Technology

Will Facebook become the undisputed leader in the virtual reality market with the Oculus Quest 2?


With the release of the Oculus Quest, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook’s first generation of virtual reality headsets were complete. A year and a half later, the launch of the Oculus Quest 2, announced on September 16 and which will be effective on October 10, therefore represents a starting point for the second generation in the company’s vision.

Facebook focuses on a single headset …
A generation that will be marked by the concentration of the company’s efforts in this single device. The Oculus Go was halted from commercialization in June, production of the Oculus Quest ceased in August and it is virtually nowhere to be found, and The Oculus Rift S will be withdrawn from the market in spring 2021.

However, we should not count on a drop in price. “Nothing is planned on this subject at the moment, commented Prabhu Parthasarathy, Product Manager of Quest 2, in response to a question from L’Usine Digitale. The Rift S is very popular and out of stock in almost all markets, so we expect the remaining inventory to sell out very quickly. “

The Oculus Quest 2 will soon be the company’s only VR headset, with access to PC games via Oculus Link, a feature which is also coming out of its beta test phase. A sensible strategy given the success of the original Quest, and which allowed Facebook to focus on this second installment to make it a virtually unbeatable product.

… who will dominate the market
As we indicate in our detailed test (published tomorrow), the Oculus Quest 2 has the luxury of being one of the best PC headsets on the market even without considering its price, and this while it is also, and above all, the only all-in-one headset worth considering today. Its resolution is higher than that of the Valve Index and the Vive Cosmos … And it is sold for only 349 euros, while on the PC headsets side, the Reverb G2 is worth 749.95 euros, the Vive Cosmos 829 euros and the Valve Index 1079 euros. In terms of value for money, there is no picture: the Quest 2 is simply out of category so much it is above the rest.

Based on this observation, how can the development of the virtual reality market be envisaged? This “second generation” as defined by Facebook can be presented as that of a “transition” rather than a revolution. It will focus on “simple” improvements which will have a strong impact: better display resolution and refresh rates, more quality content with higher budgets, wireless connectivity to a PC, development of a ecosystem of partner accessories, extension of use cases beyond entertainment, ever more compact and lightweight format. The competition should follow and even lead the game on some of these points, but it will be very difficult to match the price and content of Quest 2.

Especially since its success will attract more and more developers. During the headset announcement, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that 35 apps had generated millions of dollars on the Oculus Quest app store, while there were still only 10 to have passed this milestone there. six months ago.


A legitimate supremacy
The question obviously arises of the dominance of this market by Facebook. At the center of controversy since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the company has multiplied blunders over the years, sometimes resulting from incompetence or indifference, other times from calculations favoring its economic interests over the preservation of the privacy of its users, even the well-being of the companies in which its social network operates. This state of affairs legitimately raises questions, especially as Facebook strengthens the integration of the Oculus ecosystem with its other products with the Quest 2 (in particular through the compulsory use of Facebook accounts).

However, we need to put things in context. If Facebook is currently the subject of several antitrust investigations (just like Apple, Google and Amazon), its leadership position in the virtual reality market is only the result of its legitimate efforts in this area. The general interest in this market arose in large part from the takeover of Oculus by Facebook in 2014. From a small manufacturer of PC accessories, Facebook has transformed Oculus into a behemoth working on the future of human-machine interfaces, all with billions of dollars of investment and thousands of hires.

Whether it’s basic or applied research, product development, prototyping of uses or content creation, it is undeniable that Facebook is the company that has made the most efforts, created the most things and is most firmly committed to this market. Determined to hold the helm of “the next great computing platform” after years of being under the yoke of Apple and Google in smartphones, Mark Zuckerberg’s company has never hidden its intentions and has given itself the means to achieve them. Its success is therefore not only justified, but was predictable from the start.

The real battle hasn’t started yet …
And it is just as predictable that it will continue. However, Facebook’s real competitors will eventually come forward as well. We have known for several years now that Apple is working on virtual and augmented reality headsets, and it is also in the field of augmented reality that the real confrontation will take place. Microsoft is also working on this with its HoloLens products, which have established themselves in the professional world, and there is little doubt that Google, Amazon and Samsung are also following this category closely. As for virtual reality applied to video games, Facebook will have to face it with Sony and the next generation of its PlayStation VR.

The fate of the market is therefore still far from being decided today, even if Facebook has practically defeated its first challengers. One of the key aspects of the Oculus Quest 2 must indeed be its production capacity, as the first model could not be produced in sufficient quantities to meet growing demand. Facebook is hopeful that this new model can take it to the next level in sales. Maybe, who knows, that of the 10 million units. This success will be decisive, because if it is not there, it could seriously jeopardize the market. This is undoubtedly where the real issue is for virtual reality, because many observers today still see it as only a niche market.

… But Facebook is already well positioned
From a purely technological standpoint, it’s the third generation of headsets that will arguably determine the winner in the long run, and this again is something Facebook is maturing wisely. What will these helmets look like? They will probably benefit from dynamic foveal rendering using cameras to follow the user’s gaze, varifocal lenses allowing autofocus and reduced visual fatigue, augmented reality features in high definition by “passthrough “, capture and reproduction of 3D environments, avatars close to photorealism for telepresence, and connectivity to the cloud in 5G. Only one company has publicly revealed that it is working on each of these elements: Facebook.

Still, despite all its efforts, Facebook has a weakness that should not be ignored: its reputation. Its image has been severely tarnished in recent years, to the point that some developers and consumers refuse to use its products despite their quality. The company would do well to take note and fix it as best it can, because sometimes branding can achieve the impossible – in a good way or in a bad way.

Julien bergounhoux

@JBergounhoux



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