Facebook promised to make VR a lot more social back in May when the $199 Oculus Go debuted, announcing a handful of new apps to bring people together while goggled in. Oculus Venues, a live event viewing platform that mixes large crowds of virtual avatars and streaming video, was the first.
Oculus TV is the second, and it's now available on Oculus Go (but not Samsung Gear VR) with a bunch of new video streaming apps. It aims to be a central place to find all the streaming videos to watch when you have your VR headset on your face. But it doesn't have the most promising feature yet: social viewing with Oculus friends won't arrive until later this year. For now, it's a solo experience.
Do I want this? Well, I tried it out over the weekend.
Oculus TV is all about old-fashioned, flat-screen 2D entertainment, but viewed in your otherwise 3D VR goggles. I've been using it over the weekend, and while it's a fine way to check out a show, watching 2D videos in VR just isn't something I need to do.
There are already plenty of ways to watch videos and movies in Oculus' mobile headsets: Oculus Video, which looks like a giant movie theater, was a launch app when the Gear VR arrived in 2014. Standalone Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, Pluto and other apps browse streaming video, too.
Oculus TV launches into a sleek little virtual living room screen in front of a sofa, just like Hulu, Netflix, and other VR apps already do. The browser tries to help discover content (the early build I tried only discovered Facebook videos, Red Bull TV and Pluto: Netflix, Hulu and Showtime shows weren't there yet). In addition, each streaming app can be launched from within the Oculus TV app.
I start by seeing some neighbor's home videos that appear via Facebook (and a colleague whose kid's throwing knives, I guess.) I end up watching Red Bull TV's skateboard roller coaster challenge. I find myself streaming CNET Roadshow videos on Pluto, and old episodes of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.
To Oculus TV's credit, watching videos is better than I've tried on any other VR headset. But I didn't get to try watching with others: Social would be where this could finally be fun. Without that social experience, it's a lot less compelling.
Oculus Go's handling of streaming video is a lot better than on most VR headsets, but the video quality and resolution are still nowhere near a good tablet or TV. Future video partners like ESPN are coming over the course of the year, according to Facebook.
If Oculus Venues and Oculus TV met in the middle and Oculus TV ends up being really social, I'd be a little more interested. But if you already have an Oculus Go, your streaming TV hub has finally arrived.