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Oculus Quest as the front-runner: How we got here.

Level 16

It has been a long journey from the DK and CV1 days up to the current time where Quest 2 is the flagship HMD heading up VR’s mainstream adoption. Over the years there has been a lot of analysis about:

  • What does it take to make VR mainstream?
  • What type of experience qualifies as VR?
  • What can be defined as an “immersive” experience?
  • Wtf does VR even mean?
    • Does 360 Media count too? 
    • Is it VR if its 3DoF or just 6DoF?
    • Does VR require hand-controllers to be considered VR?
    • Is it VR if it’s sitting vs standing?
    • Can we even call it "VR" if you don’t have max settings with max refresh rate with max resolution and max pixel density?


Everything from mobile to console to PC has been argued and analyzed every which way possible (and some debates even venture in to the realm of “not possible”). This discussion is definitely NONE of that.


What I’m most interested in is trying to understand the true (emphasis on “true”) journey that specifically led to the state we’re in today where Stand-Alone/Hybrid VR is leading the charge, and becoming the go-to HMD for mainstream audiences of both MobileVR and PCVR.


Note that determining which experience is better is completely off-topic.


The way I see it…


In the beginning, the primary goal for VR was to speed up adoption.


So let’s analyze “adoption.” We know that everyone has some type of computer in their home today. Whether it be a Desktop, Laptop, Smart Phone, Smart Tablet, or even some form of A.I. like Google Home and Alexa. While these are not computers themselves, they are gateways to computers as they talk to APIs which run on computer systems.


However, looking at the history of computer-in-the-home adoption, it took many long years. First computers entered the military and government. Then corporations. Then our schools. Then our homes.

All this spanning a timeline measured in decades.


Clearly, the goal for VR was to achieve the same thing (have a VR headset in billions of homes across the globe); only the achievement needed to happen much, much sooner than the adoption of the computer-in-the-home.


But how could that be done? It seems to me that VR began by relying on that “gotcha” experience. Putting on a VR HMD for the first time is clearly a mind-blowing moment. And it is in that moment that the “gotcha” happens; where clearly the Industry was hoping there would be enough “gotchas” to make everyone run out to buy a Rift or a Vive (as these were the first consumer releases on the market).


But that didn’t happen. We’ve also seen attempts at this “gotcha” moment with using VR HMD’s at Theme Parks and Arcades. While fun, they also didn’t have the effect of causing people to run out to purchase a headset by the hundreds of millions.


The question is… why? Thanks to the advantage of hindsight, I firmly believe that the reason is due to VR being utilized in these more child-like ways. Apologies if that comes across negative. I love gaming and theme parks, but I am also honest with myself by admitting that those are things I relish due to my “inner child.” Going back to the history of mass computer-in-the-home adoption: It was certainly NOT “child-like” things that caused it. We weren’t using computers at work and school solely for childish purposes. There was productivity and life enhancing value coming from computers. Thus a need, and a market, was created for the home computer as a means to “enhance the quality of life.”


And that’s the key, I believe: VR will get those billions of users when it can actually improve one’s quality of life.


Which brings us to the current state: Oculus Quest. The more childish aspects of VR are still present, but they are not the long-term goal. Facebook is focusing on both Social and Workplace experiences. Facebook is trying (they aren’t there yet) to demonstrate how VR can enhance Social experiences in ways that are revolutionary; and they are trying to have breakthroughs in VR at the Workplace to change how industry and teams operate.


So if (this is a big “if”) Facebook is successful in showing that using VR for Social Experiences and Workplace innovation truly does improve the overall quality of life… then we’ve hit the real target. This is what puts us on the proper path to get VR in hundreds of millions, even billions, of homes.


Quest 2 is the flagship VR HMD not just for Oculus and Facebook, but for the VR Industry as a whole, because it is best suited to achieve exactly that. The “hybrid” approach gives it the flexibility to go between gaming/entertainment and social/worklife productivity.


This feels like one of those moments where everything happened in reverse. We launched with powerful PCVR HMDs that were ready to play great VR video games, but we should have waited until there was a market for that; by waiting until hundreds of millions of homes had a VR HMD. If we had launched with the Quest first and later evolved into a Rift, then - in all likelihood - this post would be about a plethora of PCVR AAA titles that are so vast in number that I’d never be able to play them all in one lifetime.


Similar to how beastly pc gaming rigs came long after Windows 3.1 was already in people’s homes.


In hindsight, it does make sense to have something like the Quest being the flagship HMD. Relying on a “wow factor” and “gotcha” moment has never been good enough to launch any industry into global status. It is always about necessity and quality of life. And finally, after 6 years of mainstream VR, we seem to be on the correct course.


Or maybe I'm wrong. There's always that! 


Happy immersing, folks!


It's true. Numbers are growing.

But arcades are forming it's own arcade community and not a VR community as a whole.

It's OK. And it is a business opportunity. But it is not helping to grow VR community much.

You are not seen VR arcade which is "VR devices store" at the same time. They are selling one time ticket, not a "way to get there as an owner". It is not like a "test drive".


So it is forming other idea inside audience. It is just other type of entertainment.


Quest 2 is essentially a smart phone, a customized smartphone still running on android OS, yeah it has some additions, but I argue this.  Say if oculus could make an app for smartphones to turn any smartphone into a quest 2, with finger tracking becoming better and better, you could therorectilly play beat saber on the go while your waiting for the bus, no need to lug an additional unit around.

