Facebook is once again hoping to bring virtual reality into the mainstream. This time, with a $200 Oculus Rift headset.
Despite the potential of VR, the concept hasn’t taken off yet and price is a big reason why. Currently, VR headsets come in two types. The first are headsets such as Samsung’s Gear VR. These affordable headsets will turn a smartphone into a virtual reality device. Power is the main limiting factor in these types of devices. Smartphones, while more powerful now than ever, are still weak compared to PCs and gaming consoles so the types of games and applications these devices can run are limited.
The other types of headsets are much more expensive both in terms of upfront costs and the type of hardware required to use them. The current Oculus Rift costs $400 and requires a high-end gaming PC which could cost as much as a $1,000. Obviously, these devices offer a more immersive experience but will cost a lot more.
Bridging The Gap
Facebook’s upcoming VR headset will offer a middle-ground with a $200 headset that does not require a PC or smartphone in order to work. Facebook’s plan with this device is to bring VR into the mainstream similar to what Apple’s iPhone did with the smartphone market.
According to sources close to the project, this new headset, codenamed Pacific, will look like a smaller more compact version of the current Oculus Rift and will be geared towards gaming, videos, and social media. The headset’s design and features have not been finished, but the idea is to make watching videos on a VR headset as easy as doing so on a phone or tablet.
Last year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg described such a device at the Oculus developer’s conference.
Facebook has not confirmed the existence of such a device, but, in an emailed statement to Bloomberg a spokesperson for Facebook did say the company was investing in standalone VR technology.
“We don’t have a product to unveil at this time, however we can confirm we’re making several significant technology investments in the standalone VR category.”
The VR Market
Despite being one of the earlier VR headsets, the Oculus Rift isn’t doing so well. It is currently in fourth place behind Samsung, Sony, and HTC and holds about 5 percent of the market. Samsung, with its more affordable devices, controls 22 percent of the VR market. In order to boost sales, Facebook has cut the price of the Oculus Rift twice this year.