Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the company’s second virtual reality headset on Wednesday: A wireless, standalone headset called Oculus Go.
Facebook already has one headset, called Oculus Rift. But it’s expensive, especially for a casual VR user — it costs $399 with controllers. (Facebook actually lowered the price by $100 during the conference.) The Rift also requires a high-powered PC in order to power the headset, and cables and wires that mean users can’t easily pack it up and take it with them. As a result, it’s most popular with gamers.
The Oculus Go doesn’t require cables, and is meant to be a higher quality version of the cheaper VR headsets that are powered by users’ smartphones, like the Samsung Gear headset.
Zuckerberg said that the new headset fits in the “sweet spot” between the Rift and other portable, smartphone-powered VR headsets. “That high quality affordable experience that doesn’t tether you to a PC,” Zuckerberg explained. “Oculus Go is the most accessible VR experience ever.
The price of virtual reality headsets has continued to drop, making the technology more accessible to a variety of people. Setting a US$200 price for a headset that doesn't require any additional equipment, however, is a new landmark for the industry.
The Oculus Go is set to ship early next year... “early next year,” Zuckerberg said at Oculus’s annual developers conference in San Jose, Calif.
It will be able to use all the apps currently available for the Gear VR, the Samsung and Oculus headset that requires a smartphone to work. Developers will be able to get their hands on Oculus Go in November to make more specialized programs for it.
Like the Gear VR, the Go is designed to be for lighter virtual reality experiences such as 360-viewing or short play sessions. It will also ship with a controller that users can hold in one hand, to point, poke or otherwise interact with the environment around them.
The Go won't be the only stand-alone headset from Oculus for long. The company also gave more information on a product nicknamed Project Santa Cruz, which promises to offer high-end VR without wires or the external trackers that VR users currently have to set up around their rooms. That device will ship to developers next year, but does not yet have a commercial release date.
Facebook also announced plans to introduce streaming 360-degree video to Oculus as well as Facebook Spaces, the network's "social VR" space that Zuckerberg controversially used to virtually tour Puerto Rico earlier this week.Part of this is because CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes VR is a stepping stone technology to get people interested in augmented reality, which Facebook is also investing in.