Facebook-owned Oculus is working on a new standalone virtual reality headset that will sit squarely between its existing Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR headsets. “We are working on this now. But it is still early,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The still-unnamed project is essentially a standalone headset that will work without cables, external PCs and mobile phones. Moreover, it will use what’s being called inside-out tracking — which means that it will allow users to move through a three-dimensional space without the need for external positional tracking hardware.
Zuckerberg showed off a demo video and said that the company has developed a prototype, but that there is no product yet. He didn’t give developers any timeline for the project, but said that it will fill a sweet spot between high-end stationary VR and inexpensive mobile VR headsets.
Zuckerberg also used his keynote to show off Facebook’s advancements in social VR, meeting with coworkers in virtual spaces and taking a Facebook Messenger phone call in VR, which mixed a 360-degree video of his house with animated avatars and a video call similar to those you would take on your regular phone. Oculus executives then showed off a new avatar editor that will allow users of the Oculus Rift headset to customize their own avatars to use in social VR experiences.
Oculus Avatars will launch on the Rift VR headset when the company’s Touch controller becomes available in December of this year. Oculus is also looking to bring avatars to the Gear VR headset in early 2017.
The company also introduced a number of new social features, including Rooms, which lets users meet up in virtual reality and then launch apps together to play multiplayer games or watch videos together. One of the launch partners for this new multi-user feature is Hulu. Rooms will be available for both Oculus Rift and Gear VR.
In addition to these software announcements, the company also updated consumers on some of its hardware. Oculus will finally ship its Touch controllers on December 6 for $199. Consumers will be able to pre-order Touch starting October 10. Touch can be used for room-scale experiences, but users need to buy a 3rd motion sensor to make this work, which will set them back another $79.
Zuckerberg acknowledged that Oculus had some trouble fulfilling orders earlier this year, but said that the company is now back on track. This notion was echoed by Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe. “The ecosystem is taking off,” Iribe said, saying that the company has seen huge traction with developers.
Part of this is due to big checks from Facebook: The Oculus owner has thus far invested $250 million dollars into the creation of virtual reality content, ranging from games to videos and interactive experiences, said Zuckerberg. He added that the company wants to double that investment in the near future, pledging to invest another $250 million in content.