Oculus researching augmented reality

CEO Brendan Iribe discusses the key differences between VR and AR
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Oculus is undertaking research in the augmented reality space, says the company’s CEO.

Speaking to Develop, Brendan Iribe said the technology is something the firm will definitely look into in future. For now though, its focus remains on virtual reality with the first consumer Oculus Rift set to launch early next year.

Although the company is researching AR, Iribe said the hardware has a lot of hurdles to overcome before its ready for consumers and believes at present it’s “just not compelling enough for mass market consumers”.

“It’s something we’re researching, we’ll look into it,” he said.

“We like to focus on consumer products and delivering an incredible consumer product. So much like Steve Jobs talked about a Mac one day in your hand with a radio attached to it in the 80s, and it took a while, I think that we’ll be talking a lot about AR, and the potential of AR, and we’ll see how long it takes for hardware overall to get there.”

One of the challenges Iribe believes AR faces is its form factor and wearing it in public. It’s one of the problems faced by Google Glass, which the search engine giant eventually dropped, for now at least. Other firms, however, like Magic Leap and Microsoft – which is working on HoloLens – are continuing to invest millions into the tech.

"With AR, where you see through the lens and you’re actually expected to wear it during the day, all day, walking around, crossing the street; that is a very different form factor and use case than VR,” he said.

“[In] VR it’s more using it in your own home or office setting, more inside of rooms, less about running across the street wearing your VR glasses. That isn’t the challenge VR has to overcome to be successful. Whereas with AR, that is the challenge. AR needs to get it to a point where it works as well as our glasses, and that it’s our replacing our glasses or somehow sitting over top without it being too cyborg-like, so we’re not too conscious of it.

“And I think that’s one of the biggest challenges AR has, and VR just doesn't have that. You put on VR, I don’t think people worry too much about what they look like in there, they’re just having an incredible time and they’re totally immersed.”

Despite different challenges for VR and AR, Iribe said there’s still a lot of crossover and similar technology going into the two spaces. And while he feels true, publicly accepted augmented reality hardware is far off, it won’t take as long as it has for virtual reality.

“It’s kind of where VR was stuck for decades,” he said. “AR is still in that world.”

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