Facebook's virtual reality (VR) platform for gaming Oculus Quest is getting a revamp, announced the company this week, with new features designed to make navigation in the user interface smoother, and convince customers that VR is indeed "the next computing platform".
Forget about clumsy menu systems, intricate processes to run multiple applications, or convoluted paths to access certain system functions, promised the company. The social media giant said that based on customers' feedback, Quest was "completely redesigned" to make VR "more flexible, social, and easy to use than ever before."
What came out of the feedback submitted since the headset was launched last year was essentially a demand for less friction in the user interface. Quest gamers want shortcuts to access certain functions, and a better way to quickly launch favorite and recently-used apps; and to be able to run multiple apps simultaneously on the platform.
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And so, Facebook came up with three new features for Quest: a redesigned menu, immersive overlays and multi-window support for some applications.
The new menu comes as a personalized dashboard, where frequently used apps are brought forward and navigation between the VR environment and 2D apps is easier; and the immersive overlay lets you bring up content, such as the menu, while staying in the app you are currently in.
Users can therefore make friend requests, livestream, check notifications or take a screenshot without having to return to the Home menu. The new feature will be compatible with Facebook's apps available in the Oculus browser to start with, but the company is encouraging developers to add support for immersive overlaying in their apps.
Finally, the Quest interface will support multiple windows at once, for users to open, close and rearrange several tasks at the same time from the same platform. Facebook is bringing support for multiple windows to the Oculus browser for now, but is planning to add more apps such as Chats and Store later on.
The announcements were part of the company's Game Developers Showcase running this week – a virtual substitute for Facebook's annual Game Developers Conference (GDC), during which new updates to Oculus Quest and Rift platforms are unveiled, and which had to be cancelled this year amid fears linked to Coronavirus COVID-19.
"Together, these updates continue to evolve the Quest experience and represent a step towards VR becoming the next computing platform," said Facebook, in a statement reminiscent of the company's CEO Mark Zuckerberg's previous declaration that he wanted to get one billion people to try VR.
Although Zuckerberg's goal is still a long way from happening, Oculus recently reported encouraging numbers. According to the company, since the headset launched in 2019, 20 different Oculus Quest titles have received over $1 million in revenue; and 90% of users who have activated a new headset over the last Christmas period hadn't owned an Oculus product before, suggesting a growing interest from non-specialized customers.
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There is also appetite among developers to create new applications for the platform. Gaming company Apex Construct reported that it has sold more units on Quest since the headset launched in 2019 than on all other VR platforms combined, and since 2018. "This is some pretty incredible data that supports the success story of #OculusQuest," tweeted Andreas Juliussion, from Swedish VR game developer Fast Travel Game.
Oculus Quest's new updates are set to roll out "later this month", but won't appear by default in the interface. Rather, users can opt-in to the new features by toggling them on in the "Experimental Features" section in Settings.