Andrew Bosworth: Oculus Quest is Close to an ‘iPhone Moment’
The Oculus Quest headset is now one year old and according to Facebook, the headset has so far been a huge success. Facebook is yet to reveal the number of Quest headsets sold so far although it recently stated that VR users have so far spent $100 million on the Quest apps since the platform’s market launch in May last year.
From late last year, the Oculus Quest headsets have almost been perpetually sold out and backordered. The shortages have been caused by the increased demand along with the interruptions in the production schedules occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic. The correlation between the two causes cannot be quantified yet.
In a recent interview with Protocol, Facebook’s XR and hardware chief Andrew Bosworth stated that the Christmas season demand for Quest headsets proved to be unexpectedly high.
However, just as Facebook was about solve its supply and delivery challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The pandemic has affected production schedules and also made it impossible to ship the headsets to certain countries. Bosworth stated that Facebook is finally producing lots of devices and the demand has continued to rise even during the pandemic.
During the quarantine, the demand for fitness and social VR apps has increased dramatically as people grapple with greater social isolation and longer periods of inactivity.
Facebook’s mention of its impressive store sales over the past year is also a signal to developers that it is still worth investing in virtual reality, particularly in the Facebook ecosystem. Facebook has said that more than 10 Quest apps have so far recorded over $2 million worth of sales since the launch of the Quest platform in May last year. At least 10 other Quest apps have crossed the $1 million milestone. In this regard, Facebook’s software sales are going head-to-head with its hardware sales unlike other VR headsets such as Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR which saw impressive hardware sales but without corresponding robust software sales.
Virtual reality usage has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Majority of these sales have been in the fitness and social apps which makes sense since people are currently missing their normal lives.
Virtual Reality Has Grown Beyond Gaming Use-Cases
Virtual reality more readily found uses in the gaming domain in its early years. However, with the popularity of fitness and social apps, VR is growing beyond the narrow gaming niche, something that Facebook had not expected. This might also be one of the reasons which inspired Facebook to acquire Beat Games, the studio behind Beat Saber.
According to Bosworth, the Oculus Quest headset is now about to hit the “iPhone moment”. The difference this time is that the Quest headset is an “immensely powerful tool” that can leverage other more established computer technologies.
Virtual reality represents a quantum leap in the interface as well as a correspondingly steep learning curve for end users as opposed to smartphones. The main bottleneck is that the VR platform is still lacking a good software ecosystem. As a result, it is yet to prove broader usefulness beyond the narrow gaming applications.
During the Protocol interview, Bosworth also stated that there are good reasons to merge the company’s Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift S and the Oculus Go product lines in the future. It is rumored that a much-improved Quest version could be hitting the market this year and might go a long way in converging these platforms.
According to gaming veteran Mike Verdu, the current segmentation (between mobile VR and PC VR) has been more a result of technical evolution rather than a deliberate decision by VR companies to create these market segments. The evolution is ongoing with the Oculus Quest platform serving as a new expression of what virtual reality will become.