Facebook Connect 7: the 5 biggest announcements

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Facebook packed its Connect virtual and augmented reality conference into a single day this year, and it announced a lot of news during its two-hour keynote. That included a new VR headset, the retirement of an old headset, and a long list of upcoming games and apps.

As usual, Connect centered on Facebook’s VR division Oculus. But we also learned about Facebook’s plans for Ray-Ban “smart glasses,” as well as a more advanced AR initiative called Aria. Here are some of the details.

Facebook is unifying its entire VR hardware lineup into one headset: the Oculus Quest 2 all-in-one headset. The Quest 2 bumps up the original Quest headset’s specs, particularly its screen, and integrates improvements the Quest has gotten since launch, like Oculus Link. It’s also the first headset to require a mandatory Facebook login, not a separate Oculus one.

Preorders for the Quest 2 opened today, and the headset will ship on October 13th in 22 countries, including the United States. A 64GB version of the headset is selling for $299, and a 256GB one for $399.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Facebook is retiring the Rift S next year. But Oculus is still pushing PC-exclusive VR games, including Respawn’s upcoming Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond. It’s banking on the Oculus Quest 2’s Link feature, which lets users plug their mobile headsets into a PC via USB-C.

Link is coming out of beta this fall, following an experimental launch last year. It’s getting an upgrade as well: the feature will support a 90Hz refresh rate (instead of 72Hz) and will be able to take advantage of the Quest 2’s higher resolution.

Image: Facebook

Facebook has been talking about augmented reality glasses for years, and it’s taking a concrete step toward them next year with a Ray-Ban partnership. The new glasses don’t have traditional AR capabilities — in other words, they don’t project holograms into your world. We’re actually not totally sure what they do, but it could involve things like feeding information to you via audio.

Meanwhile, Facebook has a more advanced AR initiative called Project Aria. It’s starting to send Facebook employees out with Aria glasses for testing, hoping to figure out tough problems like how to maintain privacy with a pair of camera-studded glasses. The company has laid out a set of research principles like “never surprise people” and “provide controls that matter,” and it’s offering two grants for researching the potential social impacts of VR and AR.

Oculus is announcing new features to make the Quest more useful outside gaming.

Oculus Move is designed to keep track of fitness goals, building on the popularity of apps like Beat Saber as exercise systems. Facebook Messenger is getting integrated into the Quest 2 — offering users some perks with that Facebook login — and you’ll get the ability to cast gameplay sessions to a browser window.

Meanwhile, Facebook is promoting the Quest as a business tool. Along with virtual workplace apps like Spatial, it promoted Infinite Office, a tool that will combine multiple customizable screens with a passthrough camera feed. Ideally, it’s like having an infinite number of monitors while still getting to see the real world. The feature will launch in the winter.

Oculus has announced a long list of new games for the Oculus Quest 2 and offered trailers for some we’d already heard about. In the former category, there’s a sequel to Crytek’s Oculus Rift climbing game The Climb, a shooter called Warhammer 40,000 Battle Sister, and an adaptation of Myst, plus confirmation of Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell installments for Oculus headsets.

In the latter category, we got a brief look at Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, developed by Lucasfilm effects studio ILMxLAB. You can see that video above.

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