Paravrnoia and Dovrkiness (Oculus Go Review)

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 Paravrnoia and Dovrkiness  (Oculus Go Review)

I recently became the proud owner of a new Oculus Go:

Me in VR

My wife took this picture while I was in VR so I wasn’t aware that she was taking it. Frankly, it spooked me out a little. So while in VR, not only do you have to worry about the monsters hiding behind walls inside VR, you also have to worry about how dorky you look to people in the real world?

This experience gave birth to two new terms in my mind:

Paravrnoia  and Dovrkiness

  • Paravrnoia: (Pronounced: Paravernoia): The feeling that someone in the real world is watching you while you are inside VR. And not just watching you, but also laughing at, getting weirded out, and making judgments about you without you knowing anything about it!
  • Dovrkiness: (Pronounced: Doverkiness or Dvorkiness): How you look to the person in the real world when you are immersed in VR. The weirdness of the device stuck to your face, and the unusual movements you seem to be making that make no sense to the person in the real world watching you since they have no idea what you are doing inside VR, all combine to make you look dorky. Or rather, dovrky.

Here is another picture that demonstrates both these concepts well:

Paravrnoia and Dovrkiness
(PC: Maurizio Pesce/ Flickr via CC by 2.0)

Anyway, let’s get back to the review of the device itself.

Previous VR Devices: “Lab” VR

If you read reviews of this new VR headset from Oculus (now owned by Facebook) on the internet, they will mostly be positive with just a few complaints here and there. This is because a lot of them are VR evangelists. I have no complaints about that – every new technology requires such evangelists – but I think someone should try to provide a more honest and balanced perspective.  So let me do that for you.

For the last few years, VR has been in what I would call the “Lab” stage. The devices (like Oculus Rift, HTC VIve etc.) have definitely had the feel of a lab device – multiple pieces to connect and set up before you can use the device (PC, tether, controller etc.), barely acceptable UX, insufficient resolution, uncomfortable to wear, etc. The tether, along with the PC connected to it, definitely add to the dovrkiness factor and shout “lab” to me.

The other major VR device has been the Samsung Gear, which is basically a way to repurpose your existing mobile phone and adapt it somehow to use as a VR device. The mobile phone was never designed to serve in this fashion and thus, the experience feels clunky and unsatisfactory. The phone is too heavy, the pixel density isn’t good enough, the audio is unconvincing, and so on. Not to mention that the device is your phone so you may get calls, messages, notifications etc that have nothing to do with the VR you are experiencing.

These are the kinds of devices one would expect people working in the lab, i.e. developers, to wear. And that too, because they are working out the kinks and improving the technology so someday regular people could use it.

I believe Oculus Go is the first device where we will transition from the Lab stage in VR to what I would call the “Enthusiast” stage. The need for a PC is gone, the tether is gone, the HMD is purpose-built for VR, it is a lot more comfortable to wear, and actually contains the headphones embedded in it. I won’t go into the complete technical details of all the enhancements they have made, but you can look at their own description here: https://developer.oculus.com/blog/optimizing-oculus-go-for-performance/.

Oculus Go: “Enthusiast” VR, not Quite “Consumer” VR

But I would still call the Go an “Enthusiast” device, rather than a “Consumer” device for a couple of reasons:

  • The resolution is still not good enough for a consumer device. Except for some situations, like simple games with simple-looking characters and environments, one is left wanting a bit more clarity and smoothness in the visuals. To some extent, we have been spoilt by the kinds of beautiful and complex visuals we regularly see these days in movies or video games or even regular pictures or videos taken with our mobile phones! It will take another jump in resolution, and corresponding jumps in processing power and battery to get to that level. In fact, I predict that we will have such improvements trickling in incrementally over the next couple of years, and each time, the incremental jump will enable more and better VR use cases.
  • The battery does not last very long – about 2 to 3 hours. I guess this is fine for now since it is kind of hard to imagine being inside VR for longer than that in its current incarnation. Again, as the devices improve, we will have better and better VR experiences that will make us want to stay inside VR for longer periods of time. By then, we will want much longer batter lives.
  • Frankly, these HMD’s still feel a little clunky. They are still somewhat heavy, need a lot of adjustment before they are comfortable, have some issues that break the immersion, and definitely look odd on your face. (Note: The correct term for this is “Dovrky”. 🙂 ) We still have a ways to go before wearing an HMD becomes as natural as wearing a pair of glasses and looks and feels as natural to the wearer as well as other people looking at you.

Perspective

All of these limitations are probably quite acceptable for enthusiasts. In fact, as a VR enthusiast myself, I am really happy with my Oculus Go. I am already using it a lot and developing some of my own ideas that I feel have a decent chance of being realized well on it. But I still feel it is not quite ready for regular consumers.

To give you some perspective, when I look at the device, I get the feeling I got when I saw the first mobile phones – and I am going to date myself now – in the 80’s. They used to look like and actually weigh almost the same as a brick! And I believe the early enthusiasts who used these phones did probably experience their own version of paranoia and dorkiness as a result.

For example:

Early mobile phones
(PC: Rico Shen, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Summary

Thus, in my opinion, Oculus Go is definitely an extremely welcome and long overdue step forward. It definitely moves the VR technology out of the lab stage and into the enthusiast stage, on its way to the consumer stage at some point in the near future. Now back to developing my own apps and experiences on it…

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