One billion people in virtual reality: that is the ambitious mission for Facebook subsidiary Oculus. Mark Zuckerberg explained this at the beginning of his keynote speech at the developer conference “Oculus Connect”. At the same time, he admitted that they had not even completed one percent of the journey so far. Now it is a matter of reaching the next milestone: at least ten million active users are needed for a platform to survive. The new Oculus Quest headset, announced for spring 2019, is expected to help in this regard. The new device could bring together everything that Virtual Reality is currently missing for the breakthrough.
What Oculus Quest is capable of
Oculus Quest is to cost the same as the high-end Oculus Rift headset: 399 US dollars. Quest, however, is a stand-alone device. Everything is already included in a single housing. You won’t need a powerful gaming PC like with the Rift and there will be no cables. You won’t even have to first set up sensors in the room. Put it on and get started – that’s the promise.
The Oculus Go, which is available starting at 199 US dollars, already offers similar features. However, Go is technically inferior in many respects. The computing power inside, for example, corresponds to that of a smartphone that is about two years old. Moreover, it is only equipped with one simple controller. And you can’t move freely in space with Go. It’s more for entertainment. Rift is at the other end of the spectrum. And Quest is right in between.
Go, Quest and Rift are now the three Oculus platforms with which the company aims to achieve its ambitious goals. Mark Zuckerberg promised that everything developed today for one of these devices would also work on future versions. His aim is to motivate developers to invest time, effort and money. After all, even the best hardware is of no use without the right software.
For more than just gaming fans
During the keynote speech it became clear that Oculus goes beyond gaming as a use case for virtual reality. Of course, it will play an important role. For Facebook, however, VR should also find its way into the business world. They demonstrated how 3D models, for example, can be created in virtual reality. A PC application was used, which also functions as a “hybrid app” in VR. The user has the same features and tool palettes at hand in both environments. It remains to be seen how well this will work in practice. One thing is clear, however: Oculus is seeking to create more use cases for its own hardware.
Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality
At the same time, they are competing with another future technology that has received more attention in recent weeks and months: Augmented Reality. While Virtual Reality immerses the user in a computer-generated world, AR adds digital information and objects to one’s own environment. Microsoft is active in this arena, for example, with its HoloLens project. And the much-discussed start-up Magic Leap has also shown a first version of its headset.
Oculus now also wants to get in the game and has revealed an early version of an application that combines the virtual and the real world. Technically, this is implemented completely differently than, for example, with HoloLens. The objective, however, is similar. Oculus’ chief visionary Mike Abrash sees the future in devices that combine everything.
Why this is important for marketers
All this will be relevant for marketing if a self-confident prediction from the Oculus keynote proves to be true: Virtual Reality could become as important as mobile. The potential is indeed interesting. Virtual and Augmented Reality can be used to create entirely new experiences. Information can be conveyed in new ways. A powerful self-sufficient headset could overcome previous hurdles.
The bottom line
Virtual Reality has so far lacked the “iPhone moment”. After all, it was this hardware that made the long-awaited breakthrough for the mobile web possible – along with other innovations such as the App Store and increasingly powerful mobile networks. Thanks to its hardware, software and price, Oculus Quest could pave the way to widespread use. We will see whether this is the case come spring.