Virtual reality has so far been a niche market. Facebook wants to change that with improved and cheaper VR glasses. A cooperation with glasses manufacturer EssilorLuxottica, however, goes in a different direction.
Facebook wants to drive the business with VR glasses with a significant price reduction. The new version of the Oculus Quest, which does not require an additional computer, will cost from $299 in the US – $100 less than the previous version. This was announced by Facebook on Wednesday evening as part of the Facebook Connect conference, which this year will take place as a purely online event.
In Germany, however, the device will not be available for the time being, as Facebook claims that it is still in talks with a regulatory authority that has not yet been specified.
The Oculus Quest 2 will hit the US market on October 13th. At 503 grams, it weighs less than the previous model and is powered by a new, more powerful chip. This was specially developed by the semiconductor company Qualcomm for applications in virtual reality (VR), where users can immerse themselves in digital worlds. The basic model is equipped with 64 gigabytes (GB) of storage space; a model with 256 GB will also be available for an additional charge of $120.
For a better picture, the screen resolution has been increased by 50 percent to 1832 x 1920 pixels compared to the previous model. However, the refresh rate is still 72 Hertz, which can make sensitive users uncomfortable. According to The Verge, it should be increased with a later upgrade to the 90 Hertz recommended for VR applications. While the Quest 2 can basically be used wirelessly and without a PC, it can also be connected to a computer via a special USB cable and used VR applications and games developed for PC.
As a new application, Facebook also presented the “Infinite Office” software – a virtual workstation where large computer screens are displayed in the glasses. Accessory manufacturer Logitech has developed a special keyboard for this. Users should be able to see their typing fingers in the VR glasses. The function should initially be available on Quest 2 as a test.
In Germany, Facebook stopped selling Oculus glasses at the beginning of September. Talks with regulators are pending, the online network announced without further information. The move followed the announcement that buyers of new devices – and from 2023 all users – must log in with their Facebook accounts. Previously there were separate Oculus profiles that did not necessarily have to be linked to the Facebook data.
Meanwhile, Facebook is also working on glasses with transparent lenses that can display additional information for users in the real environment. To this end, the online network will soon start tests with glasses with cameras and microphones, with the help of which usage scenarios and operation can be researched. They should be worn by some Facebook employees not only on the company premises, but also in public. Faces and license plates are automatically made illegible during recordings, as the company emphasized.
Facebook’s plans also include creating a three-dimensional model of all possible environments for the glasses to be used, which the cameras could automatically update. On the basis of these “Live Maps” useful assistance software can be developed that constantly accompanies the user through everyday life and reacts to the environment, said Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg emphasized that one cannot even imagine today what will be possible in the long term.
To turn these plans into a real product, the internet company has teamed up with the glasses company EssilorLuxottica. Together, the companies want to develop the “next generation of smart glasses”. The result of these efforts should come onto the market at the Ray-Ban eyewear brand in 2021. The companies do not want to announce further details about the planned product until next year.