This spring, Oculus, the Facebook-owned virtual reality company, will release Oculus Quest, a standalone VR headset that doesn’t require a computer or external wall sensors and that still gives users full freedom to move around within their environment.
The Quest, which has been long rumored as the company’s Oculus Santa Cruz project, will retail for $399, making it more expensive (but also more capable) than the $200 Oculus Go, which does not allow users to move around. It’ll also come with two touch handsets just like the flagship Oculus Rift.
The headset was announced today by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company’s Oculus Connect developer conference. The addition to the suite of VR headsets could also help open a new market for people who are interested in VR but find the Go underwhelming and the Rift too financially daunting.
“This is it,” he said. “This is the all-in-one VR experience that we have been waiting for. It’s wireless, it’s got hand presence, six degrees of freedom and runs Rift-quality experiences.”
Part of VR’s constant struggle is that there has been no single compelling experience that allows the average person to justify buying their first headset without knowing how compelling the technology will be and how often it’ll be used. In fact, many content makers and hardware manufacturers have acknowledged the chicken-or-egg dilemma of whether enough consumers need to own headsets before it’s worth investing or whether the content has to be good enough to warrant buying a pricey headset.
Since it’s not tethered by chords or sensors, the Quest also lets users go farther than room scale VR, which is the usual limitation for even the Rift or other powerful headsets like the HTC Vive. In fact, an hour after he was on stage, Zuckerberg posted video of himself playing VR tennis with Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer.
Oculus seems to understand that dilemma, and when the Quest ships, it’ll also come with more than 50 VR titles that will debut this spring, including a new Star Wars series by ILMxLab, the immersive media arm of Lucasfilm. The series, Vader Immortal, stars Darth Vader and is set in the saga’s timeline between Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: A New Hope. Players will be able to visit his home planet of Mustafar and enter Vader’s castle.
“Imagine you’ll be able to step inside the world of Star Wars from the comfort of your living room and for the first time feel truly free,” Vicki Dobbs Beck, executive in charge at ILMxLab, said onstage while announcing the debut.
Along with the titles, Oculus also announced several other partnerships that will make content consumption more scalable and social. For example, Oculus said it’s making the 800,000 VR videos on YouTube VR available on Oculus Go and adding a way for people to share their VR experience on a 2D mobile screen and on a TV soon as well. It’s also adding additional customizations for creating a VR home to hang out in with VR friends, including items, clothing and various other items from games.
“Imagine all the ways that’s going to change how we communicate, how we game, how we work, almost every category of what we do,” Zuckerberg said in his opening remarks. “Now I bet that almost every person here has had the experience of introducing someone to VR for the first time. And you’ve seen how people just can’t stop smiling. They’re giddy. They don’t want to come out. It’s clear that this sensation of presence is a new kind of digital experience. We’re getting closer and closer to being able to step between physical and virtual worlds.”
Zuckerberg said it’ll take around 10 million people being on the platform for the VR ecosystem to take off in a way that allows apps to be profitable. That’s why the company plans to begin creating platforms that work across all three of the Oculus headsets to make sure their user bases are more uniform.
The middle market that Quest aims to target could be critical for helping Zuckerberg achieve his vision of getting VR headsets to 1 billion consumers, a user base goal that’s already been hit by Facebook products such a Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram.