- The Oculus VR division of Facebook unveiled the Oculus Touch controllers, designed to bring the user's hands into full play in VR.
- Mark Zuckerberg presented VR as the next great computing platform.
- New immersive VR action games and social worlds that could bring the Metaverse of science fiction to consumer reality are in the works.
At the Oculus Connect 3 Virtual Reality (VR) developer conference in San Jose, the Oculus VR division of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) announced that the Oculus Touch controllers will start shipping from December 6, and will cost $199, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Facebook's Oculus Rift VR headset surrounds users with high-resolution 3D scenery and spatial audio, to permit full immersion in virtual worlds and video games. Lighter and more powerful than previous VR headsets, the Oculus Rift permits total immersion in virtual scenes and sounds, from social chat rooms to action video games.
A Huge Leap Forward?
Oculus is now taking pre-orders for the Oculus Touch controllers, designed to bring the user's hands into full play in VR and add to the sense of presence that represents the main appeal of VR. In his Oculus Connect keynote, Mark Zuckerberg presented VR as the next great computing platform.
In a video presentation and Q/A in March, Zuckerberg had shown the advanced hand tracking system that brings the user's hands fully into the VR experience, and the touch controllers that allow users to touch and handle objects in VR scenes. But the controllers were not included in the boxed Oculus Rift headset shipped at that time.
The prestigious MIT Technology Review notes that using the new controllers feels like a partial glimpse of the future, and Touch could be the previously missing piece that will help VR realize its potential. "Oculus Touch feels like a missing piece needed for the Rift to really make sense," adds the enthusiastic review. "Using it makes efforts by Oculus and others to develop more intuitive ways to grab hold of virtual space using gloves or cameras feel crucial to this new medium's future."
Facebook's VR system is still too costly for real mass adoption: a Rift headset, a PC powerful enough to drive it, and the controllers, cost more than $1,500. However, work is under way to bring the cost down. Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe announced new, less expensive minimum specs for Oculus-ready computers, made possible by a trick dubbed "asynchronous spacewarp," and a collaboration between Oculus, AMD and CyberPowerPC which has halved the cost of an Oculus-ready computer to $499.
Of course, content is king. New immersive VR action games that take advantage of the new Oculus features have been demoed at Oculus Connect. "This launch is a pretty major one for Oculus, which is treating Touch as a secondary system launch for the Rift," notes TechCrunch writer Lucas Matney. "It’s easy to see why; the VR titles I’ve seen that use Touch are some of the coolest virtual reality experiences on the market."
In November 2015 Amigobulls reported that Facebook was releasing a first alpha version of a virtual world for users of VR headsets powered by Oculus Rift technology. Now, Facebook's social VR efforts are in full swing. "VR will be different," said Facebook Social VR Product Manager Michael Booth. "It will be a computing platform that puts people first. It will also be the most natural social platform ever built, with you at the center, choosing what you want to do and who you want to do it with." Booth wrote a post explaining the thinking and technology behind the social VR demos shown at Oculus Connect.
It appears that the Metaverse - the pervasive virtual world as immersive and "real" as physical reality, envisaged by science fiction writers Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash) and Ernest Cline (Ready Player One) as a global virtual platform used by billions of people all over the planet to play, learn, and work - is finally beginning to become real thanks to the efforts of Facebook. "Did Zuckerberg Just Announce The Metaverse At OC3?" is the title of a rave review on The Huffington Post.
Of course, the deployment of the Metaverse won't happen overnight and there's still a long way to go. However, it seems that Facebook is making the necessary investments and building the necessary tools and systems to slowly turn the Metaverse vision into reality. If VR is the next big communication and social platform, it makes perfect sense for Facebook, today's leading social network, to build and own the leading Metaverse platform of tomorrow. This is good news for Facebook investors, especially for those intending to hold the stock for a good while.