As event professionals consider convention centers, hotels, theaters, bars, and a range of other physical spaces where attendees can come together, Facebook is gearing up to launch a new kind of gathering place. They’re called Oculus Venues, but they don’t have tables, chairs, or walls. Instead, these “venues” aim to give anyone wearing a virtual-reality headset a chance to hang out with other people wearing headsets. Facebook unveiled its plans on Oct. 11 in front of more than 2,900 attendees at the fourth annual Oculus Connect in San Jose. The company said that VR venues, which will launch sometime in 2018, are designed to “let you watch concerts and catch premieres of new movies and TV shows with up to 1,000 people.”
Okay, so Oculus Venues aren’t going to put traditional event environments out of business anytime soon, but Facebook’s announcement is a clear indication that VR eventually may pose a risk to F2F. If 1,000 people can come together to watch a concert while sitting at home, why wouldn’t they do the same to watch a keynote speaker?
A VR Device for Fewer Dollars
Many skeptics of VR have questioned whether the technology will be able to reach the mainstream. The bulky headsets haven’t been priced for widespread consumer adoption. However, Facebook is launching a new product to solve that challenge: Oculus Go. At $199, with no need for a cable or a mobile phone, the company said that the “all-in-one device makes VR more accessible than ever” and “pushes the envelope of what’s possible at such an accessible price point.”
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg has ambitious plans for that lower price point. “We’re setting a goal,” he said at Oculus Connect. “We want to get a billion people in virtual reality.”
Zuckerberg — and others involved in VR — have a long way to go. In 2016, numbers from SuperData showed that a total of 6.3 million VR devices were shipped. That figure includes devices from all the tech companies in the market, too, not just Facebook’s Oculus Rift. Will Venues, an affordable headset, and new tools for developers to build compelling content be enough to inspire more people to enter a virtual world? While the answer remains to be seen, VR is already making an impact on the events industry. Click here to see how destination marketers are using the technology to introduce their offerings to meeting professionals.