Facebook is accelerating in virtual and augmented reality

Posted on Sep 16, 2020 at 7:30 p.m.Updated Sep 16, 2020, 8:41 PM

Despite the very concrete problems encountered by Facebook in recent weeks, Mark Zuckerberg continues to have his eyes on the future and the construction of the computing platform that he wants to see take precedence over smartphones within a decade.

Wednesday, its subsidiary Oculus unveiled the Quest 2, a new version of its virtual reality headset marketed since May 2019. The device is faster and lighter, has a better screen quality, and offers straps to suit the variety of heads and necks. Importantly, its price is $ 299, $ 100 less than the previous model.

Facebook wants to speed up sales of a product that has benefited from the increase in time spent at home since the start of the pandemic. “We sold a lot more than we expected and 90% of people who bought an Oculus headset in 2020 had never had one before”, indicates Andrew Bosworth, director of Facebook Reality Labs, to “Echoes”.

The company does not disclose its sales, but revenues in its “other products” category, which includes its virtual reality headsets and Portal tablet, jumped 80% in the second quarter. Thirty-five games on offer in his store have crossed the million dollar mark in sales, up from 20 six months ago. In total, customers spent more than $ 150 million, a 50% increase in five months, but the catalog is still short of large productions. Ubisoft announced Wednesday developing exclusive versions of Assassin’s Creed and Splinter, two “AAA” franchises, for Oculus.

Zoom to 12

Before the pandemic, the Quest 1 had already made it possible to democratize virtual reality compared to the Rift, the first Oculus model launched in March 2016, which requires being connected to a powerful computer and whose price starts at 399 dollars. Facebook is still a long way from allowing people to meet regularly in virtual reality for social experiences, however.

With the acceleration of recourse to teleworking, the Californian firm wants to go faster in this area. She is testing “Infinite Office”, a platform for creating multiple working screens through the headset. In August, it added Spatial and Immersed, third-party platforms for collaborating remotely in a single virtual room.

Facebook is also developing its own collaboration software, tested by several teams during internal meetings. “Zoom works pretty well for 2, 3 people, but when it goes up to 10 or 12, it’s much more complicated to follow everyone’s reaction and this is where the opportunity for virtual reality looks a bit more promising. “, estime Andrew Bosworth.

For the moment, Facebook is pushing its connected tablet Portal into the professional world, with the addition of several video conferencing applications including Zoom and Webex in August. “Having a camera that moves with you and not having something static your eyes are focused on reduces meeting fatigue”, puts before this vice-president of Facebook, which launched the News Feed in 2006.

100 augmented reality glasses

The Menlo Park company is also accelerating in augmented reality, this technology which superimposes digital elements on the real world. A pair of “smart” glasses developed in partnership with Essilor will be marketed next year, starting with Ray Bans. A research program has also been launched, in which 100 employees will wear glasses incorporating cameras, eye movement sensors and GPS, in the streets of Seattle and the San Francisco bay.

Andrew Bosworth assures that it is possible to avoid the rejection generated by Google Glass at the start of the last decade. “All license plates, all faces will be blurred. Researchers will be dressed in a way that clearly identifies them as being doing this research. And we are launching the debate on the questions that this poses in terms of data years before commercialization. “

The real uses will not see the light of day for a decade anyway, according to him. “I would be very surprised if anyone in the industry reached the true potential of augmented reality in the next two to three years”, he said… A tackle for Apple which is preparing to release a helmet in 2023.

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