from the go-go-gadget-VR dept.
Facebook is attempting to make virtual reality a mainstream product, and hopes to reach one billion VR users "one day":
In its continued effort to take virtual reality mainstream, Facebook has announced Oculus Go - a standalone headset that will be released in 2018. Mark Zuckerberg said the device, priced at $199, would be the "most accessible VR experience ever".
Sales of the company's VR hardware have been slow since launching the first Oculus Rift headset in March 2016. "If VR doesn't go mass market at this price point, I think we can conclude that it never will," said John Delaney, an analyst with IDC. Facebook's previous budget VR product, Gear VR, is $129, but requires a high-end Samsung smartphone in order to work. Speaking at Facebook's yearly virtual reality developers conference in San Jose, Mr Zuckerberg acknowledged the slow adoption of the technology to date. But he said his company's goal was that one day, it would get one billion people into VR.
Oculus Go is not being sold anytime soon, and the Oculus blog warns that "Oculus Go is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until [FCC] authorization is obtained". Facebook says that the devices will be sent to developers within the next 12 months. Specs and battery details are also unknown (maybe they need to use one of these for you to feel safe strapping it to your head).
Previously: Google Partnering With HTC and Lenovo for Standalone VR Headsets
Virtual Reality Audiences Stare Straight Ahead 75% of the Time
Google Bisects VR
Facebook/Oculus Reportedly Working on $200 Standalone VR Headset
Google is partnering with HTC and Lenovo to produce standalone (no smartphone or tether) virtual reality headsets. The headsets could cost around $500-$700, comparable to the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. As they will have less computational/graphics power than flagship smartphones or desktops, Google has developed a rendering system that they claim can compensate by decreasing the amount of polygons needed to render a scene (related video):
Meanwhile, a rendering system called Seurat — named after the pointillist painter Georges Seurat — is supposed to offer image quality that rivals what you'd get on a high-end PC. Andrey Doronichev, Google's director of product management, describes Seurat as "computational magic." It takes a rendered three-dimensional scene and samples shots of it from many different angles. As seen [here], Seurat uses these images to assemble a facade that drastically reduces the number of polygons the headset needs to render, without a visible loss of quality.
Google can also use the same Daydream user interface it's been fine-tuning for the past year on phones. A software update codenamed Euphrates will add the features you need for devices that users can't just pop apart and use as a phone, like a full-featured web browser and a dashboard for accessing settings and other non-VR parts of Android.
To make VR more transporting, and AR more convincing and useful, everything behind these experiences must improve: displays, optics, tracking, input, GPUs, sensors, and more. As one benchmark, to achieve "retina" resolution in VR — that is, to give a person 20/20 vision across their full field of view — we'll need roughly 30 times more pixels than we have in today's displays. To make more refined forms of AR possible, smartphones will need more advanced sensing capabilities. Our devices will need to understand motion, space, and very precise location. We'll need precision not in meters, but in centimeters or even millimeters.
Both the Rift and Vive have 2160×1200 displays. Roughly 30 times more pixels would mean a resolution of around 11880×6600, or 16704×4698 (32:9 aspect ratio).
Google's video vault offers that advice on the basis of heat maps it's created based on analysis of where VR viewers point their heads while wearing VR goggles. There's just such a heat map at the top of this story (or here for m.reg readers) and a bigger one here.
The many heat maps YouTube has made lead it to suggest that VR video creators "Focus on what's in front of you: The defining feature of a 360-degree video is that it allows you to freely look around in any direction, but surprisingly, people spent 75% of their time within the front 90 degrees of a video. So don't forget to spend significant time on what's in front of the viewer."
YouTube also advises that "for many of the most popular VR videos, people viewed more of the full 360-degree space with almost 20% of views actually being behind them." Which sounds to El Reg like VR viewers are either staring straight ahead, or looking over their shoulders with very little time being devoted to sideways glances.
A video channel wants people to treat VR like video. Hmmm. Perhaps the answer to their question is in the question: people should be considered "participants" instead of an "audience."
Google is launching VR180, a format which ignores the world behind the camera:
Google is launching a new, more limited cinematic VR format that it hopes will be almost as accessible as regular YouTube videos. It's called VR180, a collaboration between YouTube and Google's Daydream VR division. And it'll be produced with a new line of cameras from Yi, Lenovo, and LG, as well as other partners who meet VR180 certification standards.
