Oculus plans to go mass market with $200 VR headset: report

oculus

The company that singlehandedly revived the virtual reality market from gimmicky nonsense to a paradigm shift in all types of content, is planning to launch a device that could put all the pale imitators into a corner.

According to a report from Bloomberg, the Gear VR and Oculus Rift manufacturer has plans to launch a $200 standalone headset some time in 2018.

It would be the company's first product that would truly be a mass-market, impulse-buy product. Its computer-connected Oculus Rift headset costs $400 and requires a complex setup and very powerful CPU to run smoothly. Its much more modest $130 Gear VR is much more attractive to the casual consumer, but it's only compatible with flagship Samsung smartphones which themselves cost several hundreds of dollars.

The new device, which according to Bloomberg goes by the code name "Pacific," will not require any connections to any other device at all, yet will still carry the type of technology that has made Oculus a leader in the emerging VR market.

In a necessary evil of the rise of virtual reality, the market has become fairly fragmented with several startups aiming to offer affordable self-contained mobile headsets. And on the content side of things, the rise of 360-degree cameras has flooded the space with user-generated virtual reality videos.

It's a delicate balance to strike, especially for those -- like Oculus -- who believe the path forward for VR is to adopt bleeding-edge and professionally crafted experiences before everything is muddled by subpar content that reinforces the "it's just a novelty" mentality.

The good news for Oculus is that there is substantially less competition on the high end, especially for mobile. That has allowed the company to keep a fairly solid grasp on that field of professional content.

In other words, Oculus is still able to hold onto the mantle of "the" virtual reality device (with some competition on the desktop side from the HTC Vive), and so an affordable, hassle-free device like the one that is being speculated about today would be a tremendous boost to the company's vision.

The "Pacific" will reportedly look more like a smaller version of the Oculus Rift even though it will have the portable form factor akin to the Gear VR. One thing it will be missing over the Rift, however, is the device's famous "positional tracking," which has more advanced tracking of all your body's movements, such as up-and-down in addition to just side-to-side. The Gear VR also does not have this technology. Key developers will be given more undisclosed information with the encouragement to work on launch-day content for the Pacific within the next three months, according to the report.

Update 5:14 PM ET:
An Oculus spokesperson has provided Betanews with the following statement:
"We don't have a product to unveil at this time, however we can confirm that we're making several significant technology investments in the standalone VR category. This is in addition to our commitment to high-end VR products like Oculus Rift and mobile phone products like Gear VR"

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