Oculus Quest offers user-friendly virtual reality system

Liam Seiler, Reporter

Imagine a sleek, black headset with multiple camera lenses and ergonomic wireless controls that fits in the hand perfectly. Its boot up sequence briefly flashes the company logo and plays an upbeat chime before transporting the user to a virtual world of vibrantly colored home screens and mountain vistas in the distance. This isn’t a prop from a sci-fi movie or a piece of military technology, it is a consumer entertainment system that has brought virtual reality to the public. Starting its journey in August 2012 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Oculus company has taken virtual reality from the pipe dreams of futurists and writers into the real world. With a price starting at under $300, the newly released Oculus Quest has made immersive virtual reality accessible to the general public.

Unlike original models, the Quest is sleek and completely wireless. What once required the connection of a computer and Xbox controller has been updated to use Bluetooth remotes similar to the Nintendo Wii system.

The interface is user-friendly and is simple enough for small children to operate. The goggles sit comfortably on the head, and after the boot-up sequence, the user selects applications from a home screen. Through the view of the goggles, the controllers morph into a pair of floating hands with tactile fingers used to select menu options. The Oculus Quest can run games, movies and even YouTube videos through its home interface.

Even as a relatively new gaming system, the Oculus Quest has a large selection of games for different audiences. Users can seek thrills in the roller coaster simulator, jam to their favorite music in “Beat Sabre,” dodge bullets in “Superhot” where time moves only as the player does, fight for glory in the gladiatorial arena of “Gorn,” or even live out their “Star Wars” fantasies battling storm troopers in “Vader Immortal.”

Gameplay is a surreal and almost magical experience to a new user. Although unsettling and vertigo-inducing at first, the nausea and disorientation quickly fades. With the floating-hand controllers, you expect to feel the objects or tools as if holding them in real life. Sound is never an issue as the headset has built-in speakers that let the user hear everything in the environment. In “Superhot”, minute sounds like the buzz of a bullet passing overhead or the crescendo of glass bottles tinkling as they shatter and transport the user into the game.

As a newer technology, aspects of the Oculus Quest have definite room for improvement. Depending on the game, movement can be awkward and disorienting. Some require a rowing motion, where others are a point-and-click system to move from place to place. The boundaries that prevent the user from punching a hole through their interior drywall or smacking a nearby person are not always accurate, and they could use an update. The experience is definitely diminished if the evening ends with a crushed speaker system or sore knuckles. Although not studied in depth, certain researchers have stated that VR hurts eyesight with prolonged exposure and can cause strain. As with anything good, the Oculus Quest or any other headset should not be used in excess. Those who often experience motion sickness or other related issues may find VR to be overstimulating.

The Oculus Quest is a revolutionary entertainment investment, and a “high speed, low drag” gadget that gives anyone with an interest in technology a taste of the future.