Facebook-owned Oculus first announced the Oculus Go: a stripped down version of the Oculus Rift designed to bring virtual reality tech to the masses in October 2017. At CES 2018, the company — spearheaded by the charismatic Hugo Barra — divulged a few more details about the Oculus Go. As it turns out, Xiaomi is building the Oculus Go and the standalone VR headset will have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor powering the whole thing.
“Xiaomi is our hardware partner for launching Oculus Go globally,” Barra said during Qualcomm’s press briefer. “Oculus and Xiaomi are jointly announcing a new standalone VR product that is designed specifically for the Chinese market.”
This means Xiaomi and Oculus will have two headsets to make although both of them will share the same design and core hardware specs. The Oculus Go will be the international version sold across the world while the Mi VR Standalone will be a Chine-exclusive. The need for a specific China-only variant probably stems from the fact that Facebook and its services — including the Oculus store — is banned in the country which is why the company had to look for alternate measures. The Mi VR Standalone headset will, as a result, use Xiaomi software as well as content. The rest of the world will, meanwhile, be able to make use of the Oculus store and all the supported apps that come along.
Not a lot is known about the exact core hardware that’s inside the Oculus Go for now. All we know is that it will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and have a WQHD LCD screen. While we do not technically know about the technicalities of using this headset yet, we do know that it won’t require a high-end PC or a smartphone to function. The use case will therefore lie somewhere in the middle of a Samsung Gear VR — that’s also built in partnership with Oculus — and an Oculus Rift. Oculus, at the time of announcing the Go, had said that it would cost roughly $199 to own and since no new pricing specifics were announced at CES it is likely to carry the same price as and when it hits the market later this year.
Standalone VR headsets aren’t new
HTC, the Taiwanese brand responsible for the mighty fine and mighty expensive Vive, also has a standalone VR headset, aka the Vive Focus, to its name. It’s based on Qualcomm’s all-in-one reference design. In layman’s terms, the Standalone Vive VR headset does not require a high-end PC to function, the way the original Vive does. If that wasn’t enough, Standalone Vive VR headset also doesn’t require users to tether their phones to it, either: which means, ideally, it should be the closest that it can get to a standalone VR headset for now.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is being marketed on the back that it is VR and AR-ready from grounds-up and the newly announced Standalone Vive VR headset is based on the same mobile processor. The headset, because it makes use of Qualcomm’s all-in-one reference design, features inside-out tracking, thanks to depth-sensing cameras on-board. While current standalone VR headsets allow for users to only sit down and move their heads to interact, the Standalone Vive VR headset from HTC allows them to also move in space in real time.
The Vive Focus is still a pretty expensive affair though. Priced at roughly $600 the Focus is also exclusive to China for now. Having said that the Focus is also more powerful as compared to the Oculus Go, so technically it wouldn’t be right to compare the two just yet. A broader availability and an affordable price tag would mean the Oculus Go may have an upper hand in the grand scheme of things, but, that’s when shipping starts. We do not have a timeline for that yet. For now, what excites me more about the Go, is the fact that you’ll be able to run all Oculus apps on it — like the Gear VR — without tethering it to a high-end Samsung phone like the Galaxy S8 or a high-end PC that costs an upwards of $1000 to assemble.