I will agree!

People are not paying to get immersed. It is arcade/one-time-entertainment way of thinking. IT works for new technology and enthusiasts.


People pay for their real world needs to be solved.

They do not need a device "smartphone" but instead they need "to take a photo/video, navigate to destination, to be connected with people".


And the fitness app inside Oculus is an example of solving real world need. It is better then 1 hand fitness tracker.

Same is for "talk with family and feel like they are near you". It solves same need as a smartphone or Zoom, but do it better.

Level 8

> And that’s the key, I believe: VR will get those billions of users when it can actually improve one’s quality of life.


Fully agree!

But could you write down a list of real life needs which will be improved?

Both dependent on VR and not dependent (but possible to accomplish with VR device).

Could you write down a list of same real life needs for smartphone, pad, laptop and stationary computer? Which of them is easy to transfer to VR device?


> In hindsight, it does make sense to have something like the Quest being the flagship HMD. 


It should be mobile and light for certain. So people could bring it with them like a smartphone.


Ok... to the list.

- Could you make a photo with VR device? No? Why? That is very popular feature to have in a smartphone or other device!

- Could you have a great web browser (2D!) ? YES! You could have great web browsing even it is not "VR" content. But it solves real need and makes life greater! 🙂

- Could you have a calculator? Simple ordinary 2D calculator you have in almost any device! No? Why? It is very useful thing! 🙂

- Could you have a great video player? YES!  Even for 2D movies.

- Could you have a great music player? No??? Why? You could listen to music on almost anything!



We need as many real world features as it is now with smartphones and computers.



ps. How about creating own "android app market"? Yea, 2d app market!  And run those on VR screen (and VR audio)! 😄

pps. You could even run multiple android apps in many VR windows with help of cloud computing and streaming.

Thank you for that observation
Just a slight correction @Nekto2 - we are seeing four kinds of VR business:
- VR arcades (independent venues with VR booths mainly HTC or Index)
- VR LBE (chain stores like Sandbox and VOID/Dreamscape)
- LBE (VR used as part of a mix of attractions)

With regarding the VR arcades we do see venues selling hardware along with selling game time. This is best illustrated by the RaceSim operation that have network VR racers, and also sell a number of home rigs. Not a lot of coverage, but I plan a special in my VRFocus column soon. 

I think you may have a point why certain individuals in the VR community felt threatened by the VR arcade side, as its a closed shop and that the investment and development was not being added to the consumer pool. Anyway, with the reopening of venues it will be interesting to see if its consumer of commercial that sees a new upswing. "The Out-of-Home Immersive Entertainment Frontier: Expanding Interactive Boundaries in Leisure Facilities"

Thank you for info! I have not known about RaceSim business model.


> I think you may have a point why certain individuals in the VR community felt threatened by the VR arcade side, as its a closed shop and that the investment and development was not being added to the consumer pool.


That was not my point. I was highlighting user point of view.

You have been in a cinema, but have you ever think of "I want that cinema to be in my home!" after you visit a cinema?

OK, there are "home cinemas" but that is totally different business of ordinary cinemas.


I talk to people are they think VR is great? And the answer is "yes". But will they have it at home? The answer is "no". Why? Because they have formed an idea that VR is like LBE/arcade and they do not want and arcade/pinball/... machine at their home. 😞

Oculus can't do that. They have tried. Listen to Carmack keynotes. There are lot's of info on why you can't have "an app" without rewriting whole OS for VR.

Instead you could make a VR device like Quest 2 which will replace a smartphone. So you will not have any smartphone with you any more. You will have the only device and it is VR device (with all apps and features you need).


ps. if you are waiting for the bus you need to see around so you will not miss a bus 😄

Thanks for the clarification @Nekto2 
I see your point from a consumer perspective. regarding the VR Arcades, the business is to drive repeat business than encourage someone to go off and by an expensive headset and PC (unless in the simracing and eSports side).

The cinema analogy is a stretched one as you stated, but I see the point - though you do know Dolby and IMAX do have home entertainment divisions and do sell product to consumers.

I also notice an issue for VR arcades. One of the big interests from the returning market is to play Medal of Honor or Half Life: Alyx - they want to try it, and if they like it they come back for more or play one of the other new releases.  That is a model that will not create Quest2 buyers either! Not because of the community, but because of the separation. "The Out-of-Home Immersive Entertainment Frontier: Expanding Interactive Boundaries in Leisure Facilities"

Level 15

I remember the criticism on this and other forums to Google Cardboard, and then when GearVR appeared they all dried up. I am sure the same will be for high-end PCVR. At the moment the pivot is for Oculus all in on Standalone - even looking at a smart phone interaction schedule. But along will come MR headsets in Q4 and I expect another pivot - though for the Oculus brand how many pivots can they achieve and stay relevant? "The Out-of-Home Immersive Entertainment Frontier: Expanding Interactive Boundaries in Leisure Facilities"

Just because they have tried and can't doesn't mean its not future lets not try.

Part of gaming innovations have been from people on the emulation front, the licensers put hard restrictions on the emulator community.  They choose to abandon emulation when big companies thought it was not popular.  When it became popular big companies backtracked 180.


Lets just say if people got the source code of oculus apps and os, and were able to emulate on smartphone that had the right specs and configuration. I would imagine oculus would be squashing it as quick as possible, until it became the only path.