My Oculus Connect 6 predictions: a glimpse of the XR of the future

The Oculus Connect 6 is approaching. Next week, on 25th and 26th, Oculus will hold its main yearly event, and as always, it will talk about the milestones reached by the company and then it will show future hardware and software.

But what can we expect from this important event? What will Oculus announce? Well, I love doing the predictions’ game, so let me tell you what I think we will hear from Oculus!

This is where the next chapter for AR and VR begins

“This is where the next chapter for AR and VR begins” is the only sure information that we have about the event. This sentence is written in the official Oculus Connect 6 website and it is the only official piece of info that we have. Here the key words are “next chapter” and “AR”.

OC6 AR VR
A screenshot of Oculus website. It is clearly visible that they will talk about AR and VR

Oculus considers the first chapter concluded with the Oculus Quest, the device that completes its first offering of VR devices: Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, and Oculus Quest. From now on, as Zuckerberg said, the company will talk about its second generation of VR devices.

Or better… of XR DEVICES. The word “AR” changes everything since Oculus must now shift also towards augmented reality. We all know that AR glasses (or hybrid AR/VR glasses) are the technology that will eventually replace smartphones, and Facebook of course wants to conquer that new platform. And to be the leader in some years, it has to start going public now, also to begin competing with Apple, that will probably announce its AR glasses next year.

Since there is the word AR in the mix, we actually don’t know what the second generation of Oculus devices will be: for sure it won’t be just Rift 2, Quest 2 and Go 2. And honestly, I’m not even sure that an AR glass by Facebook will have the Oculus branding

Starting from this assumption, let’s see my (completely unreliable) predictions.

No new VR hardware announcement

Oculus has just launched the Rift S and the Quest, and the devices are performing fairly well on the market. The Quest is even hard to find, because the request is too high. So, I would find strange that Oculus puts a new device on sale, especially if it is a device that can compete with these two ones. It would be a crazy move.

oculus rift s quest launched
This is the homepage of Oculus website (Image by Oculus)

Even announcing a new VR device with a close release date (like next F8) would be stupid, since because of the Osborne effect, people would stop buying current ones. Would you still buy the Oculus Quest if you knew that Oculus is going to release a Quest 2 in some months? Personally, not.

I have personally heard rumors of an improved version of Quest, but I don’t think Oculus will release it soon.

So, I expect no actual hardware announcements from this event.

… but I have some doubt about AR hardware

There’s only one exception to the above rule and it is augmented reality. We all know that Facebook is working a lot on augmented reality, and rumors already talk about AR glasses that looks like normal sunglasses inside Facebook R&D department.

In normal conditions, I would say that Facebook will still keep them secret until the price can be low enough and the usability high enough. But Facebook has a big problem and that big problem is called Apple.

augmented reality predictions 2019
Concept of a future AR glass by Apple (Image by iDropNews)

In Cupertino, most probably there’s already a working prototype of AR glasses (dubbed Garta) that is already compatible with iOS 13.1. And according to journalist Robert Scoble, it will be probably announced in 2020 and released in 2021. And we all know that when Apple will release its AR glasses there will be a tsunami in all the XR ecosystem, because Apple is so damn good with marketing. “Apple has invented the glasses of the future” is probably what journals and magazines will say the day of launch, and all the various HoloLens, Magic Leap, etc… will be forgotten by mainstream media.

Facebook can play the match against Apple in two ways:

  1. Wait for Apple to release its glasses and create hype for AR, then release its own Android-compatible glasses. This would be a smart move because Facebook would let Apple create awareness and hype for AR and then it would enter in a market that is already ready to buy its products. If it is the case, Fb will relase its AR glasses in 2021;
  2. Beat Apple on time and try to get the headlines of the magazines itself. This would be smart as well, because Facebook could shape the market and conquer it before Apple even announces its device, so without having to compete with Apple offerings. If it is the case, the AR glasses are going to be announced now at OC6 and put on sale during the next F8, maybe together with a service to link them to Instagram to automatically publish stories.

If we are in case 2, well, expect some huge suprises from this event.

A glimpse on 2nd generation of XR devices

Even if we won’t see any release of XR devices, I bet we will see the prototypes of what will be the future generation of XR hardware that Facebook is going to offer. If you remember well, Oculus has showcased the Quest years before its release, as a crappy prototype made with a hacked Rift, with its pieces kept together by duct tape. And now, we have the super-polished Quest. I expect something similar for OC6: duct-tape prototypes of VR and AR devices, that will show us what will be the second generation of XR headsets, with a probable release date of the first device in late 2020 or 2021.

This is how the Santa Cruz has been teased: it was a hacked CV1

What will these devices be? Unluckily I don’t know. Anyway, I think that we have to think about what is the goal of this 2nd generation of XR devices. The goal of the first one was arriving to the first truly consumer-oriented VR headset, the Oculus Quest. It has been a long journey, that started from PC, passed by some mediocre mobile headset, to then arrive to a very valid mobile device.

