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Consumer Confidential: Oculus Go headset adds fun and virtual reality option for TV cord cutters

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

The first time I experienced virtual reality, I was living in Tokyo in the 1990s and the technology was seen by the consumer electronics industry as the Next Big Thing.

I recall the headset at the time being big and heavy, and I clearly remember nearly upchucking all over the floor of a corporate R&D facility as my tour of the virtual world quickly became an express train to motion sickness.

So it was with more than a little trepidation that I accepted an offer from the nice people at Sling TV to test their streaming video service on an Oculus Go headset. Oculus VR is the virtual reality trendsetter acquired by Facebook for $2 billion in 2014.

Sling and Oculus have a promotion until the end of the month in which you can get an $80 credit toward your Sling subscription if you buy an Oculus Go.

Cutting to the chase, virtual reality is still little more than a novelty, but the technology has improved sufficiently and the price has come down enough to make it a toy many cord cutters might want to play with.

First, this isn't your grandfather's VR. The Oculus Go is surprisingly lightweight and comfortable, with fluffy padding around the eyes and a rubber insert that makes the gear compatible with glasses.

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The speakers are cleverly stashed in the plastic arms that connect to the head straps, so you don't need extra earphones or buds. You control the virtual environment with a small remote that stays in your hand.

The Oculus Go lets you download many popular apps, so your video streaming isn't limited to Sling -- Netflix is doable, as is Hulu, YouTube and others. I stuck mainly to Sling because I'm a subscriber and because, well, they sent me the gadget.

Let's get right to it: The VR picture is nowhere close to the sharp quality of your typical high-definition TV. But it's not so fuzzy that you keep getting pulled out of the moment. It's good enough.

The experience was better for me watching a black-and-white film on TCM, in this case Marlon Brando method-acting his way through "A Streetcar Named Desire" (Stella!).

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