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