Anticipating great things, the Blend Media team tuned into Facebook Connect on Wednesday 16 September, some in Oculus Venues using the now somewhat outdated v1 of the Oculus Quest headset, and others on Facebook Live. Mark Zuckerberg kicked off a two-hour keynote detailing the company’s latest virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) developments, the adoption of which he reported had been accelerated by the pandemic and people’s growing need for a sense of “presence”.
As billed, there were product announcements and exciting previews of speculative technology, along with new apps and games on display. The focus was squarely on both VR and AR; whilst the keynote was centered on Facebook’s VR division Oculus, we also gained insight into Facebook’s plans for Ray-Ban “smart glasses,” as well as a more advanced AR initiative called Project Aria.
Here are the three things from Facebook Connect that excited us the most...
Oculus Quest 2 was Facebook’s big announcement. Like its predecessor, the Quest 2 is a standalone VR headset with no external gaming console or PC required and offers some big improvements, and not just the price, review here.
Quest 2 is now available for preorder with the headset shipping on 13 October 2020 in 22 countries. A 64GB version of the headset is selling for $299/£299, and a 256GB one for $399/£399.
Beyond the clear improvements to the original Quest, and Facebook’s expectation that Quest 2 will replace the PC-tethered Rift, Facebook wants to turn the Quest into more than just a gaming device. The company shared “Infinite Office” a new set of features that will bring solo productivity to the Oculus Quest, digitally enhancing your physical office to make it “infinite”.
The new features will allow users to work across multiple customisable screens built on top of the Oculus Browser, perfect for creating a virtual workspace. Users will be able to see live feeds from the onboard cameras so that they can integrate the VR world with their own home. A partnership with Logitech also brings with it the integration of a physical and virtual keyboard in-headset. Future plans include opening up passthrough mode to developers so they can begin integrating their own apps with mixed reality support.
Alongside the Oculus Quest 2 and its upcoming software, Facebook also showed off a couple of pieces of speculative AR and VR technology. Our interest was piqued by its first pair of consumer, Ray-Ban branded, “smart glasses” due to be released next year. More akin to Snap Spectacles or Amazon’s Echo Frames, Facebook says the consumer smart glasses will be one step in its overall work on AR, which now includes experimental research prototype Project Aria.
“Project Aria is a research device that is worn like regular glasses and will help us build the software — including a live map of 3D spaces — and hardware necessary for future AR devices,” Richard Newcombe, Director, Research Science at Facebook Reality Labs.
The message that came out loud and clear from this year’s Connect is that AR and VR will become increasingly important in people’s lives; enabling deeper, more social, experiences and connections at both work and play.
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