The new headset comes thanks to a partnership with Chinese tech giant Xiaomi.
Facebook is taking a major step toward its goal of getting one billion people using virtual reality.
Oculus, the VR company that Facebook bought for $2 billion back in 2014, announced plans on Monday to launch its first VR headset in China as part of a partnership with Chinese phone maker Xiaomi.
The new Oculus headset, called Mi VR Standalone, is essentially the same headset as Oculus Go, a standalone headset that Oculus first unveiled in October. (It’s not yet available to consumers.)
The key difference is between the Go and the Mi VR is that Xiaomi, not Facebook, will provide all of the headset’s software. This is a key distinction, considering that Facebook’s core service is blocked in China because of censorship issues.
Launching as a hardware partner with Xiaomi means Facebook can dip a toe into China without having to deal with censorship issues, or storing user data and information. While Oculus is a different part of Facebook’s business, it’s still Facebook.
Worth noting: Hugo Barra, Facebook’s relatively new VP of VR who just joined the company last year and oversees Oculus, was a VP at Xiaomi for four years. He was tasked with expanding Xiaomi’s business overseas, which is interesting now that he’s doing the same with Facebook, but in the opposite direction.
The new headset was unveiled at a press conference alongside Qualcomm, another Oculus partner, at the Mandalay Bay casino in Las Vegas as part of the week-long CES event set to take over the city this week.
The announcement was missing a few key details — most notably, when the headset will actually be available, and for how much. A Facebook spokesperson declined to elaborate when asked for more details. When Facebook announced the Oculus Go in October, it said it would come out early this year and would cost $199.
Facebook has been pushing VR into the mainstream ever since it acquired Oculus almost four years ago. The company currently offers just one headset, a relatively expensive, hardcore unit designed primarily for gamers and other VR enthusiasts. (The Samsung Gear VR, technically a partnership headset between Samsung and Oculus, is often billed as an Oculus headset because it uses Oculus software.)
But Oculus is clearly trying to appeal to a much broader audience with the Go and the Mi VR. The Oculus Go, which was unveiled in October, doesn’t require a phone or expensive PC in order to operate. It’s meant to be an in-between device for people who want something more intense than a headset where you clip in a phone, but don’t want to pay for one that requires an expensive PC and cables.
China, of course, has the world’s largest population, with some 1.4 billion people. Despite claiming two billion users for its core app, Facebook has never been able to capitalize on that massive group of potential users because it doesn’t acquiesce to Chinese censorship laws, which allow the Chinese government to have tight control over the content citizens are able to see and read online.
Still, Facebook has long wanted to get into China. The company is actually testing a photo-sharing app in China, and was looking for a Chinese office last fall. It already sells ads to Chinese advertisers trying to reach users outside the country.
Bringing Oculus hardware to China is certainly not the same as bringing Facebook itself into the country, but it could represent the start of a more extensive relationship.
Recode – All Go to Source
Author: Kurt Wagner
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