Many of the biggest announcements centered around features coming to Oculus’s existing hardware in the near future. Some will come in a matter of days, while others are slated for 2020. The key to all of them is that they will dramatically enhance the experience available to users without needing to get a new VR headset, supposing you already have an Oculus Quest.
Some New Experiences
There are some exciting new games coming, like the next episode in Vader Immortal or Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond. Facebook also has a social experience called Facebook Horizon planned for 2020. It allows users to create their own environments and experiences, kind of like Second Life, but likely with all the improvements more than a decade of technological advancement can add.
As fun as these new experiences will surely be, they shy in comparison to the big updates hitting the Oculus Quest in the near term.
It’s All About the Quest
Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack explained the importance of the Oculus Quest in his presentation for the Day 2 Keynote. The recent VR headset is the company’s most retentive piece of hardware, and that likely comes down to the reduced friction it presents users with when trying to enter VR.
And, as such a key piece of Oculus’s business, the company is pushing it forward in big ways. One small update will be an updated video passthrough mode, called Passthrough+, to improve the visual experience for users, using the headset’s cameras to see the world outside of the headset. This update will release in a matter of days.
A huge update planned for the Quest in early 2020 is the addition of complete hand-tracking. There’s no additional cameras, sensors, or processors needed. The Quest’s built-in cameras work together with the existing internals of the headset to offer full hand tracking. This offers users greater presence in VR while also enabling new experiences. All it takes is a software update.
Perhaps the biggest update out of Oculus Connect 6 comes from something as simple as a USB-C cable. The Oculus Quest may be a popular piece of VR hardware, but the Qualcomm processor inside only has so much power to deliver VR experiences. This leaves VR enthusiasts with the choice between the convenience and portability of the Quest, or the support for powerful gaming PCs of the Oculus Rift or Oculus Rift S.
The upcoming Oculus Link feature will let Oculus Quest headsets connect to powerful gaming PCs over a USB-C connection with no specialized hardware required. Once connected, the Oculus Quest works much like a Rift, with access to the powerful internals of the gaming PC and the complete library of Rift experiences. This makes the Quest one of the most versatile, yet easy-to-use, VR headsets on the market.
Carmack also touched several times on the possibility of wireless streaming content (both locally and remotely) to Oculus headsets, but there’s no definite timeline for that type of feature to come to existing headsets. Game streaming is already coming to computers and TVs, and Carmack thinks Oculus could make an excellent option for future VR game streaming. He noted that “most TVs that aren’t put into game mode add more latency than the internet would to your gameplay experience.” So, a VR headset should handle at least as well as a TV.
A Few More Social Plans, and One Dead Platform
Beyond the impressive updates coming to the Oculus Quest, Facebook has some more plans for socializing through VR. The company is developing more tools to create virtual representations of users, offering them lifelike avatars.
A keynote showed two users wearing VR headsets that included sensors watching the lower portions of their face. Then, virtual avatars recreated their conversation, duplicating movements of the mouth, cheeks, eyes, and even tongue. Full-body tracking was even demonstrated. There are also tools to recreate real-world environments in VR, which could serve as social spaces.
And, finally, the team-up between Samsung and Oculus is coming to an end. Gear VR, which pairs a VR headset with a wide variety of Samsung smartphones will no longer going to be supported on future phones from Samsung.