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Untethered Oculus Go VR headset improves on Gear VR design

May 2, 2018 — by Eric Brown 641 views

Oculus has launched an untethered, 3DOF head tracking “Oculus Go” VR headset for $199. The Go runs Android on a Snapdragon 821 and offers a 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 display and two-hour plus battery life.

Facebook’s Oculus unit has begun shipping its standalone Oculus Go alternative to the higher-end, tethered Oculus Rift, which sells for $399. The Oculus Go is available in a $199 version with 16GB storage and a $249 version with 32GB. You can load content onto the WiFi-enabled device via an Oculus smartphone app, which is available for Android and iOS.

Oculus Go
(click image to enlarge)

The 190 x 115 x 105mm headset weighs 468 grams, which is about the same as the Rift and the HTC Vive. It’s equipped with a 5.5-inch, stereoscopic, fast-switch LCD display. The display supplies 538ppi, 2560 x 1440 resolution for 1280 x 1440 pixels per eye.

The display features “our best lenses yet,” says Oculus. According to a Go hands-on write-up on The Verge, Oculus uses higher-quality fresnel lenses, such as those found on the Rift, instead of the Gear VR’s “magnifying glass-like” lenses.


The Oculus Go offers built-in spatial audio drivers for immersive sound without requiring bulky headphones. A 3.5mm audio jack is also provided. The Li-Ion battery supports up to 2 hours of VR game play or 2.5 hours of streaming video, and is supported with a 10W USB power adapter.

More views of the Oculus Go
(click images to enlarge)

The Go is not to be confused with the upcoming, higher-end Oculus Santa Cruz, a similarly untethered VR headset that will offer “full motion controllers or futuristic inside-out tracking technology,” according to The Verge. Unlike the Santa Cruz model, the Go won’t let you move or lean your body, although you are allowed to move your head. The Go is an improvement, however, over the similarly 3DOF Samsung Gear VR, which combines Oculus technology with a bring-your-own 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4 phablet.

Gear VR

The Oculus Go is compatible with the same Mobile SDK, Unity, and Unreal SDKs used on the Samsung Gear VR, and can run most Gear VR apps unmodified, says Oculus. Differences include the lack of a 2D phone display or camera support, which could affect some apps, and it does not ship with Google Play Services pre-installed. There’s no HMD touchpad, and the controllers are different, and the device does not support pre v1.0 apps. That still leaves you with over 1,000 “VR games, social apps, and 360° experiences,” says Oculus.

The Oculus Go runs Android and Oculus code on Qualcomm’s 2.4GHz Snapdragon 821. Like the Snapdragon 820, it features four Cortex-A72 like Kyro cores and an Adreno 530 GPU, but it runs 10 percent faster and offers longer battery life. By contrast, the Gear VR works with a bring-your-own Galaxy Note 4 with a Snapdragon 805, which has four slower Cortex-A15 like cores.

Oculus has optimized the Snapdragon 821 with “Dynamic Throttling” technology, which offers “better energy efficiency, for smoother frame rates and a better overall experience,” says Oculus. The feature lets developers throttle the clock speed of the CPU and GPU dynamically “depending on the need of the scene,” thereby increasing battery life.

Other new features include Fixed Foveated Rendering (FFR), which “allows the edges of the eye texture to be rendered at a lower resolution than the center,” says Oculus. This multi-resolution rendering technology reduces warping effects.

There’s also a 72Hz Mode, which enables developers to optionally switch to 72fps instead of 60fps, for scenes that require higher visual quality — but at the expense of power. Much more on all these imaging technologies may be found here.

Oculus Go controller (left) and top view
(click images to enlarge)

The new controller runs on AA batteries and includes a trigger, touchpad, and back and home buttons. Built-in sensors “translate your natural movements into VR,” says Oculus.

Oculus Go is touted for its breathable fabrics, injection foam molding and adjustable straps. An eyeglass space enables an optimized fit, and prescription lenses inserts are optional.

According to The Verge hands-on, the biggest improvements over the Gear VR include the design details, new controller, improved lenses, and audio features. It notes, however, that most of the available VR games are still pretty bad, and that the headset is still too heavy.

After launching the Oculus Go yesterday, Oculus today offered more details on future VR plans, including the Oculus Santa Cruz, which may arrive by the end of the year. It also unveiled a new Half Dome technology that’s farther out, which intends to reduce VR problems like “tunnel-vision field of view and not being able to read something you hold right in front of your (virtual) face,” according to CNET.

Further information

The Oculus Go is available for $199 with 16GB storage and $249 with 32GB. More information may be found on the Oculus Go product page. More on app development may be found here.

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