Facebook’s Oculus pushes virtual reality with new gear

SAN JOSE: Facebook on Thursday unveiled new hardware for its Oculus division as part of a stepped-up effort to integrate virtual reality with the leading social network.


The new offerings aim to get an array of virtual reality gear to consumers in the coming months, including a new “Touch” controller and compatible computer to help spur Facebook’s push.

“We are here to make virtual reality the next major computing platform,” Facebook co-founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg said during a keynote presentation at the third annual Oculus Connect developers conference in San Jose, California.

“At Facebook, this is something we are really committed to.”

Facebook has invested more than $250 million in developing content for Facebook-owned Oculus virtual reality gear, and has committed another $250 million to that mission, according to Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg donned an Oculus Rift headset while on stage, virtually traveling with a pair of colleagues to the bottom of a sea and the surface of Mars, pausing in the middle to take a Messenger video call from his wife Priscilla.

To show off how Oculus was meshing with the Facebook platform, Zuckerberg snapped a “selfie” with his wife in the virtual world and posted it in real time to his page at the social network.

“The magic of virtual reality is the feeling you are really there, in another place,” Zuckerberg said.

“The next phase is great software experiences.”

He also revealed the “Touch” controller, a key accessory for VR experiences, which gives Oculus users “hands” in virtual worlds. The $199 device will ship worldwide on December 6.

Oculus chief executive Brendan Iribe meanwhile showed off a new AMD-powered PC from Cyberpower that can run Rift for $499, half the price of the other high-powered computers needed to handle virtual reality.

He also announced alliances with laptop makers Lenovo and Asus to certify those kinds of computers for Oculus.

“Virtual reality is becoming more affordable than ever,” Iribe said during the keynote.

Oculus began selling its Rift virtual reality headsets earlier this year for $599, a price which does not include the cost of a computer that can handle the processing and graphics demands of the technology.

The gear is available online and in retail outlets, with Oculus having stepped up production to meet what it expected would be strong demand.

Noticeably absent from the OC3 keynote was Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, who has played a starring role at company events in the past.

Some high-profile video game studios have gone on record saying they won’t create content for Oculus after word spread in recent weeks that Luckey donated money and effort to a group supporting US presidential candidate Donald Trump by battering rival Hillary Clinton with the kind of insulting social media memes referred to as “trolling.”

Oculus also announced it will invest millions of dollars to fund education content, promote diversity in its developer community, and broaden virtual reality content far beyond games.