Oculus today announced that it’s rolling out a small but welcomed change to Quest’s voice commands feature: the ability to activate it with a wake phrase—”Hey Facebook.”
Quest got voice commands last year, allowing users to double-tap the Oculus button on their controller to then say phrases for quick and useful navigation, like launching apps, browsing the store, or taking a screenshot. When using the headset with controllerless hand-tracking, however, the only way to activate voice commands was to open the Quest menu, navigate to settings, and click the voice commands button—somewhat defeating the purpose of quickly navigating the headset with your voice.
Today Oculus announced it’s adding a wake phrase to Quest’s voice commands, making it easy to get the headset to listen whether you are using controllers or hand-tracking. But the company settled on a seemingly odd choice: “Hey Facebook.”
Obviously Facebook is Oculus’ parent company, but it seems a little strange to refer to the headset by the name of the social media company, especially considering its poor reputation on privacy and widely criticized move to require Facebook accounts to use Oculus headsets after promising it wouldn’t. “Hey Oculus” or “Hey Quest” seems much more intuitive, and comes with less baggage.
The move happened alongside the company also adding “Hey Facebook” as a wake phrase for its Portal smart displays, which helps explain the company’s thinking.
Facebook likely wants consistency between voice commands on any of its voice-activated devices to create a more cohesive perception of Facebook’s wider business activities which have grown well beyond a mere social media network media. The company may also be readying its own competitor to the likes of Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortona (currently Quest voice commands are limited to navigation and fall short of ‘digital assistant’).
Practically speaking, “Hey Oculus” or “Hey Quest” is not only more intuitive, but may also be more practical… if a user has both a Portal and an a Quest headset, how will they avoid activating Portal with “Hey Facebook” while trying to talk to Quest? This seems like it would be problematic, at least until the devices have awareness of one another.
Oculus says the “Hey Facebook” wake phrase is rolling out gradually to Quest 2 headsets as an experimental feature; in due time the company plans to deploy it to the original Quest as well, and eventually move it from an experimental feature to a default option. The company maintains that the wake phrase will be an opt-in feature, and that Quest doesn’t listen for “Hey Facebook” when it’s asleep or powered off.