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".
I can envision a huge market for this. I read somewhere (on this site I think) that movies are one of the largest uses for VR headsets right now. Removing the PC requirements makes the system much more approachable for someone looking for an app-like experience. The specific application I can think of is aeroplanes: the same people who travel enough to buy 300USD noise-canceling headphones can shell out similar money for a theatre like experience.
Prerendered/captured 180 or 360-degree video is less intensive than games, and most likely less work to make an entertaining experience (making games is hard enough without throwing in VR interactivity features). Although we'll see how well live 360-degree video works on most people's Internet connections.
movies are one of the largest uses for VR headsets right now.
If you look at the Oculus Venues [techcrunch.com] link, you can see a GIF of how live events could be viewed using a VR headset. In some previous comment, I suggested simulating a movie theater, and populating the seats with other people using headsets. You could include audience chatter using microphones, an algorithm that makes the people "nearer" to you in the audience sound louder, and obviously the ability to turn such noise off. Then you just need good headphones to get the closest you can to 3D-sounding audio that mimics the theater experience. There are many [theverge.com] products [ossic.com] that claim to do better at this task; I have not tried any of them.
While Hollywood would probably want to try DRM-enabled Day 1 VR "theater" viewing of movies, at some high ticket price, it should be possible to just share a URL or video file among a small group of friends, and sync everyone up in the virtual theater environment (bonus points for decentralization). Compare to something like Sync Video [sync-video.com] (YouTube seems to be working on a native implementation [techcrunch.com] of this).