How Oculus and Facebook Are Attempting to Make VR Social

How Oculus and Facebook Are Attempting to Make VR Social


Anyone who follows the VR (virtual reality) space knew it was only a matter of time. Facebook-owned Oculus VR has officially gone untethered. At its recent Oculus Connect conference the maker of the popular Rift VR headset announced two new developments on its path to fully untethered virtual reality. But behind it all is a strategy to take social media off of your 2D screen and into the virtual world.

During a conference keynote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the audience that Facebook has a goal to bring one billion people into VR, and key to achieving that is to hit what he called the sweet spot between the affordability of mobile VR devices like Samsung’s Gear VR and the power of PC-based VR, but without the tethering.

Oculus Go is a standalone mobile VR headset that will be fully compatible with apps developed for the Samsung Gear VR. (Image source: Facebook / Oculus)

In early 2018 the company will be releasing Oculus Go, a mobile VR headset aimed at delivering the same mobile VR experience as the Gear VR and its ilk, only without the need for a high-end mobile phone to act as the screen and brains of the whole thing. While it doesn’t offer any positional tracking, the fully self-contained headset does feature three degrees of freedom (3DOF) head tracking and the same 110-degree field of view as the Rift headset, as well as built-in spatial audio. At a $199 price point the Oculus Go is slightly more expensive than the Gear VR, but perhaps Oculus is betting consumers will pay a little bit more for a standalone experience and factor in that they won’t need a $600+ phone to make it all work.

The big selling point for developers is that the Go is binary compatible with the Gear VR so any developers already creating apps for Samsung’s device will find they already work on the Oculus Go with the same SDK, even with Unity or Unreal Engine integration.

Inside-Out Tracking Is On the Way

Mobile VR is nice for some experiences, but what enthusiasts have really been waiting for is a true untethered VR experience, one that allows positional tracking without the need for an array of external sensors. Microsoft has already taken the lead on this with this series of mixed reality (MR) headsets from the likes of Acer, Dell,HP, and even Samsung that are set to begin releasing as soon as later this year. Microsoft has said that a staple of its MR hardware will be inside-out tracking, wherein internal sensors in the headsets will track users’ position and movement, removing the need for external sensors and cumbersome external wiring.


Facebook VP of VR Hugo Barra told the Oculus Connect audience that Santa Cruz uses IR sensors embedded into the controllers themselves as well as the headset to give users a full range of motion. (Image source: Facebook / Oculus Connect)


Though the Oculus Rift is the headset that brought VR back into the collective consciousness, the company has been relatively mum on