While Oculus holds their own annual developer conference (coming later this year), parent company Facebook has in years past had plenty of exciting news to share at their own F8 developer conference. With F8 just around the corner on May 1st & 2nd, we take a look at what might be revealed.
Buzz is building for F8 2018, especially considering that Facebook’s VP of AR/VR, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, teased back in late February that the conference would see the “biggest AR/VR news from Facebook to date.” So let’s break down what we’re expecting to see.
By this point expectations are high that F8 is where Facebook will launch Oculus Go, the company’s $200 standalone VR headset that was announced last year and initially stated to launch in “early 2018.” In addition to the ‘early’ part of the year rapidly fading, multiple sources have purportedly confirmed that the launch would come at F8. On top of that the headset has previously been spotted in the hands of developers, and Oculus has been increasingly sharing developer details on the headset, including this recently released Oculus Go development quick-start guide to help developers prepare their VR content for the headset.
On the opening day of F8, Oculus’ Head of Developer Ecosystem, Kasey Galang, is presenting a session titled ‘The Year Ahead in VR’. There we expect Galang to evangelize the Oculus Go headset, and the potential new opportunities it brings, to Oculus and Facebook developers.
Facebook Spaces and Oculus Venues
Facebook Spaces is the company’s first Rift application under the Facebook brand, and so far the only VR application from the company that also supports the Vive. Facebook Spaces was initially launched last year at F8 2017, and just recently saw an avatar overhaul.
At F8 this year, we’re expecting to hear what the Spaces team has been up to and what’s next on their roadmap, potentially including an announcement of support for Oculus Go and Gear VR, and further details about how third-party developers will be able to build social mini-applications that live inside of Facebook Spaces.
On May 2nd, Facebook Social VR Product Manager Mike Booth will give a presentation titled “Lessons from the Frontier of Social VR,” where its promises that we’ll get a “preview [of] what’s next and explore best practices for building inclusive and immersive social experiences.”
Then there’s the matter of Oculus Venues, which was briefly announced at Oculus Connect in 2017, though there’s been hardly any mention of it since. Oculus Venues is said to be a social application allowing up to 1,000 people to simultaneously watch sports, concerts, and other large-scale live events in VR. It’s uncertain that we’ll hear anything about Oculus Venues at F8, but if we do we’d expect that it might be tied into Facebook Spaces in some way, and is likely to support Rift, Oculus Go, and Gear VR.
Facebook’s Volumetric Cameras
Last year a F8 2017, Facebook revealed two new ‘Surround360’ camera reference designs for volumetric video capture, promising to make VR video capture more immersive by capturing depth information as well as color, thus enabling some amount of 6DOF movement within the captured video.
In a session on May 1st, Facebook’s Director of Engineering, Brian Cabral, will be presenting a session titled ‘The Future of Immersive Video Capture’, where we expect to hear the latest about the Surround360 cameras, which the session promises will “help move best in class VR film and entertainment content forward.”
Facebook isn’t planning on selling the Surround360 cameras themselves, but instead presented them as reference designs which could be produced by partner companies. The company said last year that we should expect to see the cameras cropping up by the end of 2017, but we’ve seen little in the way of developments since the initial announcement.
Facebook is ever-expanding its phone-based AR technology and encouraging developers to explore the potential therein, like the AR-enabled movie posters we saw earlier this month. And while it isn’t immersive, much of what’s being learned and developed for Facebook’s phone-based AR platform is certain to inform the company’s future immersive AR technologies.
On that note, on May 2nd will see two AR panels, the first of which, “Creating Flagship AR Experiences,” will be presented by Facebook’s Matt Hanson and explore the process of building AR experiences. In another session on the same day, a panel of partners from Nike, Warner Bros, and more will talk about using Facebook’s AR platform to drive business and marketing objectives.
What Not to Expect
There’s plenty more up the collective sleeve of Facebook and Oculus that everyone is hoping to hear more about, but here’s a few things we aren’t expecting to learn much more about at F8:
If Oculus Go is the company’s low-end, value-focused standalone VR headset, Santa Cruz is the company’s high-end standalone VR headset. Initially revealed all the way back in 2016, we’ve seen Santa Cruz now at a few points in development despite Oculus keeping it mostly behind closed doors.
We doubt we’ll hear much about Santa Cruz at F8 because A) it could steal the spotlight from an Oculus Go launch and B) it seems to be in an earlier stage of development than the Go, both from a product standpoint (it still lacks and official name) and a developer standpoint (details on building for the headset are still slim compared to Go).
Rift Game Announcements
In line with Oculus recently affirming its commitment to the Rift (PC) side of VR, the company has been teasing investments in AAA content for the platform. And while Rift owners are surely excited to hear more about upcoming content like MARVEL Powers United VR, Echo Combat, and the mysterious VR game in the works by Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment, we doubt there’s much on the menu for F8. With E3 coming up quickly in June, and Oculus Connect likely later this year, there’s more sensible places for big Rift game announcements.
Oculus has been very careful not to talk specifics about what’s next for the Rift hardware, but has in the past said that whatever will supersede the headset won’t likely arrive until 2019. Given that a Rift 2 has yet to even be announced, F8 doesn’t feel like the appropriate place for the company to do so. Rather, we’d expect such an announcement to come at an Oculus Connect, or even a standalone announcement event.
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So that’s the rundown of what we’re expecting (and not expecting) from Facebook F8 on May 1st and 2nd, but we’re also expecting the unexpected. As usual, we’ll be on the ground at F8—keep your eyes on Road to VR for the most important news from the event.