It’s been an uncharacteristically quiet few weeks for the VR industry. We’ve been to a few events and played a few games, but there hasn’t been much in the way of major news. Well, break’s over, as we’ve got our first major event since GDC on the way: F8.
Facebook’s annual developer conference might not immediately strike you as the most important VR event. You might not even think it’s the most important event for Facebook’s Oculus, given it traditionally hosts its own Oculus Connect conference later in the year. While that may be true, it is very possible that VR still has a big presence at F8 this year, with much to update us on in the world of Oculus. Here are five reveals we expect to see next week.
From Gear To Rift
Looking back at the past year, Facebook and Oculus like to test the VR waters with Gear VR before committing to something on Rift. The former’s new 360 viewing app is currently only available on the mobile VR headset, but we all know it could just as easily appear on Rift.
The same goes for Rooms, Oculus’ new social platform in which users can meetup in spaces, watch content together and jump into multiplayer games. It’s currently only available on Gear but has been promised for Rift. We’re hoping that some of those promised transitions get underway at F8.
Meet Hugo Barra
Though his appointment was announced much earlier in the year, Facebook’s new VP of VR, Hugo Barra, joined the company at the start of this month. Barra replaces former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe (who now leads a PC VR research team), and is set to guide the VR team in its new direction. But, here’s the funny thing, we haven’t actually seen him yet.
Well, you might have caught glimpses of Barra in his previous role at Xiaomi, but he’s yet to stand in front of a camera or on a stage representing Facebook and Oculus. We’d expect F8 to be the first time he does so. He’ll have a lot to outline about where he sees VR going, no doubt.
Santa Cruz Surfs Up
After seeing the first prototype for Oculus’ standalone VR headset, Santa Cruz, at Oculus Connect last year, we assumed it would be a long time before Mark Zuckerberg would have an update on it. But recent reports suggest we may well get a fresh look at a new prototype VR headset at F8 this week, which is much earlier than we expected to see it again.
If true then we couldn’t imagine a big blowout for the device. Perhaps we could see an improved form factor over the makeshift kit displayed at Connect, or maybe some updated specs like battery life or controller support. Either way, we’re eager to see what’s new for this promising headset.
A Controller That Fits Like A Glove
Oculus Touch may only be a few months old but Facebook is looking to the future of VR input too. A few months ago we saw a picture of Mark Zuckerberg wearing a glove that would track the position and movement of his hands. Then earlier this month we wrote about not one but two new patents from Oculus, the latter with self-tracking gloves that emitted light.
It seems Facebook might be serious about gloves as a form of input for VR, and with Santa Cruz being revealed and available for testing so early to the public, we’re wondering if we might get to go hands-on (literally) with these new kits this week.
Social VR Speaks
F8 will mark a year since Facebook first revealed social VR features for its networking platform, which we saw updated and improved for Oculus Connect 3. It’s been another seven months since we last saw this hugely impressive feature set, though, and we still haven’t gone hands-on with it for ourselves.
Here’s hoping that changes at F8 this year. Though the eventual launch of these new features might be a ways out, we’re hoping to at least get to test them for ourselves this week. Based on the (scripted) on-stage demo at Connect, this is a versatile tool, and we want to see just how far we can push it.