Facebook unveils new virtual reality headset

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is off to a slow start in his mission to bring virtual reality to the masses, so perhaps it’s appropriate his company’s next VR headset will be called Quest.

The headset from Facebook’s Oculus division will be a stand-alone device that won’t require a smartphone or a connection to a personal computer to create artificial worlds.

The Quest won’t be available until next spring, although Zuckerberg unveiled the new headset at an Oculus conference held Wednesday in San Jose, California.

Priced at $399, the Quest will cost twice as much as the less powerful, stand-alone Oculus Go released earlier this year. But it’s the same price as the Oculus Rift that tethers users to a PC.

Zuckerberg eventually hopes to have 1 billion people using virtual reality, but he acknowledged Wednesday that Facebook may not have even reached 1 percent of that goal more than four years after paying $2 billion to buy Oculus.

That implies fewer than 10 million people are using Oculus products and recent data from the research firm International Data Corp. shows the still-nascent VR market has been losing momentum.

Shipments of VR headsets dropped 34 percent from last year during the April-June period, according to IDC. But the Oculus Go and a copycat, budget-priced headset from China’s Xiaomi fared reasonably well, IDC said, with 212,000 devices shipped. That was even though they weren’t available for the entire second quarter.

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