Poisonous and unethical: One evening with Fb’s Oculus Quest 2 was sufficient
As a professional technologist and end user, I try not to introduce too many personal biases when trying out technology – at least for now. In the past, I’ve had issues with certain tech companies like Apple that resulted in decades of dislike for their products.
In the case of Apple, it took an employer intervention in 2018 to transform me from a dedicated, die-hard Windows user to a Mac user. I apologize or am not apologizing for my previous comments on Apple and the Mac platform under Steve Jobs – what I have experienced has been legitimate. But since then, I’ve had the feeling that the company has changed a lot under Tim Cook. I also had an experience and condition that brought the Apple Watch to the surface that I have to acknowledge as it almost certainly saved my life.
So yes, people’s relationships with products can change, and companies themselves can change. But sometimes you need radical changes on one or both sides for these things to happen.
Take, for example, Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset – which is now being branded as a meta product.
I have already stated that I refuse to be part of Mark Zuckerberg’s “Metaverse”. But this construct as a final state does not yet exist; It’s primarily conceptual and currently has some limited demos and apps in the form of the company’s Horizon platform.
My colleague at Jason Squared, Jason Cipriani, told me he recently had the opportunity to play with an Oculus Quest 2 and was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think about trying it – in fact, I was absolutely against it until I took part in a heated Twitter Spaces conversation with Robert Scoble last week.
Suffice it to say, they twisted my arm a bit because I had outdated ideas about what consumer VR could be used for, and I gave in. In fact, I feel like VR has a lot of great vertical industry applications, but I have great reservations about letting any company, let alone Mark Zuckerberg, rule its future.
So I ordered one of the units from Costco, the 256GB upper-end model for $ 400 – and when it showed up a week later, I gave it a try over the weekend.
First off, let me say that the Oculus Quest 2 technology stack is disruptive. I hadn’t realized how much consumer VR technology had evolved over the past few years, despite checking out Magic Leap, which I found disappointing. Microsoft’s Hololens 2, which I’ve spent some time with, is impressive, but it’s also a vertical market product, not a consumer product.
The $ 300-400 price tag for the Oculus Quest 2 is without question where VR needs to be to achieve widespread adoption. My own experience of using it has been positive from a purely technical point of view; Had another company made this product – be it Google, Samsung, or Microsoft – I probably would have kept it.
There are certainly some shortcomings in this device that, in my opinion, can only be improved by successive iterations and improvements to the underlying components, such as the display unit, which requires most of the work. The images on the dual stereoscopic displays (1832 x 1920) and the content looked severely pixelated when glasses and the supplied glasses spacer were used.
While this is sharper than my 70-inch 1080p TV, it’s a different experience when those displays are millimeters from your eyeballs and you can see every single imperfection and pixel. This was especially true of the user interface elements that run on an Android-derived operating system. While it was “good enough” for some of the games I tried, I couldn’t watch any feature-length films on Netflix or Amazon Prime – the two main content providers – as it was fuzzy and the experience was a headache. trigger quite quickly. I also found that the audio quality was lacking and not strong enough with the built-in surround headset.
The system’s Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 SoC, released in September 2020, is barely up to date; Despite being optimized for VR, it only has 6GB of RAM, and at times the experience felt sluggish with data being loaded and cached in certain apps, especially Meta’s own Horizon platform for live events.
The system uses an app store-like model where almost anything is bought without trying. Many games and apps cost more than $ 30, with few free experiences. Based on the feedback I have received from owners of Oculus products that go back to the original versions, many apps like Netflix VR haven’t been updated significantly in years and are out of date. As an ecosystem, it’s stagnant with the exception of a few premium developers like Lucasarts / Disney who produce the Vader Immortal series – which I’ve tested and immensely enjoyed – but it’s not exclusively limited to the Oculus platform; it also exists on PlayStation.
At the current price of the product, I could have tolerated some of these things to get a better understanding of the ecosystem and learn more about consumer VR if another company was behind it. But since Meta is behind the Oculus, you need a Facebook ID for everything to work and your data is collected and used by Meta.
Mark Zuckerberg and his sympathizers will run this unethical venture for the foreseeable future; it’s just too expensive. Until this company goes through some radical leadership changes and is forced into ethical behavior, I cannot participate in its VR ecosystem.
From unpacking the device in the afternoon of delivery to charging, setting up and using the device for around eight hours in total, I realized that I had enough. The following afternoon I did a factory reset, wrapped it up, and brought it back to Costco.
Did using Quest 2 want me to get into virtual reality more? Absolutely. If Google releases a similar product, I’ll buy one at a similar price, despite my existing support issues. If Apple brings out such a product, I’ll be instantly accessing it like I would at Microsoft if they decide to bring out a consumer hololens. I could even consider one from Sony. But I’m done with everything Meta has done.
Does Meta’s involvement with Oculus have too much taste in your mouth? Talk back and let me know.