Every year, there’s a breakthrough in virtual reality, which usually means the integration of state-of-the-art immersive technology into everyday gadgets. From the Best Headsets to high-end gaming systems, AR/VR devices are poised to impact how we interact with the world. The tech mega giant Facebook seems to have a crystal ball when it comes to the next major innovation, especially in the world of content. With the unveiling of its $200 wireless Oculus VR headset, Facebook is hoping to shift virtual reality from the gaming world to an everyday must-have technology.
Facebook’s VR Headset Niche
By bridging the gap between cheap headsets that transform smartphones into VR devices and high-end gaming laptops that integrate with desktop computers, Facebook has found its niche. Whether it’s immersive gaming, watching immersive videos, or social networking, the Oculus VR headset works without being tethered to your smartphone. Code-named “Pacific”, Facebook’s Oculus VR project is currently in development but has an estimated ship date of “early 2018”.
The concept is pretty great: the highly-portable Oculus VR headset small enough to carry in your pocket and versatile enough to watch movies while traveling on a plane. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed the need for a VR headset that is somewhere between the Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Rift:
“This is the kind of thing that we believe will exist,” he said at last year’s Oculus conference. “We don’t have a product to unveil at this time, however, we can confirm we’re making several significant technology investments in the stand along VR category.”
State of the VR Market
According to the IDC, consumers were delivered 2.3 million VR headsets compared to 347 million smartphones. So what is the reason behind VR’s lackluster performance over the past year? Like most new gadgets, it seems as if consumers are waiting for the technology to improve prior to pulling the trigger. From super pricey headsets to faulty hardware, the devices are just too new to be considered reliable. Thankfully, there are some big players (Facebook, Sony, Samsung, Apple) hoping to change the mind of high-tech lovers interested in adopting the full immersion experience.
On the heels of Facebook acquiring Oculus for $2 billion in 2014, Sony sold one million of its $500 PlayStation VR headset, HTC Corp and Lenovo Group began developing its Google Daydream OS standalone headsets, and Apple decided to focus on the Augmented Reality (AR) market. With Samsung holding close to 22% of the global VR market and Facebook’s Oculus Rift coming in at 5% (100,000 units sold), growth seems like a foregone conclusion over the next few years. Differentiating itself from the competition, Facebook can tap into a community of developers dedicated to building VR games and intuitive apps.
The Oculus Rift Wireless Headset
Facebook’s Oculus Rift wireless VR headset will feature a Snapdragon mobile chip from Qualcomm, gaming power beyond Samsung Gear’s VR headset, and can be operated by wireless remote. As it stands right now, Facebook plans to tap into China’s Xiaomi distribution network to make their $200 headset a global phenomenon. According to early reports, the only real downside to Facebook’s Oculus is the lack of positional tracking technology – making it difficult for the user to tell where they are spatially.
The next step for the Oculus is scheduled in October (2017) when Facebook briefs both content makers and developers on their progress. This will ensure that Oculus’ release coincides with a companion app.