F8 2017: 5 Oculus Reveals We Want To See This Week

by Jamie Feltham • April 17th, 2017

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.

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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.

Hugo Barra

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.

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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.

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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 Facebook

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.

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  • J.C.

    I still don’t get the plan for the gloves. They have to be washable, yeah? because let’s face it, everyone knows “that person” whose hands always sweat. Maybe you don’t know who that is until you invite a friend over to try out your vr gloves and then ewwwww. It’s already super gross when someone sweats on the faceband, which is why I have VR Covers and spare facebands. But those are cheap, we’re talking about gloves here, which can’t really have a “liner” without automatically making them FORCE your hands to sweat.

    And that’s a completely separate concern from what you would DO with these gloves. They won’t be for gaming, unless someone wants some very basic controls…there won’t be any absolute precision that a button provides. Gesture based SOUNDS neat, but in practice is simply annoying. The idea is to remove barriers that “disconnect” you from what you’re doing, not “make it more complicated”. Making a game with levers and wheels to turn? It’s gonna either demand CRAZY precision from the user, OR rather vague recognition of intent. Neither one will feel right.

    But for social function? Oh yeah, that would be neat for a VR social app. They’re still a stopgap, if the gloves have no buttons to push and are only tracking hand movements. Why HAVE gloves if you could just track the user’s hands?

    • rabs

      Yeah cleanness and warms is a problem. It’ll have to add something really compelling for not “simply” going Hololens / Leap Motion way.

      I guess there is some tactile stimulation and/or light force feedback integrated in the gloves, like in some competing products. And that we can use controllers / keyboards at the same time. A controller + holster/tool-belt designed for that would be nice.

  • Robbie Cartwright

    Sooo many fate jokes to be had here… X3

  • VR Geek

    With Intels Alloy and the Hololens tech enabled VR HMDs coming out this fall, I fully expect Facebook to reveal a lot more of Santa Cruz or they are going to be left behind as a leader by the end of this year. I am pretty sure Mark wants to be on the top and make headlines.