What to Know
Facebook announced new features including hand tracking for its Oculus Quest VR headset
A new social VR world, Facebook Horizon, is set to debut in 2020
Facebook confirmed it is working on building augmented reality glasses
Facebook opened a window into the future of Oculus, its virtual reality business, at the Oculus Connect 6 conference in San Jose this week.
Under banners reading "The Time is Now," Facebook executives at the conference stressed that they believe consumers' interest in VR is taking off again, in part because of strong demand for its $400 Oculus Quest headset, which delivers a richer VR experience than entry-level headsets like the Oculus Go, without need for wires or an attached PC.
Facebook says Oculus is rolling out new features for the Quest headset in 2020, including hand tracking — the ability for players to interact with the virtual world using their bare hands, instead of physical controllers. Cameras on the front of the Quest headset that are used to track player movement will be able to track hands in real time after a forthcoming software update. Early demos of hand tracking on display at the conference ranged from wild fantasy to purely pragmatic, including a sorcerer's magical laboratory and a training program for Farmers' Insurance adjusters.
Oculus Quest will also gain the ability to play some games built for other Oculus devices, including the entry level Oculus Go, and now the high-end Oculus Rift PC headset. A new feature called Oculus Link will enable players to tether a Quest headset to a gaming PC with a USB-C cable and harness the PC's processing power to play graphics-intensive games.
Facebook also announced "Facebook Horizon," a cartoon-like virtual world in which players can create avatars for themselves and interact with their friends in 3D virtual space. Horizon will first be available in a closed beta test for developers attending the conference, then to the general public sometime in 2020.
Confirming speculation, Facebook also announced it is working on building augmented reality glasses — headwear that allows a user to see elements from the virtual world seamlessly floating in the real world. Executives didn't provide any additional details on the project yet.