Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged Wednesday that his company still has a ways to go before it reaches its ambitious goal of bringing virtual reality to 1 billion people.
“We have a saying in Facebook that the journey is 1% finished and maybe in this case not even quite,” Zuckerberg said at Oculus Connect, an event that draws thousands of people connected to the virtual reality industry.
In his keynote, Zuckerberg and his team encouraged people in the audience to continue developing content for the fledgling industry and touted Facebook’s investment in building an ecosystem that will one day be self-sustaining.
Oculus unveiled a new $399 virtual reality wireless headset that comes with controllers called Oculus Quest.
The Quest, which will be available for purchase next spring, will provide another option for consumers. It’s more expensive than Oculus’ entry-level $199 Oculus Go but doesn’t require a powerful computer as does the $399 Oculus Rift.
Facebook introduced Oculus Rift to consumers in 2016. More than 1,100 titles are available for the device, which is seen as a leader in the virtual reality industry. But one downside to Rift is that it can be time-consuming to set up and requires a separate computer, making it difficult to transport and too expensive for some consumers, analysts said.
Now, with the Oculus Quest, consumers no longer need a computer or external sensors, which Facebook hopes will make it more attractive to buyers. The sensors within the headset are enough to map out a room, making it easier for consumers to bring their Oculus Quest on the road.
“For the first time you can deliver Rift experiences to a wider audience,” said Hugo Barra, Facebook’s vice president of virtual reality.
Oculus Quest will incorporate some Rift content, with more than 50 titles when Quest launches. One of the new titles is “Vader Immortal,” a “Star Wars” story about Darth Vader from ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment division.
Marty Resnick, a Gartner research director, called the wireless Oculus Quest headset a “game changer.”
But the question remains whether consumers will be willing to pay for expensive virtual reality headsets. Worldwide shipments of virtual reality headsets were down nearly 34% in the second quarter compared with a year ago, according to research firm IDC.
In the past, some analysts have touted the potential application of virtual reality across a variety of fields, such as travel, education and moviegoing. But so far, the most popular way people are delving into virtual reality is through gaming.
Another challenge has been the lack of content that entices people to spend money and time on virtual reality headsets. Franchises like “Star Wars” will help because they’re so iconic, Resnick said.
“That immediately drives people like me to purchase it,” Resnick said.