Product image of Oculus Go virtual reality headset

Mark Zuckerberg reveals standalone VR headset at Oculus conference

Image credit: Oculus

A standalone VR (virtual reality) headset, Oculus Go, will be released by Oculus VR next year. At $199, it was described as the “most accessible VR headset yet”.

The product was unveiled by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder and CEO, at the Oculus Connect 4 developers conference in San Jose, California.

Named the Oculus Go, the device does not need a phone to be mounted in the headset, or to be wired up to a computer. This will allow users to spin around while wearing the headset, although it does not yet allow complete freedom of movement, as it does not support positioning tracking as Oculus Rift does.

It will have lenses with similar wide field-of-view to the Oculus Rift headset, with a “fast switch WQHD (Wide Quad High-Definition) LCD display, and spatial audio to provide sound without headphones.

The Oculus Go will come with a small controller, much like the Samsung Gear VR. The Gear VR, priced at $129, was developed in collaboration with Samsung and requires a recent Samsung Galaxy smartphone. The launch of the Oculus Go could be considered a step towards independence from smartphone manufacturers.

The Oculus Go will be priced at $199 (the Oculus Rift currently costs $399, its price having dropped from $599) and will become available to consumers in 2018. Developer kits for the headset will begin shipping in November.

According to Hugo Barra, vice-president for VR at Facebook, the headset is “hands-down the easiest way for developers to get involved with VR”. Barra added that the headset is lightweight and feels “incredibly soft” to wear.

Facebook acquired Oculus VR in 2014 for $2bn, with plans to develop Oculus Rift-supported features such as Facebook Spaces, which allows users to interact in virtual environments. However, just 350,000 Oculus devices were sold in 2016, leading some commentators to suggest that the multibillion dollar investment may have been a mistake.

“[This is] the most accessible VR experience ever,” said Zuckerberg, as he presented the product. Speaking at the conference, he admitted that VR had not yet reached mainstream popularity, in part due to the expense of the necessary hardware: not just the headset itself, but also a powerful phone or gaming computer. He added that Facebook hoped to eventually engage one billion people with VR.

At the conference, Facebook announced some new VR features, such as ‘Facebook Venues’, which allows users to watch concerts and other events in VR, some additions to Facebook Spaces such as masks for avatars, and ‘Oculus Quill’, which allows users to paint in VR. Oculus presented Oculus Dash, which expands screen space without the need for extra monitors, a customisable, virtual ‘Oculus Home, and perhaps most significantly, a VR package for business.

The Oculus Rift for Business package includes a headset, controllers, room sensors and a remote, and costs $900. It is intended to be used for training employees and for virtual conferencing. Last week, researchers at MIT revealed a prototype VR system which allows factory workers to do their job remotely.

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