Facebook refines its standalone VR headset with cheaper Oculus Quest 2

Facebook announced a new virtual-reality headset that is smaller and cheaper than its predecessor on Wednesday — the company’s latest push in a years-long effort to popularize the technology.

Oculus Quest 2, which due to the pandemic was unveiled via livestream at the company’s online Facebook Connect conference, will be released on October 13. The price for the self-contained device will start at $299, which is $100 cheaper than the starting price of the original Quest headset, which came out in 2019. Facebook said Quest 2 includes a higher-resolution display than its previous headsets, which should make it easier to use for reading text, watching videos, or playing detail-oriented games in VR. It is also slightly lighter than the original Quest headset, at 503 grams, or 1.1 pounds, and can be tethered to a PC so that users can access more games and experiences.

Facebook has worked to turn VR into a mass-market technology since buying headset maker Oculus in 2014 for $3 billion. Since then, it has steadily released a handful of headsets that evolved from clunky devices that required external sensors and a powerful PC, to increasingly light, powerful, self-contained gadgets that can easily be slipped onto your head or stowed in a backpack. In addition to headsets, Facebook has spent years refining controllers for VR and pushing content makers to create games and other experiences for it.

Yet while Quest 2 is relatively inexpensive compared to many other VR headsets, and powerful enough to handle complicated VR games, Facebook may need to wait until next year for consumers to shell out for the device. The pandemic is causing many people to be socially isolated, but shipments of VR headsets are expected to slip this year due to covid-related manufacturing and logistics issues and people waiting for new versions of popular headsets, according to data from IDC: The tech market researcher predicts 3.1 million consumer headsets will ship in 2020, down from nearly 4.2 million in 2019. IDC expects shipments will jump up to 4.3 million in 2021. And though Facebook claims the Quest headset is popular — a spokeswoman said it has been selling as fast as the company can make it, since last holiday season — it won’t share sales numbers.

Beyond tweaks to the headset, Facebook said it updated the handheld Touch controllers that come with Quest 2 to make them easier to use and give users more of a sense that their hands are really there with them in virtual games and experiences.

Battery life should last about two to three hours, the company said.