IMHO the goal of this second generation is arriving in the next 2-3 years to a true consumer-oriented AR device. I mean something affordable, light, standalone, and with decent imagery (not a tiny window). To arrive there, there may be the need to test different technologies and form factors, that will shape the devices that we will see in the next years. At the same time, I think that Oculus won’t abandon completely the PC VR sector in this generation, but it will use it as a testbed for technologies that will be implemented in other devices. So, this may be what Oculus will make people try:

  • Rift 2: eye tracking, varifocal display, 140° FOV. I think that Oculus will make journalists try the Half Dome prototype, that in the meantime will have probably changed name. It will also feature new controllers. It will still be buggy, but people will finally see what second generation of VR could be;
  • MR Quest: Oculus may also showcase how passthrough augmented reality may be. I’m talking about a standalone device similar to Quest, but NOT Quest, that also features front RGB cameras to perform both AR and VR. This would also serve to fight Samsung, that is working on an AR/VR standalone headset;
  • Smartphone-connected AR/MR glasses: thanks to the new Qualcomm Snapdragon reference design, is quite easy to design light AR headsets that connect to your phone, like nReal. I think these glasses can be the “GearVR of AR”, a way to introduce people to AR, and that will be dismissed as soon as there is something better. They can have notifications from the phone, possibility of shooting photos and record videos and maybe simple spatial AR functionalities. If Facebook is going to release an AR headset, it will be of this kind;
  • Standalone AR glasses: Oculus may showcase the future, with bulky AR glasses that in the next years will become little.
nreal ar glasses review
Among the AR headsets that I tried, the nReal are the coolest and lightest ones

IMHO this is the second generation of XR devices by Oculus: a Rift 2 for prosumers, plus some hybrid MR devices to prepare the market for the future final consumer-oriented standalone 5G AR glass that is the purpose of this generation.

No Oculus Go 2

As you see, there is no place for Oculus Go in my list. In my opinion, it is going to die, also considering the rumor of Xiaomi having completely abandoned the project for the future. I think it has still some uses now, but with the enormous success of the Quest, I see no reasons for the Go to have a second generation.

Software and games

With probably no hardware reveal on the horizon, this event may be all about software.

Finally, Oculus will let people try the AAA war game that is being developed by Respawn Entertainment, the company behind the ultra-popular game Apex Legends. I imagine this game being a Rift S game only, and being of incredibly high quality, that may be beaten only by the upcoming flagship game by Valve. 2 years have passed since when this title has been announced, so I think that we will see an experience that will redefine gaming in VR.

We will have finally an official release date for the open-world game Stormland. And maybe also for Lone Echo 2 and Asgard’s Wrath.

Of course, Oculus will also announce new games. An easy call is the Splinter Cell or Assassin’s Creed game that it is building together with Ubisoft. We all already know that it is happening, so it has no sense continuing keeping the secret.

We also hope to hear more about Minecraft for Quest, The Climb for Quest and the 360 mode for Beat Saber.

I also envision some surprises. Since there will be a great focus on software, I expect some announcements we wouldn’t expect about new exciting VR content.

Accessories for Quest and Rift S

The fact that no hardware will be shipped opens also the door for new accessories available for Quest and Rift S. Oculus may announce for instance headphones to attach to the Rift S, to have a far better audio experience than the one that is now possible on the PC VR headset. It is possible that they will be similar to the Mantis Headphones, or even that Oculus has copied the solution presented by Valve in the Index.

I also see Oculus finally announcing a wireless accessory for the Rift S. I think the time has come… it is not possible that HTC is the only company offering something like that, and that is really loved by its customers.

virtual reality vr htc vive wireless adapter test
Testing the Vive Pro with the Vive Wireless Adapter. It was very comfortable…

Personally, I don’t see Oculus announcing PC streaming to Quest, unless it is through an expensive dedicated router. In this, I disagree with many of my colleagues, that tease that this is coming.

I know that Carmack has told that they experimented with Wi-fi streaming to Quest and that it is a feature requested by many of us of the communities, but it would have some huge problems:

  • Streaming quality. Every solution for Wi-fi streaming that I tried creates lags and artifacts and Oculus don’t want that. Furthermore, they require a very high-quality Wi-fi connection, something that not all users have;
  • Rift S cannibalization. If the Quest can connect wirelessly to the PC, why should anyone still buy the Rift S? The Quest could work both as a standalone headset and a PC VR headset, completely wireless, with even better specs (screen resolution, OLED, IPD adjustment, etc…) and would cost the same. No one would buy the Rift S anymore. It would be a pretty stupid move;
  • Cross-platform games cannibalization. What would be the sense of no-cross-buy games? I mean, if I have Creed on the PC, there would be no need for me to buy it on the Quest, so there would be less sales on Quest applications;
  • Goodbye content curation. If now the Quest can be seen as the high-quality product with high-quality content, if you can use it to play crappy PC games, it may lose a bit of reputation.
oculus quest development
Me having fun with the Oculus Quest. It is really a great device

For these reasons, I don’t see it coming. Unless it is made with a dedicated hardware (e.g. a super WiGig router) that can guarantee quality. And this hardware should be expensive, so that buying a Rift S would be cheaper than buying Quest + PC-connection-hardware.

