How Facebook plans to get 1 billion people into virtual reality
Welcome to Purple Sky News! All the news you probably missed but shouldn’t have. Here at Purple Sky News we bring the news that matters. Without further ado, here’s todays story: How Facebook plans to get 1 billion people into virtual reality, according to the VP tasked with doing it Alex Heath Oct. 14, 2017, 1:26 PM Mark Zuckerberg Oculus Go Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introducing the Oculus Go headset. Facebook The mission of leading Facebook’s virtual reality business now falls on Hugo Barra, who joined Facebook six months ago with the newly-created title “VP of VR.” Despite lackluster consumer interest, early missteps, and a lot of change in leadership, Facebook still has big plans to get a billion people into virtual reality. Barra sat down with Business Insider and explained how he intends to accomplish such a lofty goal. Despite tepid interest from consumers so far, Facebook still believes it can turn virtual reality into the next big thing. “We want to get a billion people in virtual reality,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said onstage at the company’s annual Oculus VR conference for developers this week in California. The goal is an exceptionally ambitious one even for Facebook, which already boasts 2 billion users. Consider the current state of VR: Research firm Canalys recently estimated that only two million VR headsets were shipped globally in 2016, with Oculus accounting for 400,000 of those shipments. (Facebook has yet to publicly disclose how many Oculus headsets it has sold.) Facebook’s latest VR bet is its Oculus Go headset, which will start at $199 when it ships in early 2018. The Oculus Go is intended to fill the “sweet spot” between expensive, higher-end VR systems like the Oculus Rift and lightweight headsets like Samsung’s Gear VR, Zuckerberg said during his keynote earlier this week. “It’s hands down the most accessible way to get into VR,” Facebook’s Oculus chief, Hugo Barra, told Business Insider in an interview after the keynote. “We’ve designed it with comfort as the most important target we wanted to hit.” Oculus Go represents just one of Facebook’s multi-pronged efforts to grow its VR business, which currently lags behind competitors like Sony and HTC. Oculus is also starting to work directly with businesses and is developing an untethered version of its flagship, most expensive Rift headset. New ways to sell VR The task of leading Oculus now falls on Barra, who joined Facebook six months ago with the newly-created title “VP of VR” after serving stints at Xiaomi and Google’s Android division. Hugo Barra Mark Zuckerberg Hugo Barra and Mark Zuckerberg in Facebook’s VR app, Spaces. Facebook One of Barra’s recent announcements is the Oculus for Business Program, which allows enterprise customers to buy bulk orders of Oculus headsets for commercial use. Oculus is already working with companies like Cisco and Audi to use its headsets in their workplaces, and expects to raise general consumer awareness of VR through the program. That’s because some of these businesses are creating VR apps for their own customers, Barra said. For instance, Audi is using Oculus Rift headsets to give customers virtual car demos at some of its dealerships. “We think that working with some of these business is going to create great consumer awareness for VR in general,” Barra said. Such plans are not unique. Microsoft is doing much the same by targeting its augmented reality headset, HoloLens, to businesses as well. But the program is a new direction for Oculus, which has strictly focused on reaching consumers prior. Meanwhile, Facebook will also try to raise awareness for VR in other ways. Oculus will run ad campaigns for its forthcoming Go headset and the lowered cost of its higher-end Rift system. While Facebook currently has no plans to open retail stores, that idea isn’t out of the question either, Barra said. “I think it’s plausible, but certainly not something we’re thinking about discussing at this point. It’s not a bad idea at all.” In fact, Facebook tested the retail idea a bit last winter, when it showed off its Oculus Rift technology in various short-term pop-up stores around the country. Facebook Oculus Rift pop-up store at Denver International Airport. Business Insider Missteps and hardships While Oculus faces mounting pressure from competitors like Sony and HTC, the VR division has also undergone its own string of hardships since it was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion in 2014.