Facebook to Sell Virtual Reality Headset

The California-based social network giant Facebook Inc. revealed a new stand-alone virtual reality headset to take on the high-end Oculus Rift and smartphone-powered Samsung Gear VR headsets.

Oculus Go VR Headset

According to the company, the headset, dubbed as Oculus Go VR headset, is designed to increase the appeal of the company’s Oculus technology to consumers and it will be sold at a starting price of $199 and will be shipped early next year. Its starting price shows a big drop from the Rift, which was originally sold for $599 and required a powerful computer costing at least $500 to power the virtual reality experiences and games.

The new virtual reality headset, however, does not need a smartphone to plug it in or a separate computer to function, letting more mobile users than the company’s existing Oculus Rift device, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said, describing it as the “most accessible VR headset ever.”

“I am more committed than ever to the future of virtual reality,” Zuckerberg said to his audience of computer programmers gathered in San Jose, California, for Oculus’ annual conference.

Oculus Go is lightweight and features high-resolution lenses focus onto a fast-switch LCD panel for the VR viewing and speakers built in to deliver spatial audio, which handles the 3D sound without the need for headphone, though a 3.5mm jack is present and correct to provide wearers with a little privacy. In addition, it has also cameras on the headset and uses computer vision tech to figure out orientational tracking, a report said.

The online social media company has invested heavily in virtual reality hardware in hopes the technology, which gives a 360-degree panoramic view of faraway or imaginary spaces, will move from a niche interest to a widely used platform for gaming, communication, and business applications.

In 2014, it had paid $3 billion to acquire Oculus and retain its employees.

Facebook new gear is also said to compete against other headsets, such as Google’s $99 Daydream View, that require a smartphone. Google is also working on a stand-alone headset that won’t require a phone, but the company has not specified when that device will be released or how much it will cost.

Facebook is reportedly developing a software known as Facebook Spaces that allows friends to meet in virtual rooms, and it said will soon integrate live video.

On Wednesday, it said it was releasing technology to create better, customized facial images, or avatars, and would soon add the ability to use playing cards in Facebook Spaces, in addition to the dice it already has.

Facebook and other major technology companies such as Google and Microsoft that are betting on VR have a long a way to go.

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