While the virtual reality (VR) scene has been a bit on the quiet side lately, some noteworthy news has emerged that may well address one of VR's biggest issues, and may mean major gains for Facebook (News - Alert), and, by extension, Oculus itself. News of a new wireless prototype, known as the Santa Cruz, has emerged and suggests that VR development isn't through yet.
Briefly shown in a video at the Oculus Connect event, Santa Cruz is said to boast one of the biggest advances in VR around: inside-out tracking. Inside-out tracking is a simple notion but highly complex to execute; it essentially means VR that can track from within the device itself. That means no need for towers or cameras to move a user through that digital space, but rather, the VR unit itself can handle all that monitoring.
Oculus is quick to point out that Santa Cruz is still a prototype, but what it's done so far represents a huge jump forward in VR technology. That fact isn't lost on Oculus, who regards it as the next major step from Rift and Gear VR. As noted by CEO Brendan Iribe, “...standalone is a big new product category....”
Big indeed; Facebook is set to put a combined total of half a billion dollars behind VR development, with $250 million already in and another $250 million set to follow as “future investments.” There are plenty of umbrellas on that field to add investment to; $50 million will reportedly go to mobile VR content, $10 million will go to educational programs and a similar $10 million will go to programs that promote diversity. Ten percent of the apps in the Oculus Store are already focused on education, reports note.
With VR set to generate as much as $50 billion in annual revenue by 2020, that could be an impressive new revenue stream, and Facebook could well be at the front of that. Taking home anything over 1 percent of that revenue in 2020 would mean clear profit over what's currently been invested and what will be directly.
Trying to get VR that doesn't depend on towers could be a very big part of VR to come; controlling movement within VR has proven difficult so far. Where towers weren't used, cumbersome backpack PCs sometimes were, and that didn't exactly make the situation better. With a system like Santa Cruz, Facebook and Oculus might be able to make the most immersive VR experiences yet. Immersive VR is job one for anyone who wants to dominate VR; presenting a great image is one thing, but being able to control it and feel like you're in control of it is another altogether.
Facebook and Oculus are clearly positioning themselves to be top of the VR heap. With impressive previous developments and the promise of more to come, the duo may have an excellent claim on that title with Santa Cruz.