of the information such as passwords and usernames. Another issue I found is that the battery life for the headset device seemed to drain fairly quickly. I always found myself having to charge it even when I simply put it on sleep. This became a bit frustrating for me as I found myself often finding the headset out of power. And the charge speed is a bit slow as well—after timing it, it took around 180 minutes to get a full charge which for me was extremely slow.
Impressions From an Outside View
On the other hand, I let my girlfriend try it as well. Unlike myself, she had no experience using the controllers. Pressing the buttons to navigate the menus as well as the joysticks was a difficult task for her. While wearing the headset and experiencing the visuals was still very cool, trying to open up different apps and learn how to use both triggers was very confusing. When the Oculus asked its user to calibrate the settings and set up the room space, she seemed to struggle with adjusting the settings and understanding what the Oculus wanted her to do. Overall though, she said she had a great time and really enjoyed the experience. She said she would definitely try to use the Quest again
While I had an easy time setting up the device, I could see how someone less versed in technology and using joy-cons could have a much harder initial time. To perform many of the functions in Oculus, you need to understand a bit of tech vocabulary as well as have some good hand-eye coordination to use your controllers in a virtual space. I could certainly see individuals who are not as well versed in technology and setting up devices (especially older people or those who don’t use smartphones) could certainly struggle with using the Oculus and might not have as great of an experience as I did.
Using the Oculus for Education?
One of the things I’m really excited about is the use of VR in education to teach and learn. During finals week, I attempted to only use the Oculus to study for my finals and this is what I discovered. I found that the Oculus was a fantastic tool to help me focus. Everything was in front of your face and really big. Doing readings was a fairly fun activity since the text seemed to be right in front of your face and seemed as though you were holding a book in your hand. I think the added benefit of being able to simply sit in your bed in a relaxing position was a huge plus as well. Watching lectures was also very interesting as every lecture felt like you were sitting in a movie theater with widescreen mode on. When you turn the video onto fullscreen, it really feels as though the video envelops your entire vision and as a result makes it easier to focus on the material and have fewer distractions around you.
On the other hand, navigating through the browser and typing into pages is just simply slower than using your pc. The Oculus forces you to use their default Oculus browser and does not have any support for Chrome so many of the familiar functionalities you would find in your usual browser on your pc will not be found on the Oculus. Another interesting thing I found is that the Oculus just seems to be slower as a whole—webpages load slower and videos will buffer for longer periods of time and just seem to be a little choppy for me at times as well as always seeming to be a lower resolution. And as stated before, typing in VR is quite difficult especially if you just started but I found myself getting better and better with more use.
Unfortunately, with all the good things and bad things I said above, I think the main dealbreaker for studying with the Oculus is simply the fact that eventually, you’ll feel a bit disoriented, tired, or dizzy. Even when I was just doing a reading on a page, I don’t know why but I just felt exhausted reading it after half an hour compared to doing it on my PC. I was forced to take breaks in between each lecture and take off my headset to reorient myself. Using the Oculus for extended periods of time for activities like studying is just not very feasible. For this very reason, I sadly found myself going back to my PC to study more and more often.
So how affordable is the Oculus for undergraduate students like me? Well, at the moment the Oculus Quest 2 is retailing for around the steep price of $300. Even for someone like me who worked in VR, I found the alternative (using my smartphone) while being way less cool was also about 75% as effective as the quest and got the job done for me when I was doing my projects. For the majority of the population that doesn’t work in VR well, there are many alternatives as well without spending that lucrative $300. Nowadays, there are several VR pop-up sites that offer people to try VR and play games for a much lower price. To most of the people I talked to, they see VR as something really impressive that they would love to try but not want to have permanently.
On the other hand, smartphones and PC setups nowadays easily cost over $1000. I see Quests often being gifted out for Christmas so for some, the Quest is readily affordable. I see the majority of students here at Berkeley wielding their iPhones. I think with the rise of meta and the shift to a focus in VR, as well as VR tech getting better and cheaper, I could see VR being much more accessible in the future.
Using the Oculus for the first time was an amazing experience that I had been waiting to try for a very long time. The feeling, once you are placed in a virtual environment, is something that really can’t be described in words and can only be felt. I think that the Quest is something that I would love to use for a very long time and I am very excited to use it for our upcoming projects soon!