At Oculus Connect 5, Mark Zuckerburg took the stage and unveiled the Oculus Quest. Mark believes that the future is tether-free, with no cables or powerful computers needed to run fun experiences. No external cameras, no computers – just standalone VR headsets and your room. 

Not everyone agrees with this future. Brendan Iribe, the former Oculus co-founder, left the company after clashing with Facebook and their view of the future. Publicly, Brendan wanted to take a break after several years of work. Privately, TechCrunch’s sources report that there was a dispute following the cancellation of the PC-based Rift 2. Facebook’s leadership may be moving away from headsets based on PCs, towards complete packages without tethered power.

This is no surprise. Facebook’s applications thrived on being frictionless experiences, with ease of access and usability. Facebook is designed to be as easy as possible to browse, search, and engage for this reason. In their quest to get a billion people in virtual reality, standalone sets are the future. 

oculus-quest

Will standalone VR headsets become mainstream in 2019?

The Oculus Quest and VIVE Focus, two standalone headsets in the market, will prepare themselves for 2019. The VIVE Focus is already in the market, with 6DoF controllers being made for the device. The Oculus Quest may likely launch during the Facebook Developer Conference, like the Oculus Go the year before. Yet how popular will they be? 

CCS Insight, an analyst company, provided their forecast for the future of VR, with mixed views. The company predicts that the number of VR headsets sold in 2018 has dropped, from 10 million in 2017 to 8 million in 2018. CCS Insight’s chief of research, Ben Wood, comments, “We continue to believe that content is the key to unlocking adoption of VR. Although some games companies and adult content creators have embraced VR technology, much more needs to happen to persuade consumers that VR devices are a must-have item”.


Standalone Future

29,000,000

Number of standalone headsets forecast to be sold by 2022

A Bold Claim

$82,000,000,000

Combined market value of VR and AR by 2022

Out With The Old

5,000,000

Number of tethered headsets expected to be sold in 2019

Source: CCS Insight forecast, 2018


This matches expectations across the industry. While tethered VR is stagnant, standalone VR headsets may invigorate the market as it is put in the hands of consumers. China has a head start with this, where the Vive Focus and Facebook’s collaboration with Xiaomi made a strong start in the country. 

Analyst claims should sometimes be taken with a pinch of salt. Yet with the ease of usability combined with a marketing push from multiple companies, the predictions for standalone VR headsets are likely sound

Which standalone VR headsets are the best?

The Oculus Quest will likely succeed in 2019. But how? This Christmas, Facebook gave a hint on their marketing plan for the upcoming Oculus Quest. 

During the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ellen gave approximately 800 headsets to her audience members, two per member. This was after watching a live basketball game via NextVR, plugging how the experience was immersive and entertaining. The audience cheered, and the VR community raised an eyebrow. 

The VR community is trapped in a bubble, reinforced with several layers of concrete. High barriers of entry, lack of understanding, and lack of killer apps traditionally held the industry back (though less so on all three factors today). Targeting the Ellen DeGeneres Show show is a bid for mainstream appeal, and it is a sensible approach.

Oculus Quest and the Future

The show is incredibly mainstream, and a great way to normalise new products being released during the holiday season. If Ellen used a headset, then VR is seen as more appealing. The audience is also less technically minded, and would not have seen the headset otherwise, tapping a new market for Oculus. So far, basic brand theory. 

What’s really interesting is giving away two VR headsets per person, not one. This is likely to demonstrate the social capabilities of the device, via multiplayer games and social apps. This is a great idea as it means a headset is likely donated to a family member, spreading the headsets further. More importantly, it also helps to show VR as a social experience, fighting back against the stigma of antisocial experiences. How can the experience be antisocial if you’re playing with friends? 

The Oculus Quest will likely have this kind of marketing in 2019, perhaps being pushed by apps which use Oculus Insight and making levels based on scanning the living room. We may also see another large-scale consumer activation in 2019.

standalone VR headsets

A bright future for standalone headsets

Alan Kay, a computer scientist, once said that “people who are really serious about software should make their own hardware”. Apple took these steps to heart, quoting Alan during the unveiling of the original iPhone in 2007. Facebook is taking the same steps too, knuckling down with VR over the next few years.

Will the future be bright for standalone VR headsets? Time will tell, though as a casual commentator on the industry, I am hopeful. 

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Tom Ffiske

Editor, Virtual Perceptions

Tom Ffiske specialises in writing about VR, AR, and MR across the immersive reality industry. Tom is based in London.