Facebook Creates Metaverse Product Group Featuring ex-Oculus Exec Jason Rubin

Mark Zuckerberg (OC5)

If you think the word “metaverse” is just a buzzword being thrown around by big tech companies at the moment you’d be both right and wrong. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg is one of the biggest evangelists for the idea of a metaverse and this week has seen the company announce a new product group dedicated to this vision, featuring executives from Instagram, Oculus and other areas of Facebook.

Oculus Quest - sharing

Under the umbrella of Facebook Reality Labs (FRL), head of FRL Andrew Bosworth has put together a team that will see the current Instagram VR of Product Vishal Shah as lead on the initiative. Facebook Gaming VR Vivek Sharma will lead the Horizon teams, and one of the original leaders at Oculus – who moved over to FB Gaming – Jason Rubin will lead the groups’ Content team. Both the latter two will still continue their work with Facebook Gaming.

Last week, in an interview with The Verge, Zuckerberg made it very clear that he wanted to turn Facebook into “a metaverse company” calling the metaverse “the successor to the mobile internet.” As part of the announcement, Bosworth sees “The defining quality of the metaverse will be presence,” which the company has been focused on thanks to devices like Oculus Quest 2 and its Portal products. But these are still fragmented. In Facebook’s metaverse physical and virtual worlds are seamless.

“To achieve our full vision of the Metaverse, we also need to build the connective tissue between these spaces — so you can remove the limitations of physics and move between them with the same ease as moving from one room in your home to the next,” Bosworth notes.

Facebook Horizon
Facebook Horizon

While projects like Facebook Horizon are stepping stones towards this, Horizon has been in an invite-only beta for years with no clear indication of when it might become available. Other VR social experiments like Facebook Spaces have long since been shuttered.

There’s still a long way to go until Zuckerberg realises his vision for the metaverse and he’s not the only one. Epic Games’ Tim Sweeny is another keenly interested but he’s yet to showcase how the Unreal Engine creator will be delivering its own metaverse. As further info regarding this new FRL product group emerges VRFocus will let you know.

Facebook’s Rubin, Verdu To Speak On Quest Store At GDC Showcase

Two of Facebook’s gaming figureheads will be talking at next week’s digital GDC Showcase.

Michael Verdu, VP of Facebook Reality Labs Content and Jason Rubin, the former VR content head that’s now the company’s VP of Play, will both be on the panel for ‘Future of Gaming: Quality and Connection’ on Wednesday, March 17th. They’ll also be joined by Denny Unger, the CEO of Pistol Whip developer, Cloudhead Games and Michael Carter of PlayCo.

This session will take a look not just as Facebook’s own gaming initiatives but also specifically at the work the company has done with the Oculus Quest store. The pair will “share the evolution” of the platform and take a look at how it “supports developers in creating high quality games.” Unger, meanwhile, will use Pistol Whip as a case study for their points.

We wouldn’t expect any major announcements during the talk, though Facebook is also presenting other talks at GDC, including a look at social VR and its use in battle royale hit, Population: One. The BigBox VR-developed title has already generated over $10 million in revenue on Oculus platforms and is currently running its first season. Beyond Facebook, Skydance Media will also be joining in with a post-mortem on its ever-popular zombie slayer, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners.

The GDC Showcase is free-to-attend and takes place over what would have been the traditional spot in the year for the physical event in San Francisco. The return of the full event is planned for July though, again, it’ll be all-digital.

Led by Former Oculus Exec, Facebook’s New Cloud Gaming Service Paves the Way to VR Streaming

This week Facebook announced the launch of cloud-streamed games from Facebook Gaming. These are games which are rendered in the cloud and then streamed to your computer. Cloud-based gaming has been seen by the industry at large as a way to make games more widely accessible by making them playable on less powerful hardware. Facebook is also betting that one day they’ll be able to do the same for VR.

Facebook Gaming’s new cloud streaming functionality doesn’t support VR today, but it’s clear that the company is eyeing it up as part of its roadmap.

