Face­book aims to kick-start vir­tual re­al­ity revo­lu­tion with £150 head­set

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By James Tit­comb in San Jose

FACE­BOOK has un­veiled a vir­tual re­al­ity head­set that will work with­out need­ing an ex­pen­sive com­puter, a move de­signed to kick-start the nascent tech­nol­ogy’s slow start.

Mark Zucker­berg, the com­pany’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, mounted a staunch de­fence of his bet on vir­tual re­al­ity, and pledged that it would be­come a ser­vice used by bil­lions in the com­ing years.

Face­book has in­vested huge sums in VR in re­cent years and the so­cial net­work pre­dicts it will be­come the next big leap in how peo­ple com­mu­ni­cate on­line. But sales of its Ocu­lus head­sets have been slower than many ex­pected.

“A lot of the most im­por­tant tech don’t start off main­stream,” Mr Zucker­berg said. “Some peo­ple say VR is iso­lat­ing and anti-so­cial, I ac­tu­ally think it’s the op­po­site.”

How­ever, he ad­mit­ted that the high price of ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy had held back Face­book’s aim of hav­ing 1bn peo­ple us­ing VR. “If we’re go­ing to get a bil­lion peo­ple in vir­tual re­al­ity we have to fo­cus on af­ford­abil­ity and qual­ity,” he said. Last night, the com­pany un­veiled a stand-alone head­set called the Ocu­lus Go that will cost $199 (£150) and work with­out need­ing to con­nect to a com­puter or smart­phone, and go on sale early next year.

Mr Zucker­berg said the de­vice would be a “sweet spot” be­tween high­end but bulky head­sets that re­quire users to in­vest thou­sands in PCs and ac­ces­sories, and cheaper ones, which plug into smart­phones but whose per­for­mance pale in com­par­i­son.

Ac­cord­ing to IDC, sales of vir­tual re­al­ity head­sets grew by 25.5pc to 2.1m in the se­cond quar­ter of 2017, with Face­book sell­ing just un­der 250,000. How­ever, an­a­lysts pre­dict that head­set sales will pick up as they be­come cheaper and more pow­er­ful, grow­ing from 13.5m this year to 61.2m in 2021.

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