You may reply to these thoughts saying that actually HTC already offers the PC streaming feature on the Vive Focus Plus, but you have to remember that HTC is a completely different company. First of all, it is focused on engineering innovation and not in offering cheap and polished consumer products. Then it has to face the problem of the low number of content on Viveport M, a problem that Oculus doesn’t have on Quest.

MR & hand tracking?

I see Oculus showcasing native hand tracking on PC, but still not releasing it. I also imagine it showcasing new mixed reality demos for Quest and Rift S, to show its new focus on AR and MR.

Personally, I don’t see full-hand-tracking and MR coming to Quest. Hand-tracking is too computational heavy, and in fact HTC itself doesn’t offer it on the Focus Plus (it only offers gesture tracking).

Mixed reality on a standalone is cool, but I think that the Quest is not ready. I am working on a mixed reality fitness game for the Vive Focus Plus (whose hardware is almost identical to the one of the Quest) called HitMotion: Reloaded that works in passthrough AR, so I know what I am talking about. Doing passthrough AR is computationally heavy, and the cameras may not have adequate framerate and resolution to offer the kind of polish that Oculus wants.

A little shot of the demo version of HitMotion

Furthermore, the positions of the cameras on the Quest is not ideal for AR (they are not close to the position of the eyes of the user), and this is clearly shown by the wrong scale on the passthrough vision of the Quest. I think that Oculus may show some MR demos on the Rift S, that have cameras in a better position and the computational power of PC… or also some artistic mixed reality demos on Quest (e.g. special visions like Predator vision), but I don’t expect full AR on it. (I also hope it doesn’t happen so our game will be the first one in mixed reality on a standalone headset!!! 😀 😀 :D)

I think that if they want to surprise us this year, they may showcase a full optical solution for full body tracking in VR.

A new operating system?

At OC5, Boz showed a video teasing a mixed reality environment for Oculus systems. A working environment in AR/VR/MR, where you can launch Oculus apps, go full VR or full AR. I think that at OC6 we will hear more about this, and maybe people will be able to test a very early prototype of it on the Rift S or the new AR/MR prototype by Oculus. This could be the prototype of the new Facebook operating system, for which the new Oculus Home 2.0 would be the foundation.

Oculus Quest Mixed Reality
Some prototype of Mixed Reality environment built over Oculus Quest showcased at OC5: notice the outlines of the real world, with super-imposition of virtual elements (Image by Facebook)
A new metaverse

A rumor I heard from various sources talks about Facebook accepting the failure of the Facebook Spaces environment and working on creating a new social virtual world, codenamed Metaverse. I think that OC6 or the next F8 could be the right moment to talk about it, also to finally offer a common social experience among all Oculus devices (and also Portal ones), something that doesn’t exist at the moment. It could be the foundation of how Facebook thinks defying distance. It could encompass both PC, AR and VR users as the startup Spatial already does.

I also hope to hear about Oculus Rooms and Venues ported to all Oculus devices.

And I’m quite sure that we will have a new upgrade on the avatars offered by Oculus, that will exploit all the studies about realistic avatars that Facebook has performed in this labs (but no release of hyper-realistic avatars… it is too early!).

Business offering: LBVR Multiplayer SDK

Oculus for business is not doing bad, but I think people are not very much aware about it. From my experience as a consultant, I have noticed that many companies still think that the Quest for them costs $399, while actually the enterprise version of the Quest costs $999. This shows how much misinformation there is about enterprise programs of Oculus. So, I think that Oculus will work more on this and will offer new features for Oculus for Business and will also announce new partnerships.

One of the features will probably be a complete solution to offer multiplayer arena-scale experiences in LBVR arcades using Oculus Quest. Do you remember the Dead and Buried demo from last year?

One of the most amazing things of the Oculus Connect 5

Well, according to Mixed.DE, Oculus is working on creating an SDK to let people create similar solutions… and John Carmack told during the Joe Rogan podcast that they are working in eventually commercializing it. So, I think that we will hear more about it, and that would be an amazing news for everyone wanting to create low-cost arcade rooms using Oculus Quest.

Abrash and Carmack

We will have the usual amazing predictions by Michael Abrash and the unscripted talk by John Carmack. And I will just understand like 60% of what they will say. Thanks God, there will be people on reddit that will translate what they will say in more understandable words.

I won’t be there

Oculus has in the end sent me an invite for the Connect 6, but since I got it too late and I’m in the middle of the launch of our game Hitmotion:Reloaded, I won’t be able to attend it. I’m very sad about it, but I will anyway follow it via its livestream and comment it with you on social media channels!

My invitation for the Oculus Connect 6. I would have really loved to be there!

These are mine predictions for OC6. This year we have really few info about what Oculus is working on, so it is really hard to forecast what will happen. If even 50% of what I have written is correct, I would be satisfied of my predictions!

And you? What are your predictions on the Oculus Connect? Let me know them in the comments or answering me on my social media channels!

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(Header image by Oculus)


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Skarredghost

AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I've no idea what I'm doing. I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I'm not giving up: I've started an AR/VR agency called New Technology Walkers with which help you in realizing your XR dreams with our consultancies (Contact us if you need a project done!)