Not only is the company’s just-launched cloud streaming service headed by Jason Rubin, a former Oculus executive, but VR cloud streaming is being talked about at the highest levels of the company.

Responding to a question during Facebook’s most recent quarterly earnings call this week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the intersection of Facebook’s cloud gaming and VR initiatives:

“Over the longer term, I think the VR piece will obviously come into [our gaming strategy] as well. Some of the cloud gaming stuff that we’re doing will, of course, be useful for VR as well, and we’re building a big community around that on Oculus. But [our cloud gaming service]… I do think will be a very exciting growth opportunity and ability to offer a lot of innovation over the coming years,” Zuckerberg said.

Rubin joined Oculus in 2014 as was a key spokesperson for the company’s VR before his role expanded into Facebook’s broader gaming initiatives | Image courtesy Jason Rubin

Jason Rubin, the former Oculus executive turned ‘VP of Play’ at Facebook, laid out the company’s cloud-gaming vision this week, opening with a not-so-secretive jab at Google’s cloud streaming service, Stadia:

We believe in the long-term future of cloud gaming, but we aren’t going to try to wow you with the wonders of our data centers, compression algorithms, resolutions, or frames per second. Cloud game streaming for the masses still has a way to go, and it’s important to embrace both the advantages and the reality of the technology rather than try to oversell where it’ll be in the future.

Rubin also touched on the reality of game streaming latency as it stands today, knowing that competitive and VR games share exceptionally demanding latency requirements which the service isn’t ready to handle just yet.

It’s critical for us to start with latency-tolerant games so we can deliver a good experience for players across a variety of devices. For the purposes of our beta, that includes genres like sports, card, simulation, and strategy games. This is cloud gaming after all, so even with latency-tolerant games players may notice some glitches. […]

As our beta progresses and cloud technology scales, we’ll increase the variety of game genres. That expansion will start in 2021 with the addition of action and adventure games.

Though Rubin doesn’t mention VR in the Facebook cloud gaming announcement, he explicitly addressed the it in an interview with Protocol earlier this year:

I can tell you this: Nobody is banking on cloud processing making standalone VR headsets viable. We have to make them viable with the chipsets that are in them. But in the long run, cloud solves a lot of problems because it most effectively puts the processing power where it’s needed. Now there’s latency issues, resolution issues, frame rate issues, tons of issues. And it’s a hell of a lot more uncomfortable when it’s a frame that’s right in front of your face than it is when you miss a frame on a TV that’s across the room. So all of these things have to be solved, but no one thinks it’s impossible. It’s a hypothetical that can be done but it’s not coming anytime soon. It is very, very complicated.

Elsewhere he added, “ultimately we’ll throw those processors in a server farm somewhere and stream to your headset. And a lot of people are going to say, ‘Oh my god, that’s a million years away.’ It’s not a million. It’s not five. It’s somewhere between.”

So while we don’t expect that the company will be rolling out VR game streaming in the immediate future, the Facebook is actively positioning itself to be offer the service further down the road.

As the only company in the consumer space with a complete tech stack for VR cloud streaming, the strategy seems sound. While other companies like Amazon, Google, NVIDIA, and Microsoft are building out their own cloud game streaming services, none of them have both a standalone VR headset and a major VR ecosystem for a complete end-to-end solution.

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Jason Rubin: Oculus Quest Should Get ‘Really Big, Deep’ Games In The Next Year

Facebook’s VP of Special Gaming Initiatives thinks we’ll see bigger, deeper games on Oculus Quest in the next year.

Jason Rubin said as much speaking to Protocol in an interview earlier this week. Asked if Quest could support larger, AAA games going forward, Rubin reasoned that the platform wouldn’t be getting games with graphics comparable to high-end PC titles anytime soon.

“So if what is meant by AAA is the graphic fidelity of Asgard’s Wrath, that’s not happening on a local headset, for the same reason that people can’t get those games to run on phones and anything else that’s battery-powered and needs to dissipate heat,” Rubin said.

