Carmack Hints At 'Controller-Free' SKU For Oculus Headsets

Facebook may be on a “multi-year path to phasing away” reliance on Oculus Touch controllers and turning them into a “separable feature”, Consulting Oculus CTO John Carmack suggested in recent comments.

Carmack and Facebook’s head of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth recently participated in a Twitter Spaces audio chat where the duo offered some of the most insightful comments into Facebook’s long-term strategy for VR. One part of the discussion revealed a Quest Pro won’t ship in 2021 while Quest 2 will be available to buyers for “a long while” and another segment pointed to how Facebook’s VR headsets are likely to keep adding new software features to make them more fully functional personal computers which could go after the market for Chromebooks and tablets.

We’ve got a recording of the talk and have been working to transcribe the conversation and edit out portions unrelated to VR. We talked about some of revelations in our show earlier this week, embedded below:

 

We’ll be posting the entire transcription and audio recording later this week, but for now we’ve been posting about some of the most notable segments.

Next Generation Oculus Hardware

One section of the talk saw Bosworth ask Carmack “What’s the next gen hardware feature that you’re most excited about for virtual reality?”

Carmack contends that, essentially, an improved version of everything in Quest 2 is what Facebook should be focusing on, while “alternate points of view” suggest new capabilities like depth cameras, eye tracking, face tracking and more should be a priority in future hardware. The conversation then covers how a Quest Pro could introduce some of those extra sensors in a higher end device, and the conversation turns to the value of tracked hand controllers — aka Oculus Touch — and how Carmack “completely missed the value of how much we get out of tracked controllers.”

“But it’s interesting how we are on this multi-year path to phasing that away as a core feature, where we want to be able to have a controller-free SKU in the future where we rely just on hand tracking for people that want to use keyboard and mouse and don’t want to pay for the controllers,” Carmack said. “So it is clearly more valuable for gaming than I initially expected. But I think that we will wind up in those cases where lots of the users will not wind up taking advantage of those in the future. And that’ll be nice to have that as a separable feature.”

Bosworth adds:

“The good news is we can do both. We can do both, you can have a set of techniques and development that are going to put something out there that has a more featureful presence. And this is going to go at maybe lower volume in terms of the number of units, but also advances the state of the art, inspires developers, I think unlocks a lot more use cases. And then as that technology matures, finds its way into these scale units that get out to so many people, which we want to continue to advance the drum beat on that.”

We’ve seen Facebook approve for release a number of hand-tracking focused applications in recent weeks, with Hand Physics Lab showcasing an exciting yet frustrating example of what’s possible with current generation hand tracking technology, a new version of its First Steps app that shows developers how to adapt their controller-focused input to hand tracking, and the forthcoming Unplugged: Air Guitar game bringing one of the first arcade games to Quest later this year that’s focused entirely around the open air input method.

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