from the the-goggles,-they-do...-Oh,-WOW! dept.
Facebook used its latest virtual reality conference, the fifth annual Oculus Connect, to finally confirm retail plans for its most ambitious standalone VR product yet: the Oculus Quest. Originally known by its prototype name, Oculus Santa Cruz, the Quest will ship in spring 2019 for $399.
In terms of the sales pitch, this is the Oculus holy grail: a wireless, hand-tracked, "six degrees of freedom" VR system with apparently legitimate 3D power and no required PC or phone.
The headset will include two bundled handheld controllers, and more than 50 games will be available at launch. The headset has a 1600×1440 per eye resolution (3200×1440 total resolution), compared to 1280×1440 per eye for Oculus Go or 1440×1600 per eye for HTC's Vive Pro, and has 64 GB of internal storage.
Any consumer-grade VR headset you buy these days has its share of compromises. Buying a self-contained or phone-based headset (e.g. Oculus Go or Samsung's Gear VR) means giving up the power of a full-scale PC GPU and, usually, the freedom of full-scale head and hand motion tracking. But buying a tethered headset (e.g. Oculus Rift or HTC Vive) means being permanently tied to a bulky computer tower via an obtrusive cable.
HTC's new Vive Wireless Adapter does a fine job fixing that last particular compromise for Vive owners. With it, you can get the immersive graphical power of a high-end gaming PC and the freedom of being able to move around in a large VR space unencumbered by wires (or a bulky backpack laptop). It's a best-of-both-worlds solution that we recommend highly—if you can spare the $300 in additional cost, that is.
Related: VR Without a Tether? Strap on a "Backpack PC"
HTC Cancels U.S. Release of a Google Daydream VR Headset, Reveals Own Standalone Headset
HTC's Vive Pro to Launch on April 5
Facebook Launches Oculus Go, a $200 Standalone VR Headset
Oculus Launches Venues App for Live Entertainment, Sports, Etc.
HTC: Death of VR Greatly Exaggerated
Virtual reality just became even more "convenient" with this "backpack PC" prototype:
"We're learning a lot about how customers use and perceive VR," says Nash. "There are two consistent pieces of feedback we've gotten. The first is that the demo is incredibly cool, and the second is that the cord is incredibly annoying. But despite all of the demos, nobody has tripped over the cord. We wondered why this was and basically people are aware of the cord the whole time so they don't trip over it. In some sense it's kind of limiting the overall VR experience. It feels a little less real."
The company worked on a few different solutions. Wireless transfer standards couldn't accommodate the throughput without a notable latency and simply shoving a compatible laptop into a backpack wasn't an ideal solution. HP eventually hit upon the Omen X concept, a wearable PC.
It's a similar solution to the one recently shown off by MSI, though HP insists that the timing had less to do with that announcement than its own desire to offer up a working prototype before the unveil. But rather than waiting until the company has a shippable product before announcing, HP opted to show off a prototype in hopes of enlisting developers to help shape the creation of the device.
[...] The current prototype weighs in at less than 10 pounds and features a battery that offers an hour of life per charge. And while HP believes this will be enough to offer a reasonable immersive VR experience, the company has also added a belt with hot swappable batteries, letting users switch them in without losing their place in the game and other important data. The system also features two high-output batteries, assuring that the CPU and GPU aren't throttled — despite the fact that the backpack is intended to operate on battery power alone.
MSI has their own similar "backpack PC" concept. Road to VR helpfully notes (emphasis mine):
HP and MSI are working on concept 'PC on your back' projects (often known as backtops)
HTC has officially revealed the Vive Focus, its all-in-one VR headset. As previously announced, the Vive Focus runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip and uses inside-out positional tracking. It should be the first standalone six-degrees-of-freedom VR headset to see release, though HTC isn't saying exactly when it'll be available.
[...] HTC has only announced plans for the Vive Focus in China just yet, and even then there aren't any details on pricing or a release date. If you were holding out for that Vive-branded standalone Google Daydream headset, meanwhile, there's bad news — HTC and Google have cancelled their plans to bring it to the US.
HTC's Vive Pro virtual reality headset is now open for preorders. Resolution has been increased to 2800×1600 from 2160×1200, a microphone for noise cancellation analysis has been added, and it has two front-facing cameras instead of one, possibly allowing it to detect objects and hand movements:
The Vive Pro was announced early this year at CES, marking the first major upgrade to the Vive since its launch in 2016. It substantially increases the Vive's screen resolution, using two OLED displays that offer 1400 x 1600 pixels per eye compared to 1080 x 1200 on the current Vive. It also includes a variety of ergonomic changes, including built-in headphones and a head strap that tightens via dial instead of velcro. You could get these options via a kit for the original Vive, but now they're built into the core device, and we've found the hardware to be a distinct improvement over its predecessor.