But, if you put graphics aside, other elements of AAA titles, like deep gameplay systems and an expansive amount of content, are much more achievable on Quest. “If you get away from the graphic quality for a moment, and you get into the depth of experience, length of experience, craftsmanship of the experience, I think you can get some really big, amazingly deep games onto the Quest platform,” Rubin added, “and I think you’re going to see them in the next year or so. Depending on what we’re looking at, it’s more a budget/time issue than it is a graphic fidelity/processor issue.”

Oculus Quest has had a great first year with plenty of amazing new games and ports of older titles, but it’s also true that the platform doesn’t have many narrative-driven, multi-hour adventures to undertake. Meanwhile, the Oculus Rift platform has big titles like Lone Echo 2 and Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond on the way. We’d love to see those games come to Quest too, even if it meant sacrificing graphical fidelity.

What AAA titles would you like to see come to Oculus Quest? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jason Rubin: Oculus Cloud Rendering More Than 5 Years Out

In an interview with Protocol, Facebook gaming VP Jason Rubin suggested that cloud streamed Oculus VR is more than 5 years out.

Ultimately we’ll throw those processors in a server farm somewhere and stream to your headset. And a lot of people are going to say, “Oh my god, that’s a million years away.” It’s not a million. It’s not five. It’s somewhere between.

The Goal & Challenge Of Cloud VR

Standalone VR headsets such as Oculus Quest open up room scale VR to beyond those lucky enough to own a gaming PC. However, mobile chips are significantly less powerful than PC GPUs, limiting the amount of detail possible and the types of games these headsets can play.

Oculus Link lets the Quest act as a PC VR headset of course, but this requires a gaming PC.

Virtual Desktop wireless streaming supports cloud PCs like Shadow VR, and some are using this already to play PC VR’s biggest hits. However, the latency makes most people feel sick, and the $15/month base tier’s CPU struggles in more taxing games. NVIDIA’s CloudXR platform streamlines VR streaming for enterprise by supporting NVIDIA servers natively.

Shadow and CloudXR use the same fundamental approach as Oculus Link. When a frame is rendered, it is compressed by the GPU’s video encoder and sent to the headset, where it is decoded and displayed. Encoding and decoding takes time, and this adds latency on top of the time it takes for the frame to reach the device.

Back in December, Facebook acquired Spanish cloud gaming startup PlayGiga, which was taking a similar approach to Shadow and NVIDIA.

To reduce the apparent latency visually, the frame is warped in the direction the user’s head has rotated since the frame started rendering. None of the current systems do this for positional latency however, which is why moving around and using controllers often feels much less solid.

When using a server within the same city as the headset under ideal network conditions, these services can just about reach the kind of latency VR requires. To get latency low enough to fully trick the human perceptual system however, a different approach could be needed.

Rubin: Mobile Chips May Never Do AAA Graphics

According to Rubin, standalone headsets won’t be able to render virtual environments with AAA quality graphics “anytime soon”, due to both thermal and power limitations inherent in the form factor.

That’s not happening on a local headset, for the same reason that people can’t get those games to run on phones and anything else that’s battery powered and needs to dissipate heat. You can plug it into a wall, and you can put a liquid-cooled or fan-cooled graphics card in it, and sure. But you can’t do that on somebody’s face.

In the long run, Rubin suggested AAA-quality graphics will arrive through cloud rendering.

In the past, Rubin has spoken of the potential need for a new rendering architecture to solve this. In such a hypothetical system, the server would do the most intensive workloads to somehow make rendering fairly easy on the headset, without just crudely transferring raw frames.

If cloud VR can one day bring the power of PC to fully standalone headsets, it would represent a revolution in the value such headsets offer consumers- but as Rubin warns, don’t expect that any time soon.

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Oculus’ Jason Rubin Not Worried By Sony/Insomniac Acquisition

Earlier this week one of Oculus’ biggest development partners, Insomniac Games, was acquired by Sony. It could be seen as a blow to the line-up of exclusive games for the Rift and Quest. Oculus, however, seems to disagree.

