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This morning, I got out of bed, rode my exercise bike, made coffee, did some other workouts, then skied down a mountain, which I followed with a mega boxing match and a cooldown that involved slashing squares to sick beats. All without taking a hallucinogen! It was made possible by my best friend—no, my soulmate—the Oculus Quest 2, the new boy king of virtual reality. Oculus makes a line of VR headsets that are fully wireless, fully self-contained, and fully affordable, for the first time making it feasible to experience VR without nearing $1,000-plus in the process. The Quest 1 setup (my ex) was beautiful, but the Quest 2 ensures VR is not just for hardcore gamers anymore.
If you tried to get your hands on the Quest 2 over the holidays, you may have been left with a bad taste in your mouth, as it was sold out and doomed to the scalpers, but a new year, a new administration, and a new age for escaping reality are upon us. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can get something worthwhile out of this headset, which is all stocked up right now.
It is a giant leap forward for accessible VR.
Before the first Quest came out, wireless VR headsets either ran off phones or desktop computers with massive camera systems, or otherwise stayed wired, which was a pain. Oculus revolutionized this by making a headset with pretty high-quality visuals, no cords, and built-in cameras. I was in love with it. That is, until the second iteration. Now, not only is the headset completely self-contained—meaning you don’t need an extremely pricey gaming PC, nor long periods of setup and camera calibration, nor wires for that matter—but it is lighter and smaller, with better visuals and processing. And, get this, it’s even $100 cheaper. With the Quest 2, Oculus is also playing around with new hand-tracking tech, which works better than expected. For example, in a game called Waltz of the Wizard, I was able to give the skull who guides you the middle finger, and guess what, that bastard got mad and reacted. It’s a little thing, but little things are what make VR an immersive method of gaming.
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There’s a gaming experience for any mood.
The Oculus Quest 2 first and foremost is about gaming. It supports stellar gameplay, combatting the motion and movement tracking of systems five times the price. And while it may not have access to all of the VR titles out there natively, the streamlined library offers more than enough, featuring titles like Superhot, Beatsaber, and Tetris Effect. Really, it’s amazing just how many different types of games you can experience on the Quest 2—shooters, rhythm games, more experiential stuff, puzzle games, 3D sculpting and painting exercises, online chat games, even stuff as simple as poker. Some of the best are the multiplayer titles to tackle with friends, a small consolation in social distancing times. And a particular party game favorite of mine is Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, where one player wears the headset and tries to diffuse a bomb, while the other players, who can’t see the bomb, pull up a manual to help figure it out. It’s tense. Everyone will be screaming. But it’s a damn blast.
And gaming is only the half of it.
Even if you’re not a big gamer nerd like me, the Quest 2 is, and bear with me here, an absolutely amazing addition to a home workout setup. It has calorie-burning, heart rate-boosting apps like Supernatural and Fit XR, with a fitness ring and calorie tracker built in. I was skeptical of this at first; I find games good for working out to a point, and never capable of replacing an intense, established routine. But with the variety of skill levels and intensities covered by the Quest 2, that is not the case.
The headset’s video streaming is stunning, too. Many VR newbies may enjoy VR tours or other escapist media. And, there are a ton of streaming services like Netflix implemented, so you can just put the headset on, sit on the couch, and watch your shows on a massive screen in a comfy Oculus living room. For the first time, we’re seeing VR move beyond a niche techie product. If you have the slightest VR bug, do yourself a favor and pick up this masterpiece.
Shop $299, amazon.com
Photography and prop styling by Allie Holloway and Timothy Mulcare
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