Facebook CEO Shows Oculus Augmented Social Virtual Reality Device with Facial Expressions

Mark Zuckerberg has demonstrated the potential of virtual reality to hundreds of developers and partners at Oculus’s “Connect” conference.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is proving that virtual reality is the next great computing platform by demonstrating a new social VR experience at Oculus’s “Connect” conference in San Jose, California.

Zuckerberg unveiled that Oculus will assign additional $250 million to fund a range of new content. They will focus on games and entertainment believing that “great software experiences” are the next frontier of VR. Oculus has already invested $250 million for content development, and $10 million specifically for educational virtual reality material.

“More than a million people actively use virtual reality products every month,” Zuckerberg said, calling Samsung Gear VR, produced with Oculus, and the Oculus Rift “amazing” experiences. “This is happening, and we have a lot to be excited about.”

At Oculus’ Connect conference, Mark Zuckerberg showed that one can take real world scenes in the form of 360 photos, and visit them with friends who appear as overlaid avatars in the scene inside the demonstrated social VR experience. This is a unique possibility for friends to play games like chess or cards, sword fight with pre-made or DIY-drawn swords, or watch a giant TV screen together. Facebook Messenger allows even a phone call. During the presentation, Zuckerberg took a selfie with his wife Priscilla Chan, who called in on Messenger, in a virtual version of his home.

“The first step is getting the basic hardware out there,” Zuckerberg said, about Facebook’s investment in the space. “This is happening at a faster rate than any of us had expected. The next phase of virtual reality is building great software.”

Zuckerberg also unveiled that Facebook is planning to develop a “standalone, affordable” VR headset that isn’t limited to a PC like the current Oculus Rift. The product is now on the developmental stage. However, Zuckerberg showed the audience a demo of a man moving in virtual reality in a cordless experience.

“We’re working on this, and it’s still early,” Zuckerberg said of the Facebook’s standalone headset. “This is the kind of thing we believe will exist when you combine hardware innovation and next generation software experiences.”

Oculus has partnered with Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices to make the Oculus Rift more available. Now, it is sold with cheaper computers, such as a $499 Cyberpower computer with an AMD graphic chip. According to Zuckerberg, Oculus “Touch” hand controllers can be pre-ordered beginning on December 10 for $199 and will be shipped by the end of this year.

There are new earphones for $49 offering better sound, a new web browser with navigation in virtual reality called “Carmel” and avatars resembling the user and mimicking movements and facial expressions, among the innovations Oculus has unveiled.

Oculus can also boast of two new social features, “Parties” and “Rooms”. Parties allows users making a voice call with up to eight people in virtual reality while Rooms enables hanging out with avatars of friends and playing games, chatting or watching movies.

“We want software to be built with people at the center,” Zuckerberg said of his mission. “Our industry has made more progress in the last couple of years than any of us could have hoped for. I’m so excited for what you’re all building.”

Zuckerberg underlined that Virtual reality has a great potential to connect users to the people and things they care about. And the developer community is critical to the future of virtual reality.

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