Taking to Twitter, Oculus VP of Special Gaming Initiatives, Jason Rubin, congratulated Insomniac on the deal. “And I wouldn’t worry about our Oculus Studios slate,” Rubin added. “We’ve got lots of big announcements coming…”

Insomniac is behind some of Rift’s best titles like Edge of Nowhere and The Unspoken. The team is also currently working on Stormland, a co-op adventure game we’ve been looking forward to for some time. The acquisition won’t change the game’s development, but Insomniac almost certainly won’t develop Rift exclusives anymore after its release. It’s the end of an era on that front.

Still, Rubin’s tease has us wondering what’s in the pipeline to replace Insomniac. We know that Oculus will reveal a new VR game from Apex Legends developer Respawn next month. There are also rumors that Oculus is working with Ubisoft on Splinter Cell VR and Assassin’s Creed VR games. Could there be yet more news on the way? We’ll probably find out at Oculus Connect 6 on September 25.

Rubin also recently said Oculus would even be interested in sharing its exclusive content with PSVR. If those hopes worked out, we could see new Insomniac VR games on Oculus platforms yet.

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Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 Doesn’t Support Gear VR

Samsung’s recently announced Galaxy Note 10 phablet does not support its Gear VR mobile VR headset.

The Samsung Gear VR is a smartphone-based VR headset. Like Google Cardboard and its plastic derrivatives, users slot in their smartphone which acts as the display and computer. Unlike cardboard, however, it features a dedicated gyroscope and accelerometer, and runs the same Oculus Mobile platform and store as the Oculus Go.

The Galaxy S10 series still supports Gear VR. We don’t know, though, if next year’s Samsung phones will continue to support VR.

We reached out to Samsung, and the company told us “We remain committed to innovating in VR and AR to deliver incredible new experiences to our consumers.”

Daydream Dropped Out

Gear VR’s direct competitor, Daydream, is also facing a questionable future. Google hasn’t updated the device or meaningfully updated the system software in over a year. Worse, the stream of content has slowed down to the point where the store hasn’t featured a “New & Updated” category since 2018. Google even dropped its own movie service from the platform.

The recently released Pixel 3a doesn’t support Daydream either, with Google saying this is due to the hardware not being up to task.

Is Smartphone VR Dead?

Smartphone-based VR created a lot of problems. The time it takes to slot in and out the phone, and the fact the user’s phone is unusable while docked into the headset, makes people less likely to want to use VR on a regular basis. A Gear VR session could also end after a matter of minutes, depending on device and conditions, due to the phone’s processor reaching its thermal limits. Smartphones pack all of their components into an incredibly small space. While Samsung improves its passive cooling design almost every year, there are physical limitations which can’t be overcome packing VR into a device designed first as a phone.

oculus quest oculus go

Standalone VR headsets, though, incorporate the screens and computing hardware and are designed for better cooling. Despite standalones with roughly the same graphical limitations as smartphone VR, Oculus CTO John Carmack claims that the standalone Oculus Go sees Rift-like retention levels, whereas Gear VR’s was much lower. Facebook also makes the Oculus Quest standalone with a pair of hand controllers for gaming. Facebook’s VP of Special Gaming Strategies Jason Rubin recently questioned whether Oculus Go’s “media use case” is “worth expanding upon, doubling down upon, continuing with?”

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Jason Rubin: Oculus ‘Would Love’ To Trade VR Games With PSVR

Could we one day see Oculus exclusive games like Lone Echo, Stormland and Asgard’s Wrath on PSVR?

Oculus’ Jason Rubin would like that very much. Speaking to Kotaku at E3 last month, Oculus’ VP of Special Gaming Initiatives said he would “love” to make a trade with Sony.

“We’ve thought about it,” he replied when asked if Oculus games could come to PSVR. “I would love to make a trade with Sony. You know they have great stuff that they funded, and we have great stuff we’ve funded.”

Oculus publishes exclusive games for Rift and Quest under its Oculus Studios label. The Facebook-owned company funds games from developers like Ready at Dawn and Insomniac under this initiative. Sony, meanwhile, owns developers like Sony London that work on PSVR exclusive titles such as Blood & Truth. Both companies produce some of the most polished, visually astounding and all-round best games in VR.

