Facebook boosts power and cuts price of VR headset

Facebook boosts power and cuts price of VR headset

By Leo Kelion
Technological bench editor

Mission 2

copyright of the imageFacebook

Facebook unveiled its second-generation Oculus Quest virtual reality headset, promising higher quality images at a significantly lower price than many had anticipated.

It also revealed that two successful franchises – Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell – were in development for the platform.

The company has not been able to meet demand for the first mission in recent months.

But an industry observer has suggested it will likely remain a “niche” product.

The launch comes 16 months after the original Quest was released.

The all-in-one machine stood out by offering users six degrees of freedom, which meant they could walk virtual worlds in a limited space and look up, down, left and right, without the need for separate external sensors. or to have its software run away from a PC.

The new model features high-resolution displays, which now offer “nearly 2K” per eye. The company says it represents 50% more pixels than before, and they have been arranged so that the gaps between each pixel are less noticeable.

Facebook suggests that one advantage is that the text will be easier to read.

copyright of the imageFacebook
image captionFacebook says the improvements should make the headset more comfortable to wear and provide a greater sense of presence

However, the trade-off is that it has moved from using OLED technology to LED screen technology, which means blacks may be shallower than before, affecting contrast.

Other improvements include:

  • using the more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor, which is capable of handling high-resolution 360-degree video and more complex graphics
  • a 10% lighter body with redesigned straps for a more comfortable fit
  • longer battery life

Many of the details were leaked early.

However, the price turned out to be a surprise.

Experts the BBC spoke to before the launch expected it would be anywhere from the same price as the original research to around a third more.

Instead, Facebook reduced the entry price from £ 399 to £ 299 for the version with 64 gigabytes of storage. A second version costs £ 399 and provides 256GB of storage.

This could help spark interest at a time when many gamers are instead focusing on the upcoming launches of new PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

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

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

copyright of the imageBigBoxVR
image captionPopulation: One aims to bring an all-on-one battle royale experience to Quest

But another industry observer doubted this represented the turning point of virtual reality.

“Better image quality is important, but this is still a stepping stone, an incremental step towards mass adoption,” commented Kevin Joyce of VR consulting firm Tiny Brains.

“The Quest has yet to go down further in size and weight, and the graphics are still what you would have gotten from a console two generations ago.

“But Facebook is constantly leading the way for VR to go mainstream with what is a very calculated effort.”

But one of the challenges the company still faces is Facebook’s own suspicion after a string of privacy scandals.

A number of existing owners have suggested that they will abandon the platform due to its insistence on using Facebook logins with headsets rather than a separate system.

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The Quest 2 will be released on October 13th.

Relationship with Ubisoft

Oculus Quest earbuds are sold out within hours of entering stock for most of 2020.

But while the coronavirus pandemic may have made the technology more attractive to consumers living under lockdown conditions, it has also limited Facebook’s ability to order more from its suppliers.

“Shipping volumes in the VR industry are still extremely low compared to many other categories, and for now, gaming is still the only category driving product sales,” commented Francisco Jeronimo of research firm IDC.

A deal with Ubisoft to create rumors made for virtual reality in the Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell series that will run natively on Quest should increase its appeal.

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

Facebook has said it will also soon release a multiplayer version of its rhythm-based game Beat Saber, which is already one of Quest’s most popular titles.

copyright of the imageFacebook
image captionFacebook bought Beat Saber developer Beat Games last year

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

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

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

copyright of the imageFacebook
image captionMark Zuckerberg hosted the virtual launch and claimed to have held management meetings in VR

It is also making it easier to connect the machine to a PC to play titles from a more powerful computer and will soon support gameplay at up to 90 frames per second.

But the company is also looking beyond gaming and has shown a concept called Infinite Office.

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

Facebook said it was also continuing to work on augmented reality glasses, which will superimpose graphics over a real-world view.

Now he calls the Project Aria initiative and said a few hundred of its staff would soon be equipped with prototypes to collect data as they move around its campuses and public spaces.

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