Facebook announced a new virtual-reality headset that is smaller and cheaper than its predecessor on Wednesday — the company’s latest push in a years-long effort to popularize the technology.
Oculus Quest 2, which due to the pandemic was unveiled via livestream at the company’s online Facebook Connect conference, will be released on October 13. The price for the self-contained device will start at $299, which is $100 cheaper than the starting price of the original Quest headset, which came out in 2019. Facebook said Quest 2 includes a higher-resolution display than its previous headsets, which should make it easier to use for reading text, watching videos, or playing detail-oriented games in VR. It is also slightly lighter than the original Quest headset, at 503 grams, or 1.1 pounds, and can be tethered to a PC so that users can access more games and experiences. Battery life should last two to three hours, the company said.
Facebook has worked to turn VR into a mass-market technology since buying headset maker Oculus in 2014 for $3 billion. Since then, it has steadily released a handful of headsets that evolved from clunky devices that required external sensors and a powerful PC, to increasingly light, powerful, self-contained gadgets that can easily be slipped onto your head or stowed in a backpack. In addition to headsets, Facebook has spent years refining controllers for VR and pushing content makers to create games and other experiences for it.
While the market for VR remains small compared to other consumer technologies, the original Quest headset resonated with the virtually curious. Facebook won’t share sales numbers, but claims the Quest headset is popular — CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it has been selling as fast as the company can make them. The company said in May that it had sold $100 million worth of content for Quest, and updated that figure to over $150 million on Wednesday. And Jitesh Ubrani, an analyst at tech market researcher IDC, said it’s been in high demand and selling out over the past year.
“To put it plainly, the Quest simplified VR and made it accessible to the masses,” he said.
With Quest 2, Facebook cements its status as a leader in the field for powerful, portable VR for the masses. While many consumers are still skeptical of the technology — you may not own a headset, nor even know anyone who does — the release of this latest product makes it clear that Facebook remains a believer and has continued to bring prices down while packing more powerful computing and sensors into a smaller, more portable package. The company is also continuing its commitment to adding high-profile game titles to the Oculus ecosystem, including Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell titles, which it announced today without specific release dates.
Facebook is also expanding the ways people can use VR. Since many people are using the headsets to play exercise-oriented games “Dance Central” or “Creed: Rise to Glory,” a new fitness tracker called Oculus Move will be built into the Oculus software so that users can set fitness goals and track movement and calories burned across apps. Additionally, this winter Facebook will roll out an experimental version of software called Infinite Office that is meant to help people work remotely and collaborate virtually in VR, even while using a forthcoming physical keyboard that the company worked on with Logitech.
The company seems to believe so greatly in VR as a work medium in particular that Zuckerberg said some of the Oculus teams are already hosting their meetings in virtual space. Having a shared sense of space, even if it’s not physical, “just makes a huge difference,” he said.
Yet while Quest 2 is relatively inexpensive compared to its predecessor, and powerful enough to handle complicated VR games and experiences, Facebook may need to wait until next year for some consumers to shell out for the device. The pandemic is causing many people to be socially isolated, which may be making them more inclined to use VR, but shipments of VR headsets are expected to slip this year due to covid-related manufacturing and logistics issues and people waiting for new versions of popular headsets, according to data from IDC: It predicts 3.1 million consumer headsets will ship in 2020, down from nearly 4.2 million in 2019. It expects shipments will jump up to 4.3 million in 2021.
Beyond tweaks to the headset, Facebook said it updated the handheld Touch controllers that come with Quest 2 to make them easier to use and give users more of a sense that their hands are really there with them in virtual games and experiences.