from the all-the-better-to-track-you-with dept.
Signaling the end to any remaining degrees of separation between Facebook and its VR headset division, Oculus, today the social media company announced that it will be further integrating the two services. Coming this fall, the company will begin sunsetting stand-alone Oculus accounts as part of an effort to transition the entire Oculus ecosystem over to Facebook. This will start in October, when all new Oculus accounts and devices will have to sign up for a Facebook account, while support for existing stand-alone accounts will be retired entirely at the start of 2023.
Previously: Facebook to Buy Rift Maker Oculus VR for $2bn
Facebook/Oculus Ordered to pay $500 Million to ZeniMax
Founder of Oculus VR, Palmer Luckey, Departs Facebook
Facebook Announces Oculus Go for $200
Facebook's Zuckerberg Wants to Get One Billion People in VR
Facebook Launches Oculus Go, a $200 Standalone VR Headset
Oculus Co-Founder Says there is No Market for VR Gaming
John Carmack Steps Down at Oculus to Pursue AI Passion Project
Facebook is Developing its Own OS to Reduce Dependence on Android
Several community members have commented on Facebook's purchase of Oculus VR...
Techwolf writes, "There is news spreading all over the net about Facebook buying up Occulus Rift. Some cheer, some are jeering as kickstarters backers felt betrayed along with open source folks."
Some of you may have already heard of the Oculus Rift, the kickstarted VR headset platform associated with John Carmack. Earlier today, social networking giant Facebook purchased Oculus VR for $2 billion in cash and stock (chump change compared to the $19 billion it paid for WhatsApp) with plans not so much for VR-gaming, but for VR-real-life...
Mark Zuckerberg's first courtroom testimony hasn't gone over so well. A jury has awarded ZeniMax Media Inc. $500 million in damages in the Oculus Rift case:
The virtual reality headset maker that Facebook Inc. bought in 2014 for $2 billion used stolen technology, a jury said in awarding $500 million damages to ZeniMax Media Inc.
Jurors in Dallas federal court on Wednesday sided with ZeniMax in its trade-secrets case over the Oculus Rift, the device that has put the social media giant at the forefront of the virtual reality boom. The verdict is a rebuke of Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, who isn't a defendant but who told jurors in his first-ever courtroom testimony that it was important for him to be there because the claims by ZeniMax Media Inc. were "false."
The case is ZeniMax Media Inc. v. Oculus VR Inc., 3:14-cv-01849, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas). Not to be confused with the Eastern District of Texas. From a 2013 article in Dallas News:
Judges in the Northern District, which includes Dallas and Fort Worth, saw an 18 percent increase in patent cases filed. And legal experts expect that number will significantly increase in 2013 now that three judges in Dallas have committed to focusing more of their time and expertise on intellectual property disputes.
Also at The Verge.
Palmer Luckey, a founder of the virtual-reality technology company Oculus, has left Facebook three years after the social network acquired his company for close to $3 billion. Mr. Luckey's departure was announced two months after a trial in federal court over allegations that he and several colleagues had stolen trade secrets from a video-game publisher, ZeniMax Media, to create the Oculus technology. A jury found Facebook liable for $500 million in damages, in part for Mr. Luckey's violation of a confidentiality agreement.
"Palmer will be dearly missed," Tera Randall, an Oculus spokeswoman, said in a statement. "His inventive spirit helped kick-start the modern VR revolution and helped build an industry." Ms. Randall declined to disclose the terms of Mr. Luckey's departure. [...] In January, Facebook appointed a new leader, Hugo Barra, to head up the company's virtual-reality efforts, including Oculus.
Will the first Palmer Luckey documentary be compatible with the next Oculus headset?
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
"At every step along the way, the future is built by people who believe it can be better."
That's the message Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, brought to the company's fourth annual Oculus Connect virtual reality developer conference Wednesday. As in previous years, Zuckerberg joined the stage to discuss the promise of what virtual reality can be and show off some goodies.
The company tallied 100 million app downloads, he said, and added that the company continues to work on a less-bulky version of its headsets.
Maybe Zuckerberg can take those billion people along on his virtual cartoon tour of Puerto Rico's hurricane damage.
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".
Five years after its $2 billion purchase of Oculus, Facebook is still pushing forward in its efforts to bring virtual reality to a mainstream audience. But one of the company's six co-founders now doubts Oculus will ever break through.
Jack McCauley told CNBC he doesn't think there's a real market for VR gaming. With Facebook positioning its Oculus devices primarily as gaming machines, McCauley doesn't believe there's much of a market for the device. "If we were gonna sell, we would've sold," McCauley said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
[...] The $199 Oculus Go has sold a little more than 2 million units since its release in May 2018, according to estimates provided by market research firm SuperData, a Nielsen company. The Oculus Quest, which was released this May, has sold nearly 1.1 million units while the Oculus Rift has sold 547,000 units since the start of 2018, according to SuperData.
[...] Since leaving in November 2015, McCauley has enjoyed a semi-retired life. He's an innovator in residence at Berkeley's Jacobs Institute of Design Innovation and he continues to build all sorts of devices, such as a gun capable of shooting down drones, at his own research and development facility.
The cheaper, standalone headsets are selling more units. Add foveated rendering and other enhancements at the lower price points (rather than $1,599 like the Vive Pro Eye), and the experience could become much better.
