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Facebook Connect: What to Expect from the company’s big VR show


Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Co-Founder of Facebook, speaks at Oculus Connect in 2019. The conference was renamed Facebook Connect this year.

Angela Lang / CNET

When Facebook bought virtual reality headset maker Oculus in 2014, the social network’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg raised expectations by saying the technology was the next big computing platform.

“Oculus has an opportunity to create the most social platform ever,” Zuckerberg said at the time Facebook announced the acquisition of Oculus, valued at $ 2 billion. The VR headset Manufacturers would “change the way we work, play and communicate.”

Six years later, virtual reality didn’t live up to that hype, even with one pandemic That keeps people at home and forces them to rely on technology to keep in touch. Even so, Facebook hasn’t stopped betting on VR, AR, or augmented reality. On Wednesday, the social media giant kicks off its annual AR and VR event, a conference formerly known as Oculus Connect. (It has since been renamed Facebook Connect.)

The online event starts at 10 a.m. and shows the work of Facebook Reality Labs, the company’s AR / VR team. You can watch the conference live on the Facebook Reality Labs page or via Oculus Venues for live entertainment via virtual reality.

Virtual reality immerses users in a digital environment, while augmented reality involves overlaying virtual objects with a user’s view of the real world. Facebook faces tough competition in this area, especially from Sony and HTC. It is number 2 in VR headset sales according to Statista, accounting for 28% of the estimated total from last year. Sony delivered more.

“Awareness and interest in the adoption of these technologies are increasing not only among consumers but also among businesses,” said Tuong Nguyen, analyst at Gartner. “Even so, there are still some hurdles VR has to overcome,” said Nguyen, including price, available content and design.

Facebooks Oculus Quest, a VR headset that does not require a PC to function, has been sold out repeatedly this year. Consumer demand for the headset has increased, but the Coronavirus pandemic has also impacted the production of the hardware used in these devices.

Facebook Connect begins with a keynote address. The conference website doesn’t state who will speak, but Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives have given opening speeches in the past.

Here’s what to expect from Facebook’s big AR / VR show:

Oculus Quest 2

This year, there have been several signs that Facebook will release a new version of Oculus Quest. The headset was released last year and prices start at $ 399.

In May, Bloomberg reported that Facebook’s Oculus division is working on a new version of the Oculus Quest and Touch controllers with multiple test models. Not only were some of the models lighter, but they also had faster picture refresh rates to make content look more realistic, the news agency said. According to reports, Facebook plans to launch the new headset during this year’s conference. However, shipping could be delayed until 2021 due to the impact of the pandemic on hardware availability.

This month, UploadVR reported that UK retailers B&H Photo Video and Overclockers have declared the Oculus Quest discontinued. The B&H Photo Video website has changed the language to “Backordered”. A UK sales representative from another retailer told UploadVR that the Oculus Quest had no further deliveries as it was marked as “end of life”.

Look at that:

Zuckerberg demonstrates Oculus Quest hand tracking


Social VR

Facebook Connect’s schedule includes several social VR-themed sessions, including those focused on creating live performances and media experiences.

Facebook has been working on a virtual social experience called Horizon that is currently being beta tested. CNET’s Scott Stein and Joan Solsman got a glimpse into the virtual world filled with cartoon avatars, games, and shows.

“The ability to create and share creations is clearly aimed at playing and experiencing, which could make Horizon feel like a multiverse theme park,” Stein wrote.

AR glasses

During last year’s Oculus developer conference, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who oversees Facebook’s AR and VR efforts, confirmed that the social network makes augmented reality glasses and has already developed some prototypes.

Even before Bosworth’s statements, there were reports that Facebook was working on AR glasses. Last year, CNBC reported that the glasses were code-named Orion within the company, that the tech giant had teamed up with Luxottica, owner of Ray-Ban, and that the glasses would be ready for consumers between 2023 and 2025.

The glasses allow users to take calls, view information on a smart display, and send live stream content to their social media followers and friends, the report says.

In September, Facebook announced that it was working on technology to improve audio in noisy environments with AR glasses. Facebook hasn’t released any further details on the status of these AR glasses yet, but the conference gives the company an opportunity to provide an update.

Brain computer interface

Outside of VR and AR, Facebook has also worked on projects that look like something out of a science fiction movie.

The company owns a neurotechnology startup called CTRL-labs and has worked on developing a wristband to control smartphones, computers and other digital devices without the user having to touch a screen or keyboard. Facebook first announced that it was working on a computer-brain interface in 2017. This interface allows users to type in words and send messages using just their brains.

As Facebook’s efforts in VR and AR move forward, there will be interest in the next steps too.

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