Updates are coming on the Oculus Go, the highly anticipated stand-alone VR headset. Many educators are excited as well about this device, as it has a few important upsides:
- At $199 it’s quite cheap
- There is no hassle with separate phones that you have to attach to a VR headset
- The remote control gives you interactive possibilities, although not nearly as much as an HTC Vive/Oculus Rift/Windows MR set.
The simplicity of this device really makes it attractive to schools. You can easily imagine a cart with 15 of these devices, including a charging system, which teachers can reserve for certain classes.
In my opinion however, when comparing this device to other options, the disadvantages of this system outweigh the advantages, which is why we usually don’t recommend them as the sole VR system.
You only have access to the Oculus ecosystem, which is a really closed-off system and owned by Facebook
We have a lot of Oculus Gear VR headsets with Samsung Galaxy phones. We really like those, as the Oculus system has quite high-quality experiences and most importantly: everything just works. With the phone attached, a Gear VR is not that different from an Oculus Go.
But the great thing is that you can use these phones in other ways as well. You can use them for regular apps, or perhaps some Augmented Reality apps. Or use them to control 360 cameras and watch YouTube 360 videos. And most importantly: you can also easily use them for Google Cardboard apps which is a much more open ecosystem. You just slide the phone into a Google Cardboard headset and you’re ready to go. Or we sometimes even the trick, below where you don’t connect your phone to the Gear VR. Using a rubber band is recommended!
More experimental apps, or perhaps a VR experience that your students have created themselves, are usually only accessible from Google Cardboard. But also established educational apps like Google Expeditions are only for the Google Cardboard platform. And because of the competition between Google and Facebook, an app like this will probably never come to the Oculus Store. You just miss a ton of content when you choose for an Oculus Go.
What do we recommend then?
That’s quite a tricky question; we have noticed that we advice schools and teachers different things based on their specific situation. What we usually advise if you want to buy mobile VR sets, where you don’t depend on your students’ phones and want to have access to as much content as possible:
- Oculus Gear VR + Samsung Galaxy S7 (or newer) + simple Cardboard viewer. In the Netherlands you can get a refurbished S7 + Gear VR for around €300.
And some other advice: don’t buy a lot of hardware at once. VR hardware tends to improve pretty rapidly. Our advice is to take it slow, focus on the content and the implementation in your lessons and carefully take next steps.
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There was some discussion going on about this article, I decided to add an update and some edits.
First of all, we are well aware that we are quite privileged to have a choice between this many devices. But considering what we do, we think it makes sense.
Secondly: we’re not saying that this device doesn’t offer any value to schools. Of course not! The Oculus Store features some great apps. CoSpaces for example! But we don’t think it’s the best option if you want to stay flexible, that’s why we usually don’t recommend it.