Friday I got the new Oculus Go in from Amazon. I'm not a gaming person at all, and I've never had a chance to play with VR. My interest is in movies and music. But I can see this as having the potential to have a huge impact on the home theater market. It also suggests a few things about the perception of music and sound that I didn't consider before.
The Oculus Go puts you in a three dimensional immersive world. You can look up and down and left and right and behind you and the experience is seamless. The screen is bright and pretty darn sharp. There's some chromatic aberration at the periphery of vision and a tiny bit of screen door texture, but overall it's very convincing.
The Go has been designed to be a self contained virtual reality entertainment system. It can create social meeting places where you can interact with friends all over the world, services like Netflix and Hulu where you can watch movies on a giant screen like in a movie theater, interactive 3D immersive movies you inhabit, and 3D immersive video games of all types.
The image quality isn't perfect, but I can see an apartment dweller using something like this instead of buying a TV set and speakers. It's almost as good looking as my projection system. The sound is better with good headphones (natch) but even without them, it still is very serviceable. It has a strange system where tubes carry the sound along the head straps and shoot the sound into your ears. Nothing covering your ears. It has head tracking so the sound source moves as you move your head. I now have a real reason to use my Oppo PM-1s. They fit over the mask perfectly.
There are over 1000 apps for this, many of them are free. The best of them have wonderful immersive sound mixes. I bought a 3D immersive film on the Apollo 11 moon mission. The visuals are flabergasting, and the sound swirls all around you with the mission control radio transmissions targeted on the dashboard or floating around in space around you. There is a short 3D immersive film based on Stephen King's IT that is like nothing I've ever seen before. It seamlessly blends CG and live action with sound all around. You have to stand up to play it because it requires you to turn around an look behind you, below you and above you. It's kind of like a virtual theme park ride and when the scare comes at the end, it's hard not to fall over. It feels so real.
I'm developing theories on all kinds of things because the developers at Oculus have done such a good job of integrating everything and making it welcoming to viewers who might not be familiar with the technology behind it. The avatars are customizable. They can gesture with one hand. Head tracking is perfect and the lips even move when you talk. I had a chat with a friend in New York in my virtual apartment and it felt very natural. The importance of turning your head to pinpoint sounds in space is very important to the immersive sound mixes. It's a little primitive. If you focus on it, it seems to pop from one ambience to another. But if you are involved with a space around you, it blends in and feels extra real.
I can see a huge potential for live music. There is a virtual auditorium where you can buy tickets to see regularly scheduled live performances. There are free immersive concert films too. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts have an app where you are in the middle of the band onstage as they perform. It's shockingly present.
Oculus is made by Facebook. They dropped this last week with absolutely no advance publicity. But if I had money to invest, I'd be buying Facebook stock. I think this thing is going to be big. The price is between $200 and $250. I can even see grandmas using something like this to interact with their families in different states. But mixing sound and editing and staging and creating a performance for an immersive stage is something entirely new. I feel like I'm seeing Great Train Robbery or hearing Edison's cylinder phonograph for the first time. This is a whole new medium.