As the name suggests, VR180 videos don't stretch all the way around a viewer in VR. They're supposed to be immersive if you're facing forward, but you can't turn and glance behind you. Outside VR, they'll appear as traditional flat videos, but you can watch them in 3D virtual reality through the YouTube app with a Google Cardboard, Daydream, or PlayStation VR headset.
Creators can shoot the videos using any camera with a VR180 certification. Google's Daydream team is working with the three companies above, and the first of their VR180 products are supposed to launch this winter, at roughly the same price as a point-and-shoot camera. So far, the only image we've seen is the one above, a line drawing of Lenovo's design. It appears to have two wide-angle lenses that can shoot stereoscopic video, and it's a far cry from the expensive alien orbs that we often see in VR film shoots.
Highly Related: Virtual Reality Audiences Stare Straight Ahead 75% of the Time
Facebook has cut the price of the Oculus Rift for the second time this year. It debuted at $800, was cut to $600 in March, and is now $400. Is there real trouble in the virtual reality market, or is it just a normal price correction now that early adopters have been served?
It means that the Rift now costs less than the package offered by its cheapest rival, Sony, whose PlayStation VR currently totals $460 including headset and controllers.
Even so, it's not clear that it will be enough to lure people into buying a Rift. A year ago, our own Rachel Metz predicted that the Rift would struggle against Sony's offering because the former requires a powerful (and expensive) gaming computer to run, while the latter needs just a $350 PlayStation 4 game console.
Jason Rubin, vice president for content at Oculus, tells Reuters that the reduction isn't a sign of weak product sales, but rather a decision to give the headset more mass market appeal now that more games are available. Don't believe it: this is the latest in a string of bad news for the firm, which has also shut down its nascent film studio, shuttered in-store demo stations of its hardware, and stumped up $250 million as part of a painful intellectual property lawsuit in the last six months.
Here's a February story about the Oculus demo stations at Best Buy stores being shut down.
Bloomberg reports that Oculus (Facebook) will unveil a standalone VR headset that does not require a tether or smartphone:
Facebook Inc. is taking another stab at turning its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset into a mass-market phenomenon. Later this year, the company plans to unveil a cheaper, wireless device that the company is betting will popularize VR the way Apple did the smartphone.
Currently VR hardware comes in two flavors: cheap headsets that turn smartphones into virtual reality players (like Samsung's $130 Gear VR) and high-end gaming rigs (like Facebook's $400 Oculus Rift) that hook up to $1,000-plus desktop computers. Facebook's new headset is designed to bridge the gap -- a device that will sell for as little as $200 and need not be tethered to a PC or phone, according to people familiar with its development. It will ship next year and represent an entirely new category.
Like current Oculus products, the new headset will be geared toward immersive gaming, watching video and social networking, said the people who asked not to be named to discuss a private matter. Code-named "Pacific," the device resembles a more compact version of the Rift and will be lighter than Samsung's Gear VR headset, one of the people said. The device's design and features aren't finalized and could still change, but the idea is that someone will be able to pull the headset out of their bag and watch movies on a flight just the way you can now with a phone or tablet.
Even $400 is not low enough.
Facebook/Oculus has launched the standalone Oculus Go, which is an untethered wireless virtual reality headset similar to smartphone-based VR systems such as Samsung's Gear VR, but with its own built-in Snapdragon 821 SoC instead of using a smartphone:
The Oculus Go, a self-contained headset that offers mobile virtual reality without a smartphone, is going on sale today in 23 countries. The headset's $199 base version has 32GB of storage, and a 64GB version will sell for $249. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called it "the easiest way to get into VR," and in our review, we've found that it's certainly easy to use — but it still has major limitations.
The Oculus Go lacks 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF), unlike the upcoming Lenovo Mirage Solo. It also has just about 1-2 hours of useful battery life before needing to be recharged for a couple of hours, and the company discourages you from wearing it while it is recharging. SuperData predicts that Oculus Go will outsell all other VR headsets this year. The low price of $200 and untethered design could bring VR closer to becoming mainstream.
At its F8 conference, Facebook hinted at some features coming to its future VR headsets, including variable depth-of-field using physically adjusted varifocal lenses, an increase from a 110 to a 140-degree field-of-view without increasing the size of the headset, and built-in hand tracking. (Also at TechCrunch.) Facebook also announced Oculus Venues, an app for displaying live sports events, concerts, comedy shows, etc. in VR. These live events will begin on May 30.
Also at Tom's Hardware, RoadtoVR, USA Today, and Digital Trends. MIT Technology Review has an interview with Rachel Franklin, Facebook's head of social VR, who admits "there's not much to do" in Facebook Spaces, the company's "social VR app".