Virtual Reality (VR) was all the rage a few years ago: we were all thrilled to see and explore new virtual worlds and wondered which approach will come out on top in the battle between AR (augmented reality) and VR. Then, the hype subsided, at least partially, due to the limitations and the newness of the hardware and software. But this has all changed when the now-Facebook-owned Oculus released its latest VR headset, the Oculus Quest 2, in October 2020, which reignited the flame and made VR cool and exciting again. Better still, it made 'fitness gaming' more approachable too, thanks to the Oculus Move feature.
Just how popular is the Oculus Quest 2? As reported by GQ Magazine, the Oculus Quest 2 "has sold more than 1.1 million units since its launch in October 2020", which is not too shabby, compared to the four million Playstation 5 units that's been sold by early January. And I know what you're thinking, "you can't buy any PS5s because of the scalpers", but scalpers don't hold onto PS5 stocks, they 'only' make it more expensive to acquire the console. Nevertheless, and especially taking into account the coinciding release dates of the Playstation 5 and the XBox Series X, it's impressive that the Oculus Quest 2 sold so many units in so little time.
But why would I compare the Quest 2 to the PS5 or the Series X? The truth is, Oculus' new headset puts VR gaming experience 'up there' with other gaming consoles. There are Triple-A games designed specifically for the Quest system and they are also super successful. Ports and indie gems are even more popular: who haven't heard of or seen any footage of Beat Saber by now?
VR gaming is fun and, most importantly, it is also a more active experience. Sure, you had to blow on the WiiU controller to make Mario move back in the day but playing Beat Saber requires you to wave your arms around and even do some hip hinge exercises every now and then. Not to mention fitness specific games such as FitXR or OhShape, both of which were designed to get you fit at home in a fun way.
Some Nintendo Switch titles are also geared towards fitness, like the super fun fitness/RPG hybrid Ring Fit Adventure and other Nintendo Switch fitness games, such as Mario and Sonic at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But both Switch and Ring Fit Adventure game/controller availability can be sketchy at times, so why not try VR instead?
Enter: Oculus Move
The at-home fitness market is getting bigger and there is an ever increasing number of fitness offerings, such as the brand new Apple Fitness+, which is great for us end users (more competition equals lower prices) and also good for innovation. Oculus evidently didn't want to be left out of the newest emerging market of home fitness and its response is the Oculus Move, "a unified dashboard that will help Quest and Quest 2 owners keep track of their fitness goals across their VR apps", as explained on the Oculus blog.
The Oculus Move is pretty basic (for now): after entering your basic stats (age, sex, height and weight) an algorithm works out the amount of calories you burned playing and tallies it up on the dashboard. There is no heart rate data fed into the system so the calculations are approximate at best. That said, Oculus promised more updates to be rolled out 'gradually' throughout the year to the Move feature, so fitness tracker, running watch or heart rate monitor support might be coming soon to your nearest Quest 2.
The Oculus Quest 2 makes getting fit fun and the system tracks your fitness activities too: so, where is the catch? Well, as you'd expect, a Quest 2 headset is not cheap – prices start from $299.99 / £299 – plus there is no physical slot to insert game discs or cartridges into, making it pretty much impossible to get second-hand games cheaper online or offline. There are software sales in the Oculus store, of course, but you won't stumble upon any ol' Vader Immortal copies in a garage sale for sure.
Based on the limited exposure I had with the Oculus Quest 2, I'd say it's worth the price as it provides a completely different gaming experience that's unlike anything other gaming consoles have to offer. Will playing Beat Saber get me fit? I'm yet to find out, although I think it might help me burn more calories than playing Super Mario 3D World for hours on end on the sofa.