Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s VP of consumer hardware, said in an interview with Protocol that usage for the Oculus Quest VR headset was “up across the board,” with fitness and social applications accounting for the biggest increase. Bosworth said his team was “very excited about the fact that some of the use cases that aren’t strictly gaming are taking off.”
The pandemic presents a unique opportunity for VR to break into the mainstream, as homebound consumers look to substitute what would normally be in-person activities with equivalents in the virtual world. Consequently, companies in the VR market such as Oculus — similar to those in the videoconferencing and remote learning markets — are looking for ways to sustain usage upticks beyond the pandemic.
The upcoming launch of hand tracking for Quest headsets could help Oculus sustain usage post-pandemic, as the new capability helps deliver a more immersive VR experience. Oculus announced that it will release a software update next week that will enable hand tracking for the Quest VR headsets.
Quest headsets launched with sensors that could support hand tracking, but the feature has been in the development stage since 2019. Hand tracking translates a user’s hand movements into the virtual world, facilitating a more immersive VR experience by allowing users to manipulate the environment without needing unwieldy handheld controllers. This could help retain more casual users in fitness and social domains after the pandemic subsides, even when they have the option to return to their typical routines.
Right now, the biggest barrier to this strategy is the lack of supported content — four “immersive experiences” (a blend between a video game and a movie, in VR) will support hand tracking on the Quest at the feature’s launch. Hardcore gamers will likely be inclined to stick with the handheld controllers, however, as they allow for more precise input through buttons and joysticks.
Even with the potential for hand tracking to sustain Quest’s user base post-pandemic, Oculus must still address persistent adoption barriers to expand its user base. Here are two of the biggest challenges for Oculus to grow adoption during the pandemic:
Supply chain issues have kept Oculus headsets in short supply. On Facebook’s Q1 2020 earnings call at the end of April, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Quest had surpassed expectations, adding that he wished they could produce headsets faster. Quests had been in limited supply for several months, following a holiday season in which 90% of those who purchased Quest VR headsets were new to the Oculus ecosystem. This supply shortage limits Facebook’s ability to capitalize on the burgeoning demand for VR in the pandemic.
Consumers are becoming increasingly hesitant to spend on nonnecessity items. Nearly half (49.5%) of US consumers say they are spending less on nonnecessities per week during the pandemic,
Source:: Business Insider