Facebook Inc is launching a new virtual reality (VR) headset that does not require a separate computer to operate, allowing for better untethered usage than the company’s existing Oculus Rift product, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday.
Zuckerberg, speaking at a conference for virtual reality developers, said the “Oculus Go” device would cost $199 and ship early next year, too late for this year’s holiday shopping season but likely ahead of rivals.
Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality hardware in hopes that the technology, which offers a 360-degree panoramic view of faraway or imaginary spaces, will move from a niche interest to a widely used platform for gaming, communication and business applications. The company claims that this ‘super lightweight’ headset along with its ‘all-in-one’ device capabilities will ‘represent a huge leap forward in comfort, visual clarity, and ease-of-use’.
Talking about the hardware, the company has packed a ‘high-resolution fast-switch LCD screen’ in the device along with ‘next-generation lenses’ with wide-field of view in the headset. The new lenses come with ‘significantly reduced glare.’ The company has also added spatial audio with the speakers built into the headset. It comes along with a 3.5-mm headphone jack for private listening.
In 2014, Facebook paid $3 billion to acquire Oculus and retain its employees.
The Oculus Go is billed as simpler than the Rift, which went on sale last year, or the Vive system made by HTC Corp. Both of those require desktop computers to operate.
“I think you’re going to see these a lot on aeroplanes because it’s way better than the back-of-the-seat monitor or my phone,” Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, said in an interview.
Schroepfer said the device is aimed at people who do not have Samsung smartphones. Oculus and Samsung Electronics already sell a device, named Gear VR, that when paired with certain Samsung phones is similar to Oculus Go. Oculus notes that Gear VR and Oculus Go apps are ‘binary compatible’.
The interesting bit here is that both of these controllers share the same ‘controller input set’. This will help the company push its library of VR-ready content at launch with the help of existing content that runs on Gear VR.
Alphabet Inc offers a rival headset, Google Daydream, that works with yet more smartphones.
“The Oculus Go has potential to be a huge driver of growth,” if people like the titles and apps on it, Stephanie Llamas, vice president of research at Super Data, said in an email.
With inputs from Reuters