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The Oculus Quest will arrive as a stand-alone product — you won’t need to connect it to a computer to play with it — for $399 in the spring of 2019. But I got a chance to play hands-on with it today at the Oculus Connect 5 event in San Jose, California. I played against Kellee Santiago of Google in the video embedded in this post, and it was like playing Wii Sports Tennis, but in VR.
The Oculus team cleared out a lot of space for the demo on the floor of the San Jose Convention Center, where they set up faux tennis courts that were maybe a quarter of the size of a real tennis court.
The Oculus Quest uses Guardian technology that can sense walls and other obstacles. When I fired it up, they made sure I knew what would happen if I came near a wall. If you do that, a grid of blue wires comes up and tells you that you’re too close and need to back up. (I did this a couple of times when I played the VR tennis game and Super Hot on Quest as well).
I put the Oculus Touch hand controllers on, which have been redesigned so the sensors are better at detecting movement and the room’s borders. I used my middle finger to grab my racket, and then I swung my arm back and forth to swing at a ball. The tutorial took me a minute to learn how to play.
And then we went right into the match. Kellee served first, and I returned the ball. It worked fine. I swung at a ball that seemed out of my reach, and the simulation was quite forgiving, as if I had a four-feet long arm, and I smacked the ball back.
When you serve, you don’t throw a ball up in the air and slam it down. The game made it much easier. You simply swing sideways at a ball when it appears at waist level and starts moving back and forth. So you just simply hit the ball to a part of the court where you want it to go.
This forces the other player to move, either swinging with a backhand or forehand. Kellee later said she had it easier because she had a smaller space to play on her side, and my court was larger, making me get more exercise moving around the court.
I enjoyed it, as I was able to mimic real tennis swings in trying to bat the ball back and forth. If you hit the ball at a question mark, your racket would transform into something else, like a ping pong paddle or a golf club. The ball could also transform into something else. We had some good rallies going back and forth, but Kellee won the match 5-3.
The best thing was the freedom of movement. You can move your arm from low to high, like when you’re really swinging a racket, without worrying you’re going to whack a wall or get stuck in your own cord. The graphics were cartoony but sharp, and the latency of the system was good. If I swung the racket, it connected with the object. That felt good.
I also played Dead & Buried, Super Hot, and Face Your Fears 2 on the Oculus Quest. All of them were great experiences, enough to make me believe that this could be a really awesome platform for games in the future. I still don’t know how much battery life it has, but we’ll find that out in time.