Face­book gets real about broad­en­ing VR’s ap­peal

Manteca Bulletin - - Local/State -

MENO PARK (AP) — Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg seems to be re­al­iz­ing a sober­ing re­al­ity about vir­tual re­al­ity: His com­pany’s Ocu­lus head­sets that send peo­ple into ar­ti­fi­cial worlds are too ex­pen­sive and con­fin­ing to ap­peal to the masses.

Zucker­berg on Wednesday re­vealed how Face­book in­tends to ad­dress that prob­lem, un­veil­ing a stand-alone head­set that won’t re­quire plug­ging in a smart­phone or a cord teth­er­ing it to a per­sonal com­puter like the Ocu­lus Rift head­set does.

“I am more com­mit­ted than ever to the fu­ture of vir­tual re­al­ity,” Zucker­berg re­as­sured a crowd of com­puter pro­gram­mers gath­ered in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia, for Ocu­lus’ an­nual con­fer­ence.

Face­book’s new head­set, called Ocu­lus Go, will cost $199 when it hits the market next year. That’s a big drop from the Rift, which orig­i­nally sold for $599 and re­quired a PC cost­ing at least $500 to be­come im­mersed in vir­tual re­al­ity, or VR.

Re­cent dis­counts low­ered the Rift’s price to $399 at var­i­ous times dur­ing the sum­mer, a mark­down Ocu­lus now says will be per­ma­nent.

“The strat­egy for Face­book is to make the on­board­ing to VR as easy and in­ex­pen­sive as pos­si­ble,” said Gart­ner an­a­lyst Brian Blau. “And $199 is an in­ex­pen­sive en­try for a lot of peo­ple who are just start­ing out in VR. The prob­lem is you will be spend­ing that money on a de­vice that only does VR and noth­ing else.”

Face­book didn’t pro­vide any de­tails on how the Ocu­lus Go will work, but said it will in­clude built-in head­phones for au­dio and have a LCD dis­play.

The Ocu­lus Go will strad­dle the market be­tween the Rift and the Sam­sung Gear, a $129 head­set that runs on some of Sam­sung’s higher-priced phones. It will be able to run the same VR as the Sam­sung Gear, lead­ing Blau to con­clude the Go will rely on the same An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem as the Gear and likely in­clude sim­i­lar pro­ces­sors as Sam­sung phones.

The Gear com­petes against other head­sets, such as Google’s $99 Day­dream View, that re­quire a smart­phone. Google is also work­ing on a stand-alone head­set that won’t re­quire a phone, but hasn’t spec­i­fied when that de­vice will be re­leased or how much it will cost.

Zucker­berg promised the Ocu­lus Go will be “the most ac­ces­si­ble VR ex­pe­ri­ence ever,” and help re­al­ize his new goal of hav­ing 1 bil­lion peo­ple dwelling in vir­tual re­al­ity at some point in the fu­ture.

Face­book and other ma­jor tech­nol­ogy companies such as Google and Mi­crosoft that are bet­ting on VR have a long way to go.

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