Facebook boosts energy and cuts worth of VR headset

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By Leo Kelion
Technology desk editor

Quest 2

picture copyrightFacebook

Facebook has unveiled its second-generation Oculus Quest digital actuality headset, promising higher-quality visuals at a considerably cheaper price than many had predicted.

It additionally revealed two blockbuster franchises – Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell – had been being developed for the platform.

The agency has been unable to satisfy demand for the primary Quest in latest months.

But one industry-watcher urged it’s more likely to stay a “niche” product.

The launch comes 16 months after the unique Quest’s launch.

The all-in-one machine distinguished itself by providing customers six levels of freedom – that means they might stroll round digital worlds in a restricted house in addition to lookup, down, left and proper – while not having separate exterior sensors or to have its software program run off a PC.

The new mannequin options higher-resolution shows, which now provide “almost 2K” per eye. The agency says that represents 50% extra pixels than earlier than, and so they have been organized in order that the gaps between every pixel are much less obvious.

Facebook counsel one profit is that textual content will probably be simpler to learn.

picture copyrightFacebook
picture captionFacebook says the enhancements ought to make the headset extra snug to put on and ship a higher sense of presence

However, the commerce off is that it has moved from utilizing OLED to LED display expertise, that means the blacks could also be much less deep than earlier than, affecting distinction.

Other enhancements embrace:

  • use of the extra highly effective Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor, which is able to dealing with higher-resolution 360-degree movies in addition to extra advanced graphics
  • a 10% lighter physique with redesigned straps for a extra snug match
  • longer battery life

Many of the main points had leaked in advance.

However, the worth has proved to be a shock.

Experts the BBC spoke to forward of the launch anticipated it to be wherever from the identical worth as the unique quest as much as a couple of third extra.

picture copyrightUbisoft
picture captionUbisoft is bringing two of its greatest gaming manufacturers to the Quest however isn’t but prepared to point out off footage

Instead, Facebook has minimize the entry degree worth from £399 to £299 for model with 64 gigabytes of storage. A second model prices £399 and supplies 256GB of storage.

That may assist drive curiosity at a time when many avid gamers are targeted as an alternative on the forthcoming launches of recent PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

“At this price, we believe the device is a loss-leading product, demonstrating Facebook’s desire to simultaneously drive greater adoption of virtual reality and capture a larger share of the market,” mentioned Leo Gebbie from the consultancy CCS Insight.

“We fear that rivals like HTC will not be able to keep pace with Facebook’s aggressive approach.”

picture copyrightBigBoxVR
picture captionPopulation: One goals to carry an all-against-one battle royale expertise to the Quest

But one other industry-watcher had doubts that this represented VR’s breakthrough second.

“The upgraded image quality is important, but this is still a stepping stone, an incremental step towards mass adoption,” commented Kevin Joyce from the VR consultancy Tiny Brains.

“The Quest still needs to come further down in size and weight, and the graphics are still what you would have got from a console two generations ago.

“But Facebook is steadily paving the way in which for VR to go mainstream with what’s a really calculated effort.”

But one challenge still facing the firm is suspicion of Facebook itself after a series of privacy scandals.

A number of existing owners have suggested they will ditch the platform because of its insistence they use Facebook logins with the headsets rather than a separate system.

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picture copyrightTwitter

The Quest 2 will probably be launched on 13 October.

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Ubisoft tie-up

Oculus Quest headsets have sold out within hours of coming into stock for most of 2020.

But while the coronavirus pandemic may have made the tech more appealing to consumers living under lockdown, it also constrained Facebook’s ability to order more from its suppliers.

“Shipment volumes throughout the VR sector are nonetheless extraordinarily low in comparison with many different classes, and for now gaming continues to be the one class driving gross sales of the merchandise,” commented Francisco Jeronimo from the research firm IDC.

A deal with Ubisoft to create made-for-VR entries in the Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell series that will run natively on the Quest should add to its appeal.

image copyrightFacebook
image captionFacebook bought Beat Saber’s developer Beat Games last year

Until now, many of the games on offer have been from smaller independent studios working with relatively low budgets.

Facebook said it would also soon release a multiplayer version of its rhythm-based game Beat Saber, which is already one of the Quest’s most popular titles, along with an expansion pack featuring the K-pop band BTS.

It also showed off the latest footage from Population: One – a Fortnite-like battle royale shooter designed for VR, which has already been years in development.

image copyrightFacebook
image captionMark Zuckerberg hosted the virtual launch and said he had held management meetings in VR

It is also making it easier to link the machine up to a PC to play titles off a more powerful computer, and would soon support gameplay at up to 90 frames per second.

But the company is also looking beyond gaming, and showed off a concept it called Infinite Office.

This allows people to enter a huge virtual working space where they can run multiple screens of all sizes. And it said it was working with Logitech to develop a physical keyboard that would work in VR.

image copyrightFacebook
image captionInfinite Office allows users to set up multiple huge screens in a virtual environment

Facebook said that it was also continuing to work on augmented reality glasses, which will overlay graphics over a view of the real world.

It now calls the initiative Project Aria and said a few hundred of its staff would soon be equipped with prototypes to collect data while moving within their homes, Facebook’s offices and in public spaces.

image copyrightFacebook
image captionFacebook staff will collect data via a pair of augmented reality glasses fitted with cameras and microphones that will not be sold to the public
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Analysis

By Simon Hancock, BBC Click’s Editor

Unboxing the previous Quest was the first time I really had the feeling that VR was at last ready for consumers.

A sleek looking bit of kit, from top to bottom everything just worked. All it needed now were some users.

While the second generation’s improvements in processor, storage and display resolution will be appreciated by those already active in the area, it is the pricing – the cost of a low-end smartphone – and blockbuster gaming tie-ups that Facebook hope will win it new eyeballs.

image copyrightFacebook
image captionThe biggest visual difference between headsets is that the Quest 2 is white while the original was black

In the year of big console launches the question is whether even this ultra-aggressive pricing strategy will turn enough heads.

But if any supply chain issues beset the PS5 or new Xbox series, you can be sure the Quest 2 is ready to make some very real in-roads into the gaming market.

Related Topics

  • Facebook

  • Gaming
  • Virtual actuality

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