By Alisha Haridasani
Facebook’s new Oculus Go headset was designed to make virtual reality a shared experience, said Hugo Barra, the social media company's vice president of VR.
“We’re making three, strong, distinct bets in social entertainment with Oculus Go,” Barra said in an interview Wednesday with Cheddar’s Alex Heath at Facebook’s annual F8 developers’ conference.
Those three wagers include Oculus TV, Oculus Rooms, and Oculus Venues.
For Oculus TV, Facebook has partnered with ESPN, Netflix, Hulu, and Showtime to provide users on-demand and live content. The subscription service also lets users host virtual "watch parties."
Oculus Rooms is a virtual "hang out" where users can play board games like Monopoly and Boggle through a partnership with Hasbro, Barra said.
Oculus Venues is a way to join “public gatherings of people,” for concerts, comedy nights, and sporting events.
Virtual reality has been a niche technology, used mostly by hardcore video gamers since around 2012. The Oculus Rift, the company's first VR headset for the high-end user, was designed with gaming in mind. It offered such intense graphics that it needed to be plugged into a PC for computing power. Not so with the Oculus Go.
By making its new headset more affordable, eliminating the need for additional hardware, and introducing new user-oriented services, Facebook is trying to make VR appealing to less tech-savvy consumers.
"Part of what we wanted to do here was get it to the point where more people are going to try it and feel how cool it is so that they can start telling other people," Barra said.
As Facebook is working to scale virtual reality with the Oculus Go, the company isn’t abandoning investment in Rift. Barra said continued investment in the high-end headset will help enhance the mid-range consumer products.
He compared the Rift with a Formula 1 car equipped with cutting-edge technology.
“You’ll learn a ton from that and then you can pick and choose which technologies to bring down to your luxury sedan and eventually your mainstream car,” he said.
For the full interview, click here.