The text below comes from a shooting script for the video above; it may not perfectly reflect the dialogue of that video.
For our first teardown of 2022, we’re looking into the past to get a glimpse of the future. Welcome to the Oculus (aka Meta) Quest 2 teardown.
The end of 2021, moving into CES 2022, brought us a giant heap of metaverse-related content and products.
And by most people’s interpretation, you can’t have the metaverse without some sort of virtual reality … which brings us to this. Facebook/Oculus/Meta’s 300-dollar cordless VR headset. This was originally released in 2020, but we never got around to taking it apart.
What makes the Quest 2 special is that it does not require any cables or additional hardware to work. Where other headsets need a high-end PC, extra cameras to track your movements, and hours of setup and calibration, all you need with the Quest 2 is this headset and these controllers.
And that is key to Meta’s gameplan to get everyone hooked on the metaverse. They see this as the next smartphone boom, and to get people on board, this needs to be simple and cheap. Simple and cheap on the outside does not equal simple and cheap on the inside, though.
Crammed into this headset is basically a flagship 2020 smartphone, plus a bunch of extra cameras, sensors, and other VR stuff.
To get started I’ll remove 6 T2 screws from under the foam padding on the dark side of the headset. That allows me to remove the plastic trim piece that goes around the lenses. Then five more screws hold the face of the light side in place, and now we can get an idea of how dense this thing is. Every inch has been packed with something.
At this point I hope to see an easy way to remove the battery, or at least disconnect it, but I’m not seeing anything. Not being able to quickly replace the battery is a bummer, because, like everything else with a battery, this will eventually need a replacement! At least this will work while plugged in.
Thanks to this user-created guide on iFixit, I do actually know where the battery cable is. To disconnect the battery, I just have to remove these three screws and this metal bracket, then disconnect this cable here.
After that, I’ll remove this big black antenna with 8 more phillips screws. Then the fan, and this cute little heatsink.
Next I can start disconnecting cables and free the motherboard. Remember, this thing is basically a smartphone. Look how tiny this board is!
IPD adjustment mechanism
Finally, I can pull the rest of this out of the white plastic housing. The screen and eyepiece assembly holds onto those four cameras, and has a really interesting adjustment mechanism for the IPD, or inter-pupillary distance adjustment. Watch that tiny gear move as both eyepieces slide back and forth between their three positions.
I said it was interesting, but it’s definitely not precise. This is no doubt one of the cost-saving measures that Oculus took to get to this $300 price point, and though most people probably won’t notice, I wasn’t able to get a perfect IPD adjustment, which led me feeling nauseous after each gaming session.
In the housing we have the two speakers, and it looks like they speak through the rotating arms—we’ll have to check that out in a minute.
Then there’s the battery, stuck to the top of the headset with 6 Phillips screws. This is an awful lot of disassembly to get to a battery replacement, but at least it’s not glued in place. This 14.3 Wh cell should give you just over two hours of cordless VR gaming.
Not bad, again, considering all the different tech this little cell powers.
The speakers have a bracket screwed in around them, then some fiddly little metal clips. Removing the two black plastic pieces lets you remove the whole speaker arm.
Building the speaker into the arm is a really clever design trick that allows them to make the speakers bigger, and also get the sound closer to your ear for better immersion.
The lenses come off by siding out the adjustment rails. These are fresnel lenses, which we’ve seen in several VR headsets. The circles you see in the glass here achieve the magnification and immersion effects of a thicker, heavier lens, without the weight or the bulk.
Cameras, how cordless VR works
On our way to the screen I’m going to pull one of these cameras off. That is quite a bit of thermal paste! These cameras are running full time while you’re beat sabering, so no doubt they heat up.
Speaking of the cameras, now that we’re most of the way through this thing, let’s talk about how Oculus built this headset to track movement without any external sensors. That’s the most interesting part of this headset for me.
Devin Coldeway, a reporter at TechCrunch, got a pretty straight answer from the CTO of Facebook a few years ago, which we’ll link in the description below.
Basically the answer boils down to three things:
They’re running the inertial measurement chip we saw on the main board at a very high frequency (hence the thermal paste there), leaning heavily on Facebook (meta’s) machine learning and computer vision algorithms, and they spent a ton of time carefully tweaking the output of the entire system to closely match their old systems that did use external sensors.
I’m still trying to get to the screen here. I can remove the screen assembly from the metal shield with these screws, but it looks like the screen is glued to this black frame.
Hold up—a quick pull on one of these tabs reveals some stretch-release adhesive! It breaks a few times during the pull, but there are several tabs all connected to the same adhesive perimeter. This is seriously cool.
I get so excited about stretch release adhesive because it’s basically a sign that the design team thought about the removal procedure. I am curious about how many of these screens fail or break and need to be replaced, because it seems like this would be pretty protected in there.
But hey, I guess anything can happen in the metaverse.
Finally, here’s the screen. It’s basically a smartphone LCD display with the non-important parts blacked out, which you can barely see here under the right reflections.
This LCD is a sort of sideways step from the original Quest headset, which had an OLED panel that was slightly less high-res and had a lower refresh rate. I’d say it’s a good tradeoff.
Outro and repairability
That’s the end of this Quest, and we’ve learned that the future of VR can totally be cordless—as long as you’ve got some computer vision algorithms to lean on.
And I’m happy to say that this thing is decently repairable, though it takes a while to get to the all-important battery and there are a bunch of fiddly clips and parts to deal with along the way.