Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, teased the audience with a standalone Oculus Virtual Reality Headset. Well, at least the prototype version of it.
In a somewhat of a response to Google, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s CEO) came on the stage at the Oculus Connect developers conference and exhibited a taste of where the company was going as far as its mobile virtual reality future plans were concerned.
Right off the bat, it was revealed that the trademark feature of Facebook’s new prototype standalone Oculus Virtual Reality headset was positional tracking.
The online social media and social networking service based in Menlo Park, California, then showed a demo video in which the audience could see the virtual reality headset which took the form of an altered Oculus Rift.
It was also communicated that there was a computer module installed into the back of Facebook’s new prototype standalone Oculus Virtual Reality headset.
Moreover, it was also made known that the positional tracking technology enabled Facebook’s new prototype standalone Oculus Virtual Reality headset to perceive and grasp its location in the physical space.
The company also revealed that Facebook’s new prototype standalone Oculus Virtual Reality headset would be able to adjust a user’s on-screen content according to the data received from the positional tracking feature.
Readers might think that the function of Facebook’s new prototype standalone Oculus Virtual Reality headset gave off a similar vibe to 360 videos. But there is a stark difference between the two.
In 360 videos, users are essentially limited to a spherical viewpoint of things from a fixed position. But with the new positional tracking technology enabled on the device, users will be able to walk through the virtual reality experience and see any story from every possible angle.
Now readers should be able to understand why some overly-eager aficionados call this positional tracking technology in Facebook’s new prototype standalone Oculus Virtual Reality headset as “real virtual reality.”
During the Oculus Connect developers conference, Mark Zuckerberg also talked about how the development of Facebook’s new prototype standalone Oculus Virtual Reality headset was still in nascent stages.
But he did clarify that Facebook’s new prototype standalone Oculus Virtual Reality headset was certainly on the product roadmap.
Some industry insiders were genuinely surprised to find out that Facebook’s new prototype standalone Oculus Virtual Reality headset might have an affordable price.
Perhaps this is a suitable time to mention that Facebook’s new prototype standalone Oculus Virtual Reality headset will not be the first major high-end Virtual Reality headset that will offer the positional tracking technology.
Previously, the positional tracking technology has been offered by other high-end VR headsets such as Oculus’ Rift headset along with HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.
The important point to note here is that with the announcement of this new feature, Oculus is fast closing the gap between the high-powered high-priced Virtual Reality headsets and mobile Virtual Reality experiences.
And perhaps this is the perfect time for Oculus to make its move to gain the advantage over the rest of the competition like that of Google’s.
Last November, Oculus announced its Gear VR headset which was aimed at Samsung Galaxy users. Now, Oculus faces progressively hard competition from the likes of Google in the mobile Virtual Reality headset market.
Google recently launched its own Virtual Reality headset in the form of Daydream view. But Oculus seems to be going for the standalone Virtual Reality headset market rather than the smartphone mobile Virtual Reality experience.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Oculus isn’t interested in the smartphone mobile Virtual Reality experience since the company has been able to develop a strong influence over the mobile Virtual Reality market because of some of its previous projects.
Most of those projects were essentially combined initiatives with Samsung and other mobile carriers to offer the Virtual Reality headset free of cost for users who purchased compatible Samsung Galaxy mobile devices.
Last May, Oculus revealed in a report that the company had over one million active users on its Virtual Reality platform. With that said, the fact that Samsung had shipped one Oculus headset with every Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone pre-order cannot be ignored when taking into account the numbers revealed by Oculus.
It is unclear how many users are still using the headset now since consumers have been able to spend a significant amount of time with the Virtual Reality headset which means that most of the available VR content must have been exhausted.
As mentioned before, the positional tracking technology on mobile devices is not a new technology and in fact has been available for mobile devices for a fairly long time. The reason why Oculus did not make full use of it was because the company could not ensure that the feature would not kill a user’s battery in an instant after being activated.
The CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of Oculus, John Carmack devotedly talked about this issue during the conference.
The message seemed to be that Oculus was either at a loss in ensuring that the positional tracking technology conformed to mobile VR’s power consumption requirements or the company simply admitted defeat to Google and hence started to concentrate more on taking ownership of the next platform hardware.
As indicated earlier, right now the product is in early developmental age and therefore, no details were given regarding a potential launch date for Facebook’s new prototype standalone Oculus VR headset.
But if Oculus doesn’t want the likes of Google and PlayStation to gain too much advantage over it then it is obligatory for the company to release the new VR headset as quickly as possible.
