If you are an industry person with an interest in virtual reality (VR) it can be daunting to figure out which headsets on the market that suits you the best. At Kanda, we get to try many different VR headsets but over the time we have developed a soft spot for the Oculus Quest and so has our customers. This article covers some of its the pros and cons and provides you with insight on whether to use it in your business case.
Con 1 - Limited Performance
When you compare a tethered VR headset with the Oculus Quest you will observe that there is a difference in the visual quality. This is because all the processing done by the Oculus Quest happens inside the headset itself, which on a tethered headset is on an external computer. Because there is a vast difference in available processing power it is difficult to achieve the same visual fidelity. We like to make the comparison that the Oculus Quest has around the same amount of processing power as a generation 2018/2019 iPad.
There are various solutions that can be implemented to achieve a decent visual experience. From a development perspective, you can implement solutions such as occlusion culling, LODs, texture atlases and others that push the performance boundaries. A common request we get is to integrate clients' CAD models into VR which requires reducing the complexity of the model.
Optimization needs to be considered when budgeting your VR project. As a practical example, we have experienced optimization budgets ranging from 10 to 30 percent of the total development budget, but this heavily depends on the specifications of a given project.
Additional note: Not long ago, Oculus announced Oculus Link. A new feature that allows the Oculus Quest to interface with VR applications designed for the Rift S. This means that in the future, the Oculus Quest may be able to run applications that are processed on a PC and then streamed to the Oculus Quest headset. We know little about Oculus link, but you can see Oculus's own presentation for more information here:
Con 2 - Limited Screen Sharing
A general issue of using VR for industrial purposes is that VR is a solitary experience, which makes it difficult for people outside of the headset to follow along with what is happening inside the virtual realm. This can be an issue if a group of people are involved, i.e presenting in VR for conferences or training courses. For tethered VR headsets, this is less of a problem, due to the operating computer that can mirror the image inside the headset. Since the Quest is totally wireless there is no secondary screen to mirror to. Oculus has then tried to implement a build-in streaming solution, that can stream to a phone or a Chromecast, but, in our professional opinion, the implementation is less than optimal. The quality of the stream is varying and at its best, it is like watching a 640x480 YouTube video on a 56k modem.
At Kanda, we embrace the challenge and have implemented an alternative solution to streaming, which involves adding networking into the application. Instead of streaming the entire picture inside the VR headset, we only stream the positions and interactions of the user. An AppleTV functioning as a small server runs the application and receives these positions and interactions, which are then emulated in the application. Just as a mime mirror your every move.
Here is an example of how we at Kanda stream from the Oculus Quest. A small AppleTV runs the entire application and receives headset and controller positions from the Quest. The AppleTV then mimics the information so it looks like the entire image is streamed.
Implementing network into a project is costly and therefore this approach is only applicable for smaller projects. But the result is a high-quality image with low latency.
Con 3 - Slow development iterations
A surefire way of improving the quality of your VR application is to reduce the development iteration time. This gives the opportunity to test work more often, reach goals more easily and ensure efficient implementation. A majority of VR developers are using the 3D platform Unity which is well-known for fast development iterations because you can test directly in the editor. Testing directly in the editor is possible for most platforms, but not for the Oculus Quest. In short, this means the development cost can increase if the project is targeted for Oculus Quest.
However, a tethered VR headset like a Rift S or Index Pro can test directly in the editor. We advise that if you plan on implementing the Oculus Quest that in order to get the benefits of fast iterations cycles, you also buy a Rift S on which to test and develop, and then only test on the Oculus Quest occasionally. It is important to have this in mind when planning a development budget.
Pro 1 - It is portable
The most immediate feature of the Oculus Quest is that its portable. It is one of the primary selling points of the headset and it does it well. With a battery life of 4-5 hours, only a single cable for charging and an easy to carry traveling case you can easily bring it wherever and whenever you want. Even though the latest generation of tethered headsets have replaced their lighthouse technology with inside-out tracking, and reduced the amount of equipment significantly, you still need to bring a reasonably powerful laptop.
There are other wireless headsets on the market that is just as portable, but none of them has the same processing power as the Oculus Quest.
From an industry standpoint, this makes the Quest perfect for most scenarios because the VR setup is not confined to a specific space, which is the case for tethered VR setups. Are you going to a conference with tons of people? Bring a handful of Quests with you so everyone can try. Do you need to upskill your employees? Hand them a Quest and let them do the training at home at their own pace. Do you wish to demonstrate your 4-ton cookie dough press outside your showroom? Digitalize your dough presser and bring a Quest to your customers' offices to reduce transportation costs. There are many business use cases that benefit from a non-static VR setup and we believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.
An important accessory to the Oculus Quest is its traveling case. The entire headset setup fits into the traveling case; Headset, controllers, and charger.
Pro 2 - It is easy to use
The Oculus Quest comes with a straight forward and easy to use operating system based on Android. Because the VR headset has less functionality than a PC or a mobile phone the operating system has less functionality to support and therefore makes the user interface simple. Every employee in a company can quickly learn to use the headset, and therefore makes it more accessible to an entire organization.
As with other VR headsets, you still have to set up a guardian that defines your play area, which helps the user avoid running into obstacles. Setting up the guardian is easy, and takes little time. Because the Quest is easy to use and does not require additional hardware such as lighthouses or a computer, there is no need for an IT specialist to be responsible for the headset.
Pro 3 - It is cheap
In Europe, the Oculus Quest costs around 470€ (520$). Tethered headsets vary in price; Oculus Rift S 480€ (530$), Vive Cosmos, 660€ (730$), Valve Index 1.080€ (1.190$). But for tethered headsets, there is the additional cost of having a strong enough computer. For tethered headsets, we assume that a good enough PC will cost a minimum of 600€ (660$) and preferably 900€ (990$), and this is only including the computer itself, not any accessories to the computer such as monitors, keyboard and mouse.
In short, a tethered headset with a computer will cost at least 1080€ (1.200$) while the Oculus Quest only costs 470€ (520$).
This difference in price makes Oculus Quest cheaper to integrate into larger organizations. Being cheaper than an iPhone the Oculus Quest could be handed out to each new employee for training purposes or a handful of Quests can be brought to a sales presentation to ensure all participating clients can experience VR without having to wait in line.
There is no denying that the Oculus Quest will move the VR market. Being portable, easy to use and its cheap pricing allows it to be flexible and to fit into many different business cases. As with any technology, Oculus Quest also has some drawbacks such as limited performance, poor screen sharing, and a more cumbersome development process, but there are methods of circumventing these issues.
We at Kanda truly believe that Oculus Quest is the best option for many business cases and therefore recommend it to many of our customers.
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Oculus Quest is also planning on integrating hand tracking: