If there is one thing Mark Zuckerberg knows how to do, it is to redefine how we socialise.
He first did it with the biggest and arguably the most popular social media platform of all time, Facebook. Now, the same people who introduced this controversial privacy-compromised social network are reimagining how we would socialise in the future.
Their bet is on their aptly named virtual reality universe, the Metaverse. And the best tool to get into this virtual space is their own entry-level all-in-one virtual reality (VR) gear, Oculus Quest 2.
All the signs point to VR being the future of remote socialising and there is no denying it. However, Facebook, now Meta, is one of the very few companies that recognised the potential early on.
Even though their Metaverse is a comparatively newer announcement, Meta's Oculus team has been working on VR for a long time. Since the original Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift' success, their stand on VR foundation was pretty much cemented.
That is why it is the best gear, even after a year since its launch, to surf with the VR wave and experience the virtual Metaverse, before it goes mainstream.
The second-gen Oculus Quest is miles ahead of its predecessor, thanks to the VR-specific SoC, Qualcomm's Snapdragon XR2, and six degrees of freedom inside-out tracking technology - Oculus Insight. All Oculus variants are equipped with 6GB RAM alongside 128GB and 256GB storage options.
The resolution has also been amped up to 1832x1920 for each eye with a maximum of 90Hz refresh rate. All these make Quest 2 more than just a VR gaming console. It is also a revolutionary entry-level multimedia and productivity machine that can do almost everything better than its competitors.
From the moment you put it on, you realise how immersive VR experience can become. The dome-like environment is not just high-definition images. They are interactive as well as dynamic, with plenty of options to choose from.
As for media consumption, whether you are enjoying Netflix in a theatre environment or just browsing through YouTube videos, or streaming local video files, the experience is enhanced by the Quest 2's built-in stereo speakers offering 3D audio. It can be connected to a Bluetooth device and sports a 3.5MM jack as well.
On top of that, if you have been missing the shared movie screening experience, the Oculus operating system's lobby allows you to virtually join any public stream. You can also interact with other users' avatars in that same theatre environment.
However, if you prefer a more private experience, you can get into one of the cinema halls or living room environments and enjoy the movie on a big screen in solitude with no distraction.
The Oculus Quest 2 is not just a 360-degree multimedia device; rather, it is a very productive machine.
If you like to work in solitude but cannot avoid the nine to five working hours, you can use Quest 2 as a getaway portal to enter your own fortress of solitude. You will still be able to do your usual computer work while being in a more preferred environment.
It can work the other way around as well.
If you prefer an office environment and are stuck at home due to the pandemic, you can put on the Quest 2 and connect with your coworkers virtually. And thanks to the much more efficient PC integration, you can even bring your computer to that virtual office.
Whether you are coding, writing your memoir, or making a presentation, you can perform all tasks while being in your office's graphical environment or maybe on a space station far far away.
If you are an artistic person, you can pretty much draw anything on the Metaverse's three-dimensional space using Gravity Sketch on Oculus Quest 2. Like Gravity Sketch, a lot of the productivity apps are completely free and easy to use.
However, the VR experience reaches its full potential when you are gaming on it. Thanks to the six degrees of freedom head and hand tracking along with the better tactile controls, titles like Beat Sabre and Walking Dead are more immersive than ever. Even though you have to buy the games separately for the best experience, they are still worth it.
Be that as it may, the second-gen Quest is not perfect in any sense. Despite being portable in size and functionality, the poor battery backup and slow charging speed disrupt the experience.
During basic media consumption, the unit lasted around three hours and for gaming, it can pull through a steady couple hours at max. However, you can buy an additional backup battery that goes in the head strap to give you extra juice. But such accessories are fairly expensive and so are the premium games and apps. Just a first-party protective case to securely carry the headset without getting scratches on the lenses can cost you a couple thousand bucks.
The games and premium apps, despite being expensive, are definitely worth the experience. If you have just been gaming on your PC, Quest 2 is going to be the best gaming experience you are going to have.
While with PC and gaming console, you have only the monitor to enjoy the interactive games, with Quest 2's 360 surround environment and 3D audio, you will be able to appreciate the gaming experience even more.
All that being said, Oculus Quest 2 is definitely not just a VR gaming machine. It is also a productivity machine, dynamic theatre, personal office, and a virtual space to meet and interact with new people.
Despite the shortcomings and the possible effect it might have in social evolution, Quest 2 is still the best VR gear to get into the Metaverse.
How do I own one?
You can buy Oculus Quest 2 VR sets from retailers like AppleGadgets, Brothers Electronics and Gadget & Gear. The base version with 128 GB comes at around Tk41,000 while the 256 GB maxed version will cost you around Tk48,000.
However, the accessories, games and premium apps will pile up on this cost if you decide to upgrade.
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2
Storage: 128GB and 256GB
Display: Fast-switch LCD panel
Resolution: 1832x1920 for each eye
Refresh rate: Up to 90Hz
Input Peripherals: 2 Oculus Touch Controllers
Tracking Technology: Oculus Insight inside-out tracking technology
Tracking Type: 6 degrees of freedom head & hand tracking
Battery Life: Up to 3 hours
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, USB Type-C, and 3.5MM jack
Dimensions: 191.5MM x 102MM x 142.5MM with folded strap
IPD: Adjustable with three modes for 58MM, 63MM, and 68 MM
Playspace: Max 20M x 20M mappable playing space
Audio: 3D audio with built-in stereo speakers