Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to be realizing a sobering reality about virtual reality: His company’s Oculus headsets that send people into artificial worlds are too expensive and confining to appeal to the masses.
Zuckerberg on Wednesday revealed how Facebook intends to address that problem, unveiling a stand-alone headset that won’t require plugging in a smartphone or a cord tethering it to a personal computer like the Oculus Rift headset does.
“I am more committed than ever to the future of virtual reality,” Zuckerberg reassured a crowd of computer programmers gathered in San Jose, California, for Oculus’ annual conference.
Facebook’s new headset, called Oculus Go, will cost $199 when it hits the market next year. That’s a big drop from the Rift, which originally sold for $599 and required a PC costing at least $500 to become immersed in virtual reality, or VR.
Recent discounts lowered the Rift’s price to $399 at various times during the summer, a markdown Oculus now says will be permanent.
“The strategy for Facebook is to make the onboarding to VR as easy and inexpensive as possible,” said Gartner analyst Brian Blau. “And $199 is an inexpensive entry for a lot of people who are just starting out in VR. The problem is you will be spending that money on a device that only does VR and nothing else.”
Facebook didn’t provide any details on how the Oculus Go will work, but said it will include built-in headphones for audio and have a LCD display.