VR for All: Facebook Plans Cheaper, Wireless Version of Oculus Rift

Facebook wants to push virtual reality into the mainstream with the release of a cheaper, more portable version of the Oculus Rift.

The social network company, which acquired Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion, this week dropped the price of its once-expensive Rift headset down to a more reasonable $399—but the device still requires wired connectivity to a powerful computer in order to function, which hinders its mass appeal.

Sources cited in Bloomberg suggest that Facebook is developing a $200, wireless version of the Rift. Slated to ship next year, according to insiders, the VR device could represent “an entirely new category.”

Facebook won’t officially confirm any details, but a spokesperson for Oculus informed Bloomberg that the company is “making several significant technology investments in the standalone VR category.”

VR holds tremendous potential, but remains a niche market. In the first quarter of 2017, for example, nearly 350 million smartphones were shipped worldwide, compared with barely two million VR devices, according to data from IDC. This is despite many major brands offering a product, including Samsung, Sony, and HTC.

The Rift, a distant fourth behind leader Samsung, has shipped fewer than 100,000 units, accounting for a meager 5% of the global VR market, according to IDC. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated in February that “we’re a little behind where we want to be right now,” adding VR sales have not been profitable. But he hopes to gain traction with a new headset that is more accessible both financially and in terms of usability.