But could a trade actually work? The VR scene finds itself in an interesting stage of collaboration in its early years, where companies are more concerned with making the industry sustainable than they are directly competing with rivals. Oculus could certainly stand to benefit from selling its software on PSVR, which has sold over 4.4 million units (Rift and Quest figures aren’t known).

The real question is if Sony would be willing to cooperate. PlayStation-published games tend to remain exclusive to PlayStation, but bringing high-end PC titles to its next VR headset, rumored to be supporting the next PlayStation console, could be hugely advantageous. At the same time, we’d love to play the likes of Astro Bot: Rescue Mission on a Rift.

For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Rubin On Quest Curation: ‘I Will Not Categorically Say No To Anything’

Rubin On Quest Curation: ‘I Will Not Categorically Say No To Anything’

Oculus has come under pressure for its approach to curation on Oculus Quest in the past month. Facebook’s VR team is taking a stricter approach than it has on Rift or Go, which has seen some developers turned away from the platform. But Oculus’ Jason Rubin insists that the company will never permanently reject Quest submissions, though developers may be waiting a long time to get approval.

“I will not categorically say no to anything,” Rubin said of VR curation to GameDaily.biz at E3 earlier this month. Instead, he suggested Oculus might support the developer on Rift until a future version of Quest is powerful enough to run it.

“Some developer might come in and go, ‘Listen, we think the future of VR is this type of title. It won’t work on Quest,’” Rubin added. “Let’s just pretend for a second it’s entirely physics-based, and physics is a CPU-intensive process, and at least today, Quest can’t do it. And we think about it, and we go, ‘That’s genius. We’ll fund that for PC,’ because if it works on PC, someday it’s going to work on Quest, and that pushes VR forward. So, that’s the title I would do for PC.”

In other words, Oculus may fund PC VR-only titles with the intention that they one day come to a potential Quest successor. Perhaps that might even be the plan for the company’s Rift-exclusive Studios projects like Lone Echo II and Stormland.

Oculus’ curation policy has paved the way for a new sideloading application called SideQuest. It allows developers to unofficially get their content onto Quest for consumers willing to open their headset up to external sources. However the VR community grows around it, it appears Oculus isn’t backing down on its Quest curation for the time being.

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E3 2019 Interview: Oculus’ Jason Rubin

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was very much a mixed bag this year. When it came to the official press conferences virtual reality (VR) was almost non-existent with Bethesda’s Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot the only notable exception. Thankfully, on the show floor, things were a little different with Oculus returning to the fold with an impressive stand which had quirky photo opportunities on the outside, and lots of VR titles on the inside. Also wandering the booth was Jason Rubin, the new  VP of Special Gaming Initiatives, so VRFocus managed to nab him for a quick interview.

Oculus Quest Lifestyle 1

With so many leadership changes over the last couple of years, Rubin has become the unofficial face of Oculus in VRFocus’ book. When Palmer Luckey went his separate way it sort of left a void which was never properly filled. Brendan Iribe was there for a while but he’s gone, replaced by Hugo Barra, who has transitioned into the role of VP for AR/VR Partnerships. This has meant Eric Tseng, previously Director of AR/VR product management at Facebook is now at the helm.

The likes of John Carmack and Michael Abrash are still there, yet in his previous role as VP of Content, Rubin was almost always at every event Oculus attended. This longevity has seen Rubin play a part in Oculus’ most significant announcements, which of course most recently includes the launch of Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S.

Even though both arrived on the same day it’s been the standalone Oculus Quest that has seemingly gained the most traction with consumers and press alike. The standard of the hardware, as well as the high-quality content available, has ensured a successful launch by all accounts – no official sales figures have been released.

Oculus Rift S Lifestyle 1

VRFocus discusses this with Rubin including a matter he was keen to clear up, content curation on Oculus Store for Quest. There has been significant debate regarding the difficulty some developers have found getting their VR titles onto the store, and the strict measures Oculus has put in place.

To hear what Jason Rubin had to say on the matter and more, check out the video below. And for further Oculus coverage including Oculus Connect 6 (OC6), keep reading VRFocus.