What Is the Oculus Like Right Now?

The augmented reality tech is fun but maybe not useful yet.

Motley Fool Staff
Motley Fool Staff
Jun 28, 2019 at 10:31PM
Consumer Goods

Facebook's Oculus has brought augmented reality (AR) to the public. It's an affordable line of headsets that lets consumers experience AR and virtual reality (VR).

Right now, the technology is more gimmick than useful. It has some fun applications and even some impressive ones, but the actual hardware remains too bulky to be very practical. That will almost certainly change as it continues to evolve, get smaller, and more uses get created.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on June 25, 2019.

Jason  Moser: I want to dig in a little bit here. You own an Oculus device.

Dan Kline: I do.

Moser: I don't. With that said, we did have one company annual meeting one year, where we got an Oculus right as they came out. This was a first gen thing. So we all got to check it out and see what it was all about. It was clever, it was neat. To your point, it was a little bit pointless in that, "Oh, wow! I'm in this Scottish field and I can look around and see the castle and the cliff, and I'm looking over the cliff, and I'm thinking I could fall over. OK, neat. Now let me go have a beer." It was kind of short-lived. Talk a little bit about your experience with your Oculus, why you got it, and where you think this thing could be going.

Kline: I got it because I'm an idiot.

Moser: [laughs] Nah, you're just a tech guy!


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Kline: I'm famous for having a lot of silly tech. I own like eight coffee makers and I almost never make coffee. I always go out for coffee. I just bought the Keurig Drinkworks.

Moser: The soft drink thing?

Kline: No, the one that makes the alcoholic beverages.

Moser: Hey, now!

Kline: So now, you're going to come, stay at my house in Orlando, I'm not going to be there, and you're going to unknowingly -- Nick Sciple is actually doing this in a few weeks. He'll unknowingly use $40 worth of drink pods because he doesn't know that they're $3.99 a piece.

Moser: [laughs] I'm going to write that down.

Kline: But, I love technology! So, when I saw the Oculus go for $199, I went, "I will use this every day!" I previously had the Star Wars VR game. I might still have it. You have to put your phone into the headset. It's a lot of fun, but you need absolute darkness. It's hard to see if you're not in total pitch blackness, which is a very hard state to achieve. And you're wearing your phone on your head. It's super heavy and awkward.

Moser: Seems weird.

Kline: Your neck hurts after -- you don't even get to Darth Vader -- after battling the toy droid that's teaching you how to fight. Great premise. The Oculus doesn't need the phone. The phone's in your pocket. It's connected to the phone, but it's not sitting on your forehead. I got the Oculus. And the first thing I noticed is, it's pretty awkward for someone who wears glasses. So I did the logical thing anyone would do: I went out and got contacts. It's better when I'm not wearing my glasses, but it is still a relatively heavy device.

Let's talk about augmented reality. You can watch NBA games or certain boxing pay per views from a courtside/ ringside seat. That sounds great! It's cool to look at for 90 seconds. After that, it's a mix of nauseating and, "Wait a minute, I'm wearing a big thing on my head," and no matter how well you adjust, it isn't small enough. This is early technology that has to become glasses or a scuba mask or something that works and doesn't feel like you've got a bucket on your head.

Moser: To that point, I agree with you, whether it was the Oculus or -- some of the rides at Universal Studios, frankly, are that way. You can do it once, but if you keep on doing them all day long, you will likely get sick.

Kline: I'm also a Universal Studios passholder.

Moser: We loved it, but there's a limit in what you can do there. Again, that's the first gen. You suspect in time that'll change. Google has certainly not stopped investing in their glasses.

Kline: It's a gimmick now. There's one thing -- if it wasn't such a pain to get electronics through airport security, watching Netflix movies on the Oculus, in a position where your head can rest in a headdress on a plane, it's actually comfortable and an amazing way to watch a movie on a plane. But I'm not bringing my Oculus through security and having to take it out and explain what it is, and getting flagged by TSA. It's just not a common enough device. Now, when that's a pair of glasses, or whatever, like the old Bret The Hitman Hart sunglasses that wrap around your head, then it'll become something. You can see how it's going to get there. Most of the Oculus is plastic. It's not computing power. They could engineer it down to be something better. So, I like it, but it's something I play with to do fake roller coaster rides.

Moser: From the glasses perspective, Google had Google Glass. Now that's something they're calling Google Lens. You've got Facebook doing what they're doing. You've got Microsoft with the HoloLens. Apple, some secretive product out there under the code name T288. We're not certain exactly what it is, but it is headwear. It's slow to evolve. But when you look over to the industrial side of the world, when you look at the industrial implications, there are a lot of companies in the industrials space that use smart glasses for line work, or training, whatever it may be. There are applications that these things are being used for already. Again, maybe not the most consumer-facing in the world, but the technology is definitely out there, and consumer-facing companies are using them in some capacity.

Kline: I've played with the HoloLens.

Moser: How'd you like it? That's not one I've seen.

Kline: The problem is, I got to play it doing a Minecraft demo. The actual use of the HoloLens tends to be more professional. It's medical, engineering, architecture, lots of places like that. It's an expensive device. The developer's kit is very expensive for it. I don't know how Minecraft works. I don't play that game. But, yes, it's very immersive in the same way the Oculus is, in the same way, frankly, dropping your phone into the $20 fake VR thing. But Microsoft is spending an awful lot of money and has an awful lot of people working to make this something. I think what's going to happen is the higher- end adoption -- if this becomes a common tool in hospitals, that will bring the costs down, which will then make it a tool that's maybe attainable for colleges. I don't think we have to 3D TV worry about this. This isn't something that's going to go away. I think you're going to have better gaming-led consumer devices. I've also used the PlayStation virtual reality, which is a clunky headset that does make gameplay fun for, again, 10 minutes before you have a headache. You're going to see the next generations of these get smaller and lighter and have more practical business applications, where it wouldn't be crazy for me to be wearing one for a board meeting.

Moser: Yeah, I think you're right.

Kline: Not that we have board meetings, but meetings in a boardroom.

Moser: It's technology that's been around for a while. It's just coming to light as to the different ways we can use it. Part of the fun for me has been communicating how all of these different verticals, from healthcare to engineering to retail, education, these are the types of things where you see a lot of potential, even though it's not fully realized yet. It's less about the technology and more about the companies that are doing cool stuff with the technology.