Social networking giant Facebook has a lot of faith in virtual reality (VR) tech. The company proved as much last year when it purchased Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) creator Oculus VR for some $2 billion USD. CEO Mark Zukcerberg even envisions a future in which he is able to use VR to share his daughter’s first steps with friends and family as if they were really there. But what about augmented reality (AR)? Does the company also have an interest in this other side of HMDs? As it turns out, Facebook appears to be very interested in AR.
Jay Parikh, Facebook’s Vice President of Infrastructure Engineering said as much to Wall Street Journal this month. “As you take some of this technology and think about augmented reality—where you see reality around you and there’s overlaying information displayed on a lens, on top of the real world—you can’t do that with the big Oculus setup.
“We have to figure out how to do AR in a much more mobile experience—a lighter-weight contraption that you put on your face that you can take with you and that is more flexible,” he added.
When asked if an AR/VR all-in-one device was possible, Parikh replied: “I think that will be hard. There are hardware and software things that carry over between the two, but the use cases are vastly different.”
For now, Facebook’s efforts will be going into supporting the Oculus Rift, which launches in Q1 2016. It’s also showing support for Oculus VR’s mobile HMD, Gear VR, which is made in partnership with Samsung. Last week the company updated its new 360 degree videos to allow for streaming within the Gear VR itself, making it the first VR HMD to be compatible with the social network in some way.
VRFocus will continue to follow Facebook’s work in both VR and AR, reporting back with the latest updates on its progress.