Facebook is on a parallel path with Apple to help the world adopt immersive reality. Although their areas of focus are different, their approaches are the same. Apple is going all in on the development of augmented reality (AR), while Facebook, through Oculus, wants to get one billion people to use virtual reality (VR). Both are laying the groundwork by providing tools to make these forms of immersive reality more accessible to everyday people. Case in point:

  • Apple launched ARKit (and then ARKit 2) to develop apps on top of AR, potentially doing for AR what third-party app development did for the iPhone years ago. In recent days Apple has rolled out more developments such as the launch of a better operating system, iOS 12, to provide better performance support for AR experiences.  (Shopify already announced an AR shopping experience that relies on the new iOS.)
  • At the Oculus Connect conference in 2017, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the Oculus Go headset, which was a major step forward for VR. Oculus Go gave the world a more affordable yet still high-quality way to experience VR untethered from a PC. At the 2018 Oculus Connect, Zuckerberg announced that in 2019, Oculus will start selling Oculus Quest, another mobile VR headset that improves upon Oculus Go by providing a better-quality experience. Oculus Quest relies on Oculus Insight, a technology that uses spatial sensors (i.e., sensors only on the headset and not located around the room) and algorithms to track your real-time movements in the physical world. Consequently, Oculus Quest supports the natural interaction of six degrees of freedom (six DoF). By contrast, Oculus Go allows for only three DoF.

Oculus Quest has earned enthusiastic reviews from early tests. For example, Lucas Matney at TechCrunch wrote,

While fixed point-of-view devices like Oculus Go puts the content all around you, the Quest really captures the magic of immersion that’s so much more than a big, enveloping display. You really feel transported with this technology and the tracking is the not-so-secret sauce that has just been so irksome to integrate into headsets until now. Inside-out tracking is available on other systems and it’s hard to compare the tech Oculus has built from what others have based on these demos alone, but the Quest definitely offers the most complete package available thus far.

But he also wondered whether the higher price point could be an impediment to the uptake of Oculus Quest:

There’s a huge jump in experience between the two systems based on my initial time with the Quest, but $399 is still a different echelon of pricing and I think it’s a tossup whether VR devices can reach a mainstream audience with that high of an upfront cost.

Cost, mobility, and quality of experience are important considerations. Recently IDC reported that shipments for VR devices have fallen year over year by 33.7 percent – with the exception of standalone VR headsets such as Oculus Go, which realized a 417 percent increase. In other words, more affordable, mobile headsets are crucial for VR adoption. For its part, Apple has its own challenges, including reports of slow initial adoption of ARKit.

For both Apple and Facebook/Oculus, the most notable successes have come from the enterprise side. For instance, Walmart recently expanded a VR employee training program by shipping 17,000 Oculus Go headsets to employees. And businesses such as IKEA have developed successful AR applications using ARKit.

On the consumer side, Apple and Facebook face a common challenge ultimately: the availability of compelling content that will make people want to use AR and VR time and again. To that end, at Oculus Connect, Facebook announced:

  • YouTube VR is coming to the Oculus Go, thus providing 800,000 VR videos.
  • Fifty titles will be available on Oculus Quest when the headset launches in 2019. Those titles include Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series, Super Hot VR, and Robo Recall.

As the content becomes available, both firms are creating the platforms that make them leaders in these emerging spaces for both consumers and enterprises.

For more insight into the future of virtual reality and augmented reality, check out The Executive Guide to Immersive Reality, published by Moonshot. And let us know how you’re applying these immersive realities!

Mark Persaud

Mark Persaud

Practice Lead, Immersive Reality