Related: Oculus Rift: Dead in the Water?
HTC: Death of VR Greatly Exaggerated
As Sales Slide, Virtual Reality Fans Look to a Bright, Untethered Future
Virtual Reality Feels Like a Dream Gathering Dust
VR Gets Reality Check with Significant Decline in Investment
Creepy Messages Will be Found in Facebook's Oculus Touch VR Controllers
John Carmack Sets Out To Create General AI
John Carmack, programmer extraordinaire, and developer of seminal titles like "Doom" and "Quake" has said "Hasta La Vista" to his colleagues at Oculus to to set out for a new challenge. In a Facebook post (https://www.facebook.com/100006735798590/posts/2547632585471243/) he declares that he is going to work on artificial general intelligence.
What are the chances he can pull it off, and what could go wrong?
John Carmack Steps Down at Oculus to Pursue AI Passion Project `Before I get too old'
Legendary coder John Carmack is leaving Facebook's Oculus after six years to focus on a personal project — no less than the creation of Artificial General Intelligence, or "Strong AI." He'll remain attached to the company in a "Consulting CTO" position, but will be spending all his time working on, perhaps, the AI that finally surpasses and destroys humanity.
AGI or strong AI is the concept of an AI that learns much the way humans do, and as such is not as limited as the extremely narrow machine learning algorithms we refer to as AI today. AGI is the science fiction version of AI — HAL 9000, Replicants and, of course, the Terminator. There are some good ones out there, too — Data and R2-D2, for instance.
[...] Carmack announced the move on Facebook, where he explained that the uncertainty about such a fascinating and exciting topic is exactly what attracted him to it:
When I think back over everything I have done across games, aerospace, and VR, I have always felt that I had at least a vague "line of sight" to the solutions, even if they were unconventional or unproven. I have sometimes wondered how I would fare with a problem where the solution really isn't in sight. I decided that I should give it a try before I get too old.
Skynet? Singularity? With great power comes great responsibility. Can he do it? Should he?
Despite the recent privacy scandals, mishandling of user data, and a potential federal injunction looming in the distance, Facebook seems to be going full steam ahead with its ambitions. According to a recent report by The Information, the company is now developing its own operating system to reduce dependency on Google’s Android. The development, as per The Verge, is being led by Mark Lucovsky — an ex-Microsoft official who co-authored the Windows NT operating system.
While the report provides a limited amount of information about how Facebook plans to use the new operating system, it does point out that currently Facebook’s Oculus and Portal devices run on a modified version of Android. This leads us to believe that with its new operating system the company plans to replace Android on its VR and smart devices. And one of Facebook’s AR and VR heads, Ficus Kirkpatrick, mirrors this sentiment. According to Kirkpatrick, “it’s possible” that Facebook’s future hardware won’t need to rely on Google’s software which could possibly remove Google’s control over the company’s hardware.
Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s head of hardware, also told The Information that the company “want(s) to make sure the next generation has space for us. We don’t think we can trust the marketplace or competitors to ensure that’s the case. And so we’re going to do it ourselves.” Along with the aforementioned Oculus and Portal devices, Facebook is also working on AR glasses. Bosworth reveals that these glasses, codenamed “Orion”, could arrive as early as 2023. Interestingly, Apple is also expected to come out with its own pair of AR glasses around the same time. Facebook is reportedly also working on a brain control interface for its glasses, which could allow users to control them with their thoughts.
Our "Facebookening of Oculus" series continues today with the announcement of the Facebook Connect conference as a free, live-streamed event on September 16. You may remember years of "Oculus Connect" conferences, which focused on the company's efforts in virtual reality and other "mixed reality" mediums. That conference is dead. It's Facebook Connect now.
[...] What's more, Facebook used the Tuesday announcement as an opportunity to rename its entire Oculus VR division: Facebook Reality Labs. That name may sound familiar, since it was given to a number of skunkworks teams working on experimental VR-like features and hardware (including years of focus on 3D spatial audio at its Seattle-area office).
Facebook isn't shy about explaining why it is renaming everything: to collate and combine its disparate entities in order to "build the next computing platform to help people feel more present with each other, even when we're apart." That sure sounds like a bold admission of the so-called "Facebook operating system" that I keep hearing rumors about, with VR, mixed reality, and smartphone cameras at its core. Facebook has spent months hinting at mixed computing systems being combined in the workplace, which the company has conveniently summarized in a new Facebook Reality Labs post from today.
Facebook subsidiary Oculus says it has "temporarily paused" sales of Oculus Quest headsets to customers in Germany. Reports suggest the move is in response to concerns from German regulators about the recently announced requirement that all Oculus users will need to use a Facebook account by 2023 to log in to the device.
[...] Facebook declined an opportunity to provide additional comment to Ars Technica. But in a statement to German News site Heise Online (machine translation), the company said the move was due to "outstanding talks with German supervisory authorities... We were not obliged to take this measure, but proactively interrupted the sale."
[...] Upon further inspection, the updated policy makes clear that data collected by WhatsApp — including user phone numbers, "transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using our Services , mobile device information, your IP address" and more are subject to be shared with other properties owned and controlled by Facebook.
[...] The shift appears to be a dramatic about-face for WhatsApp, a company that contends "respect for your privacy" is coded into its DNA and made end-to-end encryption standard across all chats as of 2016.