While it's still a way off being the next transformative platform, the use of VR is growing, and Facebook is leading the pack, which could set the company up for significant success with the next generation of consumers.
Indeed, amid the COVID-19 lockdowns, Facebook has been struggling to meet demand for new Oculus Quest headsets. That, in part, is due to production line impacts caused by COVID-19, but interest is also beyond what many had expected. Which is why this new update from Facebook-owned Oculus is worthy of note.
This week, Oculus is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Oculus Quest, the company's most successful VR headset to date, and to mark the occasion, Oculus has outlined some key achievements, and announced a range of new features.
First off, Oculus underlines the fact that consumer interest in VR is rising:
"People have spent more than $100M on Quest content, [and] during last month’s Facebook: Game Developers Showcase, we announced that more than 20 titles have surpassed the $1M revenue mark on Quest alone."
Oculus also notes that more than ten of its top titles have generated over $2M in revenue, while one - SUPERHOT VR - has surpassed 2 million copies sold worldwide.
If you wanted some context on the growth of VR, that's an indicator. Again, it may not seem like the next big thing as yet, but interest in VR is very clearly on the rise.
As it looks to take the platform to the next level, accessibility, and useability considerations are key, and Facebook made a significant advance on this front last year when it announced its new hand-tracking capacity, which enables Oculus users to interact with virtual environments without the need for gloves or controllers.
Now, hand-tracking is being made more generally available within the Oculus developer stream.
"With the next Quest software update starting this week, we’re moving [hand tracking] out of the Experimental Features section and into general release, and we’ll begin accepting third-party titles that include hand tracking to the Oculus Store on May 28."
This is significant, in that it will mean that not only are VR headsets now becoming more self-contained, without the need for connected PCs, but also easier to use, which will boost their appeal more broadly.
That's particularly relevant for VR games - and also worth noting, Facebook acquired leading VR game developer Sanzaru Games back in February.
But social connectivity remains central to Facebook's mission, and it's also looking at the social media elements of the new VR space. It's working on a new integration with dedicated VR groups on Facebook, in order to facilitate connection with other Oculus users.
"Starting this week, we’re testing the ability for people to share to Facebook Groups under their Oculus username. This will let people connect with other Oculus users on Facebook to swap stories and share their VR exploits."
In addition to this - and in what may become an increasingly relevant use case, given the rising shift to remote work - Oculus is also working on two new elements to facilitate business collaboration within VR.
Immersed is a tool that enables users to collaborate in the VR space, with multi-screen presentation options, where "colleagues can teleport into the same space to collaborate, and even whiteboard together". Spatial, meanwhile, is a VR/AR collaboration platform, which enables people to work together in VR "as if they were in the same room".
Given the expected shift towards more remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns, with the forced action on this front highlighting what's possible, you can imagine that as VR tech evolves, these types of virtual collaboration tools will become increasingly popular. And we're still only in the early stages of VR in this context, with the systems and presentation options set to advance significantly from here.
Really, consumer VR options overall are still in their infancy, and the fact that we're seeing such significant interest and take-up, even with limited VR applications on offer, is a strong indicator of the potential in the medium.
In future, that will lead to a range of new opportunities, both in terms of virtual collaboration, and, even more notably, in marketing and outreach.
This may not be a major consideration for businesses as yet, but it's definitely worth keeping tabs on the evolving VR space, and considering the potential for how it could be used to connect with the next generation.