Oculus Nears Introduction of Consumer Virtual-Reality Headset

Facebook Inc.’s Oculus VR unit is putting the finishing touches to its virtual-reality headset for consumers, a new product group that it says could grow faster than any previous kind of hardware.

Oculus is working on how people playing games on the Rift device will interact with the virtual world they’re seeing through its 3-D goggles, Chief Executive Officer Brendan Iribe said in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the Dublin Web Summit today. The company’s research involves headsets as well as the external camera, he said.

“It really starts to meet that quality bar that we believe needs to be there for consumer VR,” Iribe said. “We’re very close.”

The $2 billion acquisition of Oculus, completed in July, helped Facebook expand its platforms beyond smartphones and tablets. The race for early control of the virtual-reality medium heated up further last month as Google Inc. led a $542 million funding round for Magic Leap Inc., a startup specializing in computing and graphics that simulate reality.

Oculus, which Facebook CEO Marc Zuckerberg said at the time of the acquisition may “change the way we work, play and communicate,” could be the first company to bring a virtual-reality device -- first experimented with decades ago -- to the mass market.

The product was built around a 3-D game engine and will be “very, very centered around gaming” in the early days, Iribe said, adding that interaction with other users will be an important part of its design.

‘New Industry’

“This is a new industry,” Iribe said. “If you look back at the beginning of the PC, it took a long time for Apple to scale to 50 or 100 million units. That took maybe a decade or two. Looking at VR I think it is going to move faster than any previous industry has just because the world is a lot more open and connected.”

Oculus has sold more than 100,000 developer kits, compared with more than 75,000 at the time the acquisition was announced, the CEO said. The first consumer version will probably sell “in the millions but not tens of millions” because companies like Samsung Electronics Co., Sony Corp., and Apple Inc. have yet to make major investments to bring to market applications to the virtual-reality medium.

“As these big titans come in and launch their own set of products in the VR space or partner with us to launch a product, it will definitely grow,” he said.

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