While at CES I always love using the 360 degree VR goggles and seeing the world in a whole new way. While you can use your mobile and sheets of cardboard to make them, it really ain’t the same. The CES demos are always impressive and have huge lines to experience the VR world through a purpose-made headset. The defacto VR standard is the now “not-a-start-up” Oculus brand. Started in 2012 and sold to perpetually privacy-stealing Facebook for 2.3 billion dollars. Forget the reviews you may see … here’s the truth.


As I got a good deal (I never use disingenuous “free, or on-loan items”) on the newest version of the Oculus headset, it seemed the time to try it in the wild, so to speak, rather than a one-off show model. The unboxing looked promising with a nice presentation after opening the box. It was all downhill after that. First, Facebook mandates you have an account with them to track EVERYTHING you do with it. Secondly, it’s mucho uncomfortable and heavy to the point that I got a headache from the figurately cinderblock weight pulling my head down/forward and the blurry images. There is zero adjustment for focus, which automatically guarantees bad viewing and eye strain. And blurry it is … it uses Fresnel lenses which mandate absolutely NO movement on your head to see anything in some fashion of focus. If the headband isn’t crushing your skull, it won’t stay where the lenses allow you to have a modicum of visual clarity. Ok, this isn’t quite what I expected.


The Advils had better be close after thirty minutes of squinting and straining … I couldn’t find a single free viewing source that wasn’t blurred to the point of pain. Many times I couldn’t tell what was going on in the video except for the sound. Additionally, there are times where what you are trying to watch is behind you and there’s no way to pivot it around to where it’s comfortable for you watch despite using the controls that say it will. If you wear glasses, it gets worse … I felt like my face was in a heated vice with a huge weight pulling down on my neck muscles.

There are so many flaws: weight, heat, poor controls, blurry images, information-stealing, high purchase price. It just get worse after you realize that essentially Facebook has turned a potential life-experience sharing device into a crappy gaming machine. There are almost a total dearth of experiences beyond stupidly expense and boring games. After a very considerable period of time I found a Mount Everest and Florence video. The one from Italy showed in glaring detail the absolute failure of its promise. Having been there so many times that I’ve lost count, watching the walking tour and using my memory to fill in the blurred images, I was transported to my seat on a balcony overlooking the entrance to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and watching the crowds … Zuckerberg unsurprisingly managed to turn something potentially truly amazing, into a unmitigated mess.

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