Facebook’s Virtual Reality Event Highlights Its Ambitions

Facebook wants the Oculus Quest 2 to be used for more than binge-watching ‘Outer Banks’

Facebook held its annual virtual/augmented reality conference yesterday, and you have to respect its commitment to 2020 themes—it was held remotely and we’ll never look at the world the same way again. Before we get into the gadgets and gizmos, let’s put Facebook’s growing presence in virtual reality in context. 

Zuckerberg likes smoking meats

But he loves virtual reality. In 2014, Facebook acquired the virtual reality pioneer Oculus for $2 billion, signaling its ambitions to bring VR to the masses. While other Facebook acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp have mainly operated outside of Zuck’s immediate gaze, Oculus leadership has taken up a unique position close to Facebook’s core. But its consumer products haven’t always flourished. 

  • Set back by supply chain issues and bulky hardware, 2018’s Oculus Quest headset settled into more of a niche product for gamers than the multi-purpose device Facebook envisioned. 

Enter yesterday’s event. Facebook rolled out a lighter, cheaper, higher-res version called the Quest 2 that’s earned positive reviews so far. It’s not Elon Musk’s Neuralink, but you can still do a lot, like play a growing catalog of videogames or watch Netflix in a virtual movie theater. 

But wait, there’s more

Facebook wants its VR devices to be used for more than weekly Social Network screenings—it also demoed Infinite Office, a new feature that will allow users to spawn a virtual office environment right at their physical desk. 

  • Other companies, including Microsoft, have also dipped their toes into VR-enhanced work environments, and mass WFH-ing is accelerating adoption.  

But if immersive VR headsets aren’t your thing, Zuckerburg also confirmed Facebook will be releasing its first pair of consumer “smart glasses” next year. While details on the wearable tech are murky, you may not look as nerdy as you think—the glasses will be made and branded by Ray-Ban. 

Bottom line: The scope of yesterday’s announcements shows that Facebook is serious about a future where virtual reality is as much a part of the company’s offerings as ignoring your high school gym teacher’s friend request. 

+ While we’re here: If you want to dive deeper into the future of virtual reality and other emerging technologies, check out our Emerging Tech Brew newsletter. 

Via Morning Brew

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