Facebook announces wireless Oculus VR headset

Despite flagging sales and predictions that VR will not take off, the launch shows a serious foray into the industry for the social media giant


Facebook has announced its plans to launch the Oculus Connect 5, a standalone virtual reality (VR) system that does not require a PC to run.

The social media giant's CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that the wireless gaming system, which will be priced at $399, is set to be launched in Spring 2019.

This decision will come as a surprise to many, as most industry analysts have been predicting that VR technology is unlikely to take off in the gaming industry.

Although it was initially hyped to make waves, VR has struggled to get off the ground. Earlier this year, Digital Trends launched a scathing attack on the VR in gaming industry, stating "consumers are done with VR. Sales numbers, as tracked by Amazon sales rank data at Thinknum, make that crystal clear."

Zuckerberg acknowledged the lack of takeoff in the industry as he joked at the San Jose event that he was well behind the once-quoted target of getting "one billion people" using VR.

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However, despite the concerns about the health of the VR industry, the Oculus Go, which Facebook released in 2017 as a budget standalone headset at a price of $199, sold an estimated 289,000 units between April and June 2018, according to Super Data. This contributed to a growth in the major headset sales of almost 40% compared to the first quarter of 2018.

Speaking to the BBC of Facebook's latest move, Bryan Ma, VP of client devices research at IDC, commented: "Clearly the VR industry has struggled to get off the ground. This year, we expect headset shipments to contract 23%."

However, Ma noted that much of that decline is largely down to tech giants such as Samsung giving up on selling headsets that make use of smartphones to provide visuals. He argued that newer standalone headsets, such as the Oculus Quest had a more promising outlook.

"The pricing is impressively aggressive," Mr Ma told the BBC. "But if price were the only barrier, then Go would've done a lot more units too."

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