TECH REPORT: Facebook’s virtual reality headset is mindblowing

27 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

At Facebook, a sharpening focus on virtual reality.

At today’s f8 developer conference in San Francisco, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer unveiled the social network’s first solar-powered drone (pictured), which can beam Internet access down to people from the sky.

Facebook sees it as a radical and important technology that in the not-too-distant future could provide new ways to help people connect and transport them to places that are out of reach or don’t even exist. Providing those experiences is among Facebook’s ambitious long-term goals, along with providing Internet access through aerial drones and deepening its artificial intelligence technology to better understand what people want.

Facebook has already completed its first test flight with the new aircraft in the U.K. “The idea is to loiter across an area at a high altitude, for months at a time, and beam down Internet access,” according to Schroepfer, who promised more information about the aircraft later this year. “Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10 percent of the world’s population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. Take the birthday scenario: Using a future headset from Facebook’s Oculus VR division, it might be possible for a person to watch a three-dimensional video of the event, move around the room, and with specialized sensors, touch his friend.

A year ago, Facebook acquired the five-person team at U.K.-based Ascenta, which worked on early versions of Zephyr, the longest-flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft. The city and its skyscraper are part of an Oculus virtual reality demo that Facebook is sharing with conference attendees this week at Fort Mason Center on San Francisco Bay.

When my colleague Jessi Hempel entered the same virtual world yesterday morning, she stepped off the skyscraper, knowing that she was really standing in a tiny room at the back of an old maritime warehouse. It’s the core of our mission,” whether those are real or virtual, said Mike Schroepfer, chief technology officer at the company, during a keynote talk at the conference.

At the event, attendees could strap on the Samsung Gear VR, made in partnership with Oculus, and see a real-time, 360-degree view of Facebook’s campus in nearby Menlo Park. You’ll be able to see your own body when you look down and port the real world into VR, so you can, for instance, pick up your coffee cup or use your computer and mouse without taking off your headset. Virtual Boy, the gaming console released by Nintendo in the mid-nineties, sought to provide a more immersive experience than other consoles of the time, transporting users into the game with a screen that covered the gamer’s entire field of vision. Abrash acknowledged that developing VR tech is hard, and requires a long-term commitment, but said Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus will help propel the technology.

This is the gap Mark Zuckerberg must bridge in combining Facebook with virtual reality, now that his company owns the startup that built the Oculus headset. In time, virtual reality could expand the experience of the Facebook timeline, with new ways for people to interact with each other, said Michael Abrash, chief scientist at Oculus, during a talk on Thursday at F8. The implication is that we’ll eventually spend our days watching not just good old-fashioned internet videos, but completely “immersive” videos streamed through something like the Oculus. Trying out Crescent Bay at F8, I found myself reaching out with my hands, wanting to grab things like a dragon’s tail or some other unreal creature.

But he hesitates when asked how much time he’s likely to spend with something like this on his head. “I don’t know,” he says. “It’s a good question.” Another attendee, Hulker Heschberger, points out that 3-D movies—the theater variety—have never really succeeded because of the headwear problem. “It’s artificial,” he says. Competitors include Sony, with Project Morpheus, Microsoft, with HoloLens; and perhaps even Google, which is said to be developing a virtual reality version of Android. Down the road, we’ll have a completely immersive way of communicating with people across the globe, but maybe something simpler is the better option—or at least the typical option. “Zuckerberg has said that VR is the most social thing,” Blau explains. “But in fact, it’s not.” Today, Facebook is about so easily sharing what you have with others. It will shrink down to something tiny, something that will fit on a pair of ordinary glasses that don’t completely separate us from this world, something like, well, Google Glass.

Here you can write a commentary on the recording "TECH REPORT: Facebook’s virtual reality headset is mindblowing".

* Required fields
All the reviews are moderated.
Twitter-news
Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

dima911@gmail.com

ICQ: 423360519

About this site