Facebook seems further than ever from beaming us into Ready Player One, Ernest Cline’s dorky VR fever dream. But Oculus, the social network’s virtual reality side project, is still going at it.
On stage during its annual developer event, Oculus leaders announced a handful of updates today that seem to inch their vision for VR forward—forward, and (whether you like it or not) a bit closer toward Facebook.
Here’s a rundown of everything announced so far at Facebook and Oculus’s two-day developer event, Oculus Connect.
Facebook Horizon: “A new social VR world.”
In a splashy press release, Facebook called Horizon “the first step into an ever-expanding world of connection and exploration where anything becomes possible.” Uh, okay! Imagine it: Legless avatars floating this way and that, super cartoony airplanes, a painting party without the booze, lasers, space! Check it out:
Horizon will replace Facebook’s earlier social VR efforts—Spaces and Oculus Rooms. It’s coming out sometime in the year 2020, though Facebook didn’t say exactly when.
Oculus Quest upgrades
Oculus released Quest, its second try at a wireless VR headset (meaning it doesn’t require dangling cords and a honking gaming PC), earlier this year. Next, Oculus says it will bring hand tracking to the device. That’s coming sometime “in early 2020 as an experimental feature.” Here’s a quick preview of it:
Because Quest is a standalone device, it’s not as powerful as the Rift. But Oculus is throwing Quest users a bone with Oculus Link, a way to sort of turn your Quest into a Rift by linking it to a gaming PC if you have one. Oculus says Link will come out in November, and initially you’ll need to pick up a USB 3 cable to connect it to a PC if you want to access games previously only available on the Rift. Later this year, Oculus says it will come out with its own optical fiber cable “to provide a best-in-class experience with maximum throughput to run Rift content and enough length so you can move easily in VR.”
The other handy upgrade coming to Quest is Passthrough “on demand,” which uses the device’s front cameras to let you see what’s right in front of you in the real world without having to pull off your sweaty headset.
Oculus announced a few marquee games that are headed to the Quest, including a new Star Wars game that’s coming out today as well as a Medal of Honor game slated for 2020. On the other end of the spectrum, some games from Oculus’s cheaper Go headset are coming to the Quest “starting next week.”
Oculus also says it’s going to let Quest users turn off tracking when they’re seated “to make casual viewing of media apps easier and more comfortable from anywhere.”
Oh! And Oculus says FandangoNOW (a streaming service by . . . Fandango) is coming to Quest and Go headsets. Handy.
Absent from today’s event were any hardware upgrades for the Rift. That headset got its most recent upgrade in May, and it’s possible Facebook isn’t even that focused on super-high-end VR hardware right now. But if you’re interested in learning more about the more futuristic, totally-not-ready-for-release stuff that Oculus is tinkering with, the company has a little summary here.