It always takes longer than you expect…

Unpacking what the AR/VR community can expect after Oculus Connect 6

Mark Zuckerberg opened OC6 day 1 keynote by laying out his ambition to build the next computing platform. One that makes us feel more present & connected; not like most of the hardware we use today. His view is that the next generation of computers should do the opposite. Clearly, Facebook’s ambition is to own the next computing platform the way Apple currently owns mobile.

A few minutes into the event the vision for Facebook with Oculus was set.

To successfully execute it, the next computing platform will need to integrate our real and virtual worlds seamlessly, delivering a sense of presence that puts people at the center of the computing experience rather than the other way around. Zuckerberg, Abrash and Carmack recognize that we are just at the beginning of this journey and that Facebook along with the developers’ community still has a ton of work to do. 

The theme of the conference was “The time is now” meant to make everyone feel like they made the right decision by entering the VR industry early and that now is definitely not the time to give up. Speakers were parading the success of Beat Saber as the first VR platinum title, Michael Abrash referred to the current times of spatial computing are like the good old days of the Xerox park days of Silicon Valley… There is no doubt that a new generation of computers is going to transform the tech we know today. It is not IF, it’s WHEN.

Here are the main components to this long, difficult, expensive yet exciting roadmap that I captured at OC6 :

The tech must reach mass adoption.
That’s what was attempted with Samsung GearVR. It actually did a pretty good job leveraging Samsung’s distribution but since Oculus GO & Oculus Quest shipped, it became obvious that its retention rate doesn’t stack up. 

VR adoption is seeing its first hockey stick curve, so RIP mobile VR, hello “standalone” VR. 

For some, forward compatibility features such as Oculus Link is a sign that standalone headsets are also now a priority over more powerful computer tethered headsets. 

In the future, phones will serve as companions to headsets, AR glasses or other devices rather than remain our display screens. 

So the path is clear: Capture market share by positioning Oculus GO as the entry point and upgrade enthusiasts to Oculus Quest whilst continuing to fearlessly improve the tech in the background and wave it with Facebook’s DNA.

Mass adoption will only happen thanks to an appealing ecosystem.

For the hardware to reach mass adoption it needs an appealing ecosystem…  and for Oculus, the ecosystem appears to be more Facebook infused than ever.
Although the ultimate goal of the ecosystem is to bring VR to more people, the success metrics used by executives on stage sounded very Facebook: Frequency of interactions, diversity of interactions – i.e. extend the library of content to generate more reasons to get into VR, strength of interactions – i.e. Emotions triggered by VR to be as strong as emotions triggered by real life events.

The introduction of discovery tools such as Oculus media studio and profile pages, well established in social media, is another sign of Facebook expanding into Oculus. These tools allow creators to share videos of their VR content in and outside of VR in 2D & 360 format. The increasingly popular mixed reality video (still in closed beta) also aims at showing immersive experiences to non VR users

At the moment, the most powerful levers to push these metrics up seem to be: gaming and social features. Gaming because the majority of the VR community are gamers. Social interactions because our virtual world will only merge with our real world if our social connections can cross over to it.

So for now, Gaming coupled with social interactions brings Facebook horizon

(sign up here for the closed beta launching in 2020)

This seems to be missing a part of our behavior: media consumption and attendance. John Carmack was advocating, very strongly, for immersive media to be part of the immediate plan to enrich the ecosystem and grow adoption.

It will only work if sense of presence is achieved.

Ultimately, the next generation of computers will improve our lives only if they feel like a natural extensions of ourselves. The first, and very impressive step to this is the Oculus Quest hand tracking

In the longer term, it will be codec avatar, reconstructed spaces

 and neural communication.

This will enable us to tele-transport to a reconstructed living room with our friends and family or join a meeting remotely in person not in a video conference.

Here again, the time is now but as Abrash mentioned, Hofstadter’s law: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you apply Hofstadter’s law

Marie Sornin