What About Oculus Demos?
The demos were actually pretty interesting since Oculus was able to show an augmented social virtual reality combined with facial expressions to the present audience.
As mentioned before, Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated the new social VR experience at the Oculus Connect conference and presented a new form of social VR experience that basically superimposed VR user avatars of friends who were physically present someplace else but appeared on top of your vision which enabled everyone to hang out together.
It was shown that using technologies such as the social VR experience, you could potentially pick out real world scenes in the form of 360 photos and then drop by at those places with your friends who, as mentioned earlier, appeared as superimposed avatars in the real world scene.
It was also announced that users would be able to take part activities such as games like cards or chess, compete in sword fights with ready-made or DIY-drawn weapons, and watch content on a huge TV screen together.
Users would also have no trouble in taking a phone call from inside the Facebook Messenger or even pose for a VR selfie and then simultaneously share it on Facebook.
As has become the norm in the VR experience, it was shown that users would be able to express their feelings to their friends by feeding gestural commands to the Oculus Touch controllers.
Oculus also announced that the emotions shown by the avatars in the social VR experience were not based on facial tracking and actually used Oculus Touch controller inputs.
Check out the video below to have a better understanding of the whole concept.
There are several things to note here in the video, some of which are:
- With the Oculus social VR experience, users are able to see their friends. The software overlays facial tracking atop a 360 real world scene. Users can participate in activities such as board games and cards with friends
- Users can take a look at themselves in social VR with a unique mirror feature
- Users are allowed to virtually visit distant places like the floor of the ocean with friends in social VR experience
- The headset allows users to take Facebook Messenger video call in VR
Needless to say, the social VR experience which was shown to the audience yesterday at the Oculus Connect conference really demonstrated the potential for human connection through the use of VR devices powered by the likes of Facebook and Oculus.
Perhaps it should also be mentioned that rival VR platforms also offer the same type of games as Oculus.
But as Google Assistant has the support of Google’s search engine which gives it a huge advantage over the rest of field, similarly Oculus has that distinctive advantage in the form of preferential access to Facebook’s social graph and other social VR features.
In fact, this access to Facebook’s services could become the single most important reason of Oculus’ rise in the congested VR headset market.
Moreover, the social feature of Oculus might be able to attract more developers to the platform and develop third-party apps for it.
As any gamer would know, games are always more fun with friends and Facebook’s vast experience with social networks might be able to offer enough sharing opportunities for Oculus to supercharge the platform into going viral and as a result, getting adopted on a mass scale by the industry.
As indicated earlier, Mark Zuckerberg gave a glimpse of Facebook’s new prototype Standalone Oculus VR headset with the use of a photograph of himself and the company’s product manager for social VR Michael Booth.
The photo showed both men wearing the new headsets together and interacting with their environment.
But even before showing the demo to the audience Mark Zuckerberg explained to the audience on the progress of VR and Facebook’s role in it.
He said that the first step to VR revolution was to get the basic hardware out there in the market.
We know, that hardware is Oculus, HTC and some other companies.
He then continued with his talk on stage and admitted that Rift could be criticized for rolling out with a little bit of a flow start.
But Zuckerberg was of the opinion that it was going at a well enough pace at the moment.
Of course, to attract more customers the company will have to get going on introducing some great software experiences for the users along with building more capable hardware.
It doesn’t take a genius to guess that Mark Zuckerberg’s plans for the next ten to fifteen years involve developing VR and Augmented Reality to a point where they could be embedded in traditional eyeglasses and not in some bulky headsets as is the case now.
And just in case you were wondering, it was actually Michael Booth who had demoed the VR selfie stick along with other features such as explorable 360 photo spheres and shared virtual mailbox last April at the Facebook F8 conference.
Mark Zuckerberg has also consistently brought attention to the social networking potential of VR every since Facebook bought Oculus a couple of years ago in 2014. He recently said that VR was really a new communication platform for people and by feeling truly present, one could share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in one’s life.
He also said that it should not be hard to imagine sharing not just moments with one’s friends online but entire experiences and adventures.
Needless to say, VR at the moment is primarily thought of as a platform for gaming but if Facebook puts enough effort and resource into the technology then it could achieve its mission of bringing people close from far away places.
In fact, we are inclined to think that Facebook has a golden opportunity in its hands to really reinvent mobile technology with mobile virtual reality.
One only has to look towards the virtual wearable device that was shown tied to the positional location of the new Touch controllers.
Do let us know your thoughts on VR and Facebook’s social VR experience by using the comments section below.
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