The Vive Pro will not come with accessories at its launch price of $799, although existing Vive accessories can be used:
HTC's higher-resolution Vive Pro, first announced back in January, is setting new records for the price of a mass-market virtual reality headset. In pre-orders starting today ahead of planned April 5 shipments, customers will have to shell out $799 for the improved Vive Pro headset, a price that does not include any controllers or Lighthouse tracking base stations.
[...] HTC currently sells Vive controllers for $130 each and tracking base stations for $135 each. That means new Vive Pro customers will have to pay $1,330 for a higher-fidelity version of the same basic hardware included in the package for the original Vive (which is being reduced to $499 today, from the $599 price it has held since last April).
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".
Oculus VR's new platform for live entertainment experiences is launching today for the new, standalone Oculus Go headset and Samsung's Gear VR. The platform, called Oculus Venues, was first announced at Facebook's F8 developer conference at the beginning of May. It's centered on delivering live events like sporting matches, concerts, and comedy shows in the style of a streaming TV service — but in VR. That means viewers effectively get front-row seats to live shows from the comfort of their home, so long as they're content with wearing a VR headset for an extended period of time.
The first Venues event will be a live Vance Joy concert at Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheater, followed by a Gotham Comedy Live show streamed from New York City in partnership with live events platform NextVR. Oculus has also released an entire summer lineup through August 27th that includes a pretty diverse slate of sports matches, live shows, and movies.
The blog post in particular references a report from Digital Trends which talks about VR sales figures from Amazon, and proceeds to point out a number of ways which the data presented could be misleading.
Several points made by HTC Vive are ones that have also been addressed by VRFocus, as seen in an article about the modern VR cycle, and some comments in the weekly VR vs. article. HTC Vive were not pulling punches right from the very start, evening saying in the introduction: "Analyst reports are in and apparently, it's curtains for Virtual Reality (VR). Pardon us if we're not heeding the alarms. News of the so-called death of VR comes once a year and is greatly exaggerated."
From there, the blog post proceeds in a point-by-point fashion, discussing how early consumer VR was largely driven by smartphone-based devices such as the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. Not only have these devices been superseded by standalone units like the Oculus Go, which offer a better visual experience, but the promotional offers which were available for phone launches have now long since passed. HTC Vive also point out that PC-based VR companies are yet to release any solid sales figures, and that much of the growth of premium VR has been centered around location-based VR centres, something which the Digital Trends report did not address.
Brendan Iribe, the co-founder and former CEO of Oculus, announced today that he is leaving Facebook, TechCrunch has learned.
Iribe is leaving Facebook following some internal shake-ups in the company's virtual reality arm last week that saw the cancellation of the company's next generation "Rift 2" PC-powered virtual reality headset, which he had been leading development of, a source close to the matter told TechCrunch.
Iribe and the Facebook executive team had "fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus that grew deeper over time," and Iribe wasn't interested in a "race to the bottom" in terms of performance, we are told.
[...] The cancellation of the company's next-gen PC-based "Rift 2" virtual reality product showcases how the interests of Facebook's executive leadership have centered on all-in-one headsets that don't require a connection to an external PC or phone. In May, Oculus released the $199 Oculus Go headset and plans to release the $399 Oculus Quest headset sometime next spring.
Creepy Messages Will be Found in Facebook's Oculus Touch VR Controllers
Facebook has revealed that hidden messages were inadvertently printed inside VR controllers that will be shipped to customers soon:
Facebook said it accidentally hid bizarre and "inappropriate" messages inside "tens of thousands" of virtual-reality controllers, including "Big Brother is Watching" and "The Masons Were Here." Nate Mitchell, the cofounder of Oculus, the Facebook-owned VR company, said on Twitter on Friday that the company inadvertently printed some unusual messages in its Touch controllers, handheld devices for playing games and navigating VR environments.
These messages were intended only for prototypes, but a mistake meant they were included in regular production devices, he said. Some messages were included in developer kits for people building software for the product, while others made their way into consumer devices in significantly larger numbers. While there should have been no internal messages of any kind in any of the devices, a Facebook representative told Business Insider that the company would not recall them.
"Unfortunately, some 'easter egg' labels meant for prototypes accidentally made it onto the internal hardware for tens of thousands of Touch controllers," Mitchell wrote. "The messages on final production hardware say 'This Space For Rent' & 'The Masons Were Here.' A few dev kits shipped with 'Big Brother is Watching' and 'Hi iFixit! We See You!' but those were limited to non-consumer units," he said. iFixit is a tech repair company known for publicly deconstructing new gadgets and posting photos of their innards online.
Also at Road to VR.
Related: Facebook Announces a New Standalone VR Headset: Oculus Quest; HTC Releases Vive Wireless Adapter
(nobody made a submission about Rift S because it is boring)