Commentary: Facebook’s VR headset has been a technological marvel for a year, but there will be more challenges as Facebook attempts to make it a gateway to even more.
Although the year flew by, Facebook’s VR headset has remained a favorite piece of tech. The Oculus Quest 2, a $300 device that Facebook is trying to reinvent, maybe even rename amid recent turmoil, seems like the small, central piece of the Oculus universe. This VR headset is the most immersive piece mixed reality tech Facebook currently has. It can be expanded. Facebook’s push for the Quest 2 to be more essential could prove difficult.
Facebook is nearing its next Connect conference to discuss ways the company will propel itself further into AR/VR despite being under severe scrutiny for its practices. Keep an eye on Oculus Quest 2 as it’s the core of Facebook’s ambitions.
Quest 2: A game console? Fantastic
The Quest 2 headset feels like a combination of all Oculus VR headsets. It is compacted to a small, efficient package. It is amazing how easy it is to use, then I try another one and come back again. The system’s graphics are at the limit but still manages to impress. Even though hand tracking is sometimes a little shaky, it’s still a far superior option to most of the competition. Even the Quest 2’s scanning of obstacles in a room before you play, and recognising desks and keyboards to bring them into VR work apps are just a glimpse of a future that isn’t yet here. The Oculus Quest 2 is easy to use and you can feel that it’s starting to explore new ideas that could change the definition of computer.
It’s easy to fall in love with Quest 2 because of its fascinating, sometimes innovative, and surprising active games. (I have many I love and admire). My sessions are very contained as a small amount of VR can be used. It connects with others, but VR is for me a private experience at home. I am closed off to the rest of the globe.
The Quest 2 is primarily a game system. It’s still the best thing it does. They feel like they are still in the process of improving everything, from fitness to virtual travel apps to collaborative work apps to collaboration apps. Facebook is determined to take this territory, and has used the success of the headset as a platform for gaming as a stepping stone.
An AR headset bridge? Perhaps
Facebook has a multiyear plan for intelligent glasses. However, it will be slow going for some time. The company is working on developing AI to assist smart glasses wearers. However, so far the company’s only glasses-type hardware is a basic set of cameras and audio-connected Ray-Bans. It’s not yet possible to make an AR headset.
However, the Oculus Quest 2 has some of the world’s most advanced camera capabilities. Facebook could use these to further experiment with AR ideas and make its own smart glasses. The headset’s passthrough camera allows mixed reality to be used in Facebook’s virtual workroom app Horizon Workrooms. In the next year, there will be more apps and games that allow you to experience mixed reality via Quest 2. It can handle it.
Quest Pro could be Facebook’s entry to eye and face tracking
While the Quest 2 may be around for a while, it will push the lower-end price range while Facebook attempts to make a more advanced headset called the Oculus Quest PRO with additional sensors. Mark Zuckerberg said earlier in the year that new sensors could be the most valuable thing a Pro could offer. The most obvious additions would be eye-tracking and face tracking. Facebook could also integrate fitness trackers with smartwatches and smartwatches for wellness and fitness apps.
The Quest Pro headset would be more expensive. It could be the tiered and step-up approach that Facebook uses to integrate eye tracking, without making it compulsory for Quest owners who already own the headset to purchase it.
Facebook’s VR ecosystem, which is Facebook-focused, remains a bottleneck
Oculus Quest 2, a Facebook product, requires that you have a Facebook account in order to use it. Although this is difficult to accept, it is crucial to the whole equation. Facebook does not price its VR hardware high, but can use the hardware to secure your membership. Facebook’s changes in delivering advertisements into VR are also worth careful scrutiny. Although Facebook promises that data from VR and AR tracking will not be used for advertising, it is still a slippery slope that makes smartphones, smart speakers, and other super-connected devices feel so intrusive.
Facebook promises that its VR ecosystem will be more compatible with other cloud services, such as work or other devices. The Quest 2 already connects with Android phones and iPhones, and can also pair with Windows laptops. How will this hardware feel in the future? Will Facebook’s Quest become a multipurpose home device? Gaming is one thing. Fitness, work, and every computer are another.
Facebook could be the site of many 2022 competitions
Facebook’s Quest 2 product is strange: It’s the only VR gaming device that’s standalone right now. There could be other VR gaming companies next year. The PlayStationVR 2 is a significant upgrade for PlayStation 5 owners. The headset will not be available as a standalone product and may be an all-in solution that costs more than a PS5 console. There are always new PC VR headsets. Apple is one of the companies that are expected to own a headset. However, it’s still unknown if Apple’s first AR/VR product will be pricey, productivity-focused, or even aimed at the mainstream.
There could also be other companies that want to replicate Facebook’s success, such as using mobile chips to create standalone VR headsets or smaller ones that plug in to phones, like HTC’s Vive.
Facebook must address its VR issues with children.
Nearly everyone I know with an Oculus Qest 2 has used it with their children or just for them. This is both surprising and alarming. Facebook has not made Oculus Quest kid-friendly. There are no child accounts, no filtering of content for kids and no controls over what happens in public chats. CNET’s Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, stated that the Quest platform isn’t for children and has not been designed with child safety in mind.
I agree with Zuckerberg that VR is not ideal for children and I don’t want my kids or any other kids spending time in Facebook VR worlds. It’s already a gaming console for kids, whether or not Facebook has consented. It is time to put more effort into making the Quest safer for children and more secure than it was 10 years ago.