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/ 03.10.2018

Will Oculus Quest Enable VR to “Cross the Chasm”?

Biggles Bristol, Creative Producer, REWIND


We’ve written about Oculus’s new headset twice already  – everyone at REWIND is very excited about the upcoming hardware! In this post, we’re going to go a little deeper into why the Quest will be an important milestone in the development of consumer VR.

In his 1991 book, Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore hypothesised that customers can be grouped based on their willingness to adopt new technologies. Each group prioritises different product features. The titular “chasm” exists between the needs of technologically adept “Early Adopters” and the more mainstream “Early Majority”. Understanding this principle explains many of the design decisions made by Oculus for its new headset. So the question is: will the Quest be the first VR device to “Cross the Chasm”?

First, let’s examine this chasm in a little more detail:

On the one side, Early Adopters value technology for technology’s sake. They focus on performance indicators like frame rate, resolution, field of view, and graphical fidelity and enjoy dreaming up novel uses for new technology. In the context of VR, this could mean new kinds of gameplay not possible on other platforms, deeper immersion, or even major productivity gains or other applications. These consumers pay high prices for access to the best technology and look to trusted thought leaders and industry experts when making purchasing decisions.

On the other side of the chasm are the Early Majority. This group enjoys new gadgets but has a lower tolerance for unfinished products. Often labelled the “Pragmatists”, they prioritise quality of life features, such as ease of use and reliability. They are also more wary of potential risks, such as motion sickness or a lack of compelling content. Importantly, this group is also far more price sensitive and cares about overall value for money.  Low cost and plenty of usage is particularly important to them. They look to friends and user reviews to inform purchasing decisions. This can create a challenging “chicken & egg” situation if a new device can’t get traction.

So how does the Quest stack up against these requirements?

Many have criticised the relatively low powered Snapdragon 835 chipset which has been powering mobile phones and existing standalone devices such as the Vive Focus and Mirage Solo. While this may upset hardcore tech enthusiasts hoping for better graphical fidelity, when put in the context of reaching mainstream consumers, tech specs are simply not as important as keeping costs down. And that $399 price point is extremely important. This will be Oculus’s third “consumer version” headset, and they know far more about price tolerance now than they did when the Rift CV1 launched at $599, without touch controls! After the success of 2017’s “summer of Rift” campaign, they know this is a price point that shifts units. It’s also worth noting that unlike the Rift and other tethered headsets, the Quest doesn’t require an expensive PC or console which previously pushed the total cost of VR ownership outside the reach of many.

In terms of ease of use, the Quest is likely to share many of the Oculus Go‘s advantages. It is a pick-up-and-play device which can be used anywhere, rather than only in the “PC room” or in the dedicated space required by the Vive or Rift. This also makes the Quest portable in a way that tethered headsets simply aren’t, as anyone who’s set up a Vive or Rift at a conference can attest to.

It can be argued that 6 degrees of freedom hand controllers also enable the most natural and intuitive interfaces currently possible in VR. But, the real triumph is in the direct equivalence between the Touch controllers on Quest and Rift. This facilitates cross-platform projects. It also enables interaction designers to target a single standard, at least when working with Oculus devices. Importantly, it removes one of the barriers associated with porting existing games to the new system. This will encourage more developers to have games ready by the Quest’s planned Spring 2019 launch date. Ideally resulting in a greater quantity and quality of software available from the start; another key factor when reaching out to mainstream audiences.

Like the iPad at launch, the Quest sits in a slightly awkward middle ground between it’s bigger and smaller siblings. Many question what exactly it’s for. Having said that, the former device sold over 10m in its first year at a £499 launch price, so Mark Zuckerberg’s stated aim to reach that level of sales on a single VR platform does not seem so far out of reach.

In conclusion, will this be the first headset to see mass market adoption? For someone working in the industry, if the Quest can handle high-quality VR games like Robo Recall and Beat Saber at £399, this will be the first headset I would personally feel comfortable recommending to friends and family who have until now been put off getting into VR. This could be the inflection point we’ve all been waiting for!

Are you a low-level programmer interested in pushing Oculus Quest to its limits? REWIND is always on the lookout for star talent. Email to come and build the future with us.

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