Facebook Connect 2021 Schedule: Zuckerberg Keynote, Carmack Unscripted & More

The full line-up and schedule for this year’s Facebook Connect is now available, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote speech and John Carmack’s unscripted talk.

This year, it looks like events and sessions will “unlock” across the Connect schedule– some sessions unlock at specific times, while others simply become available “after the keynote.”

The keynote speech itself unlocks at 10am Pacific on October 28, which will see Mark Zuckerberg and “other Facebook executives” deliver the annual keynote address and “share the vision for the metaverse — a place of new immersive experiences and the next evolution of social technology, built by people like you.” There’s also a Facebook event and Oculus Venues event for the keynote, both of which reveal the keynote title to be “Infinite Horizons” — a nod to the Horizon branding that’s now being used as the moniker for the different branches of Facebook’s social VR platform.

The next biggest event is Consulting CTO John Carmack’s notoriously-unscripted annual speech and Q&A session, which unlocks at 2pm Pacific on October 28, a few hours after the keynote. Last year, Carmack spoke for more than an hour, packing a huge swath of topics into a dense, unscripted talk about the keynote announcements and Facebook’s wider VR strategy.

Here’s a few, but not nearly all, of the other Connect events:

Developer State of the Union with Chris Pruett, Tom Langan, Allison Lee, and Mari Kyle, available from 11:45pm Pacific, October 28.

– Best Practices and Tips for App Lab Success with Chris Lang, available after the keynote

Introduction to Mixed Reality with Britta Hummel and more, available after the keynote

– Do You Really Know App Lab? Tales Of Success From Devs with Rita Turkowski, Daniel Sproll (Realities.io), Julien Pecenicic (Smash Drums), Tommy Maloteaux (Deisim), available after the keynote

– Building for the Future: Social and World AR Experiences with Matthew Roberts and more, available after the keynote

– Bringing Diversity To Your App with Daniel Kamerling, available after the keynote

Build Mixed Reality Experiences with Wei Lyu and more, available after the keynote

– Building Diverse Communities in Horizon Worlds with Lisa Kotecki and more, available after the keynote

Facebook Connect begins on October 28 — you can view the full schedule of talks and register for the event here.

Facebook Reality Labs has Teased 3 Prototype VR Headsets

Facebook - Boz Prototype 1

Not to be outdone with all the other hardware announcements going on at the moment, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and incoming CTO Andrew “Boz” Bosworth have teased three separate virtual reality (VR) prototypes the company is currently developing.

Facebook - Zuckerberg Prototype 1

Bosworth – who is head of Facebook Reality Labs – started with quite a stylish looking standalone prototype (in comparison to the others) with a shiny, almost mirrored black front. In a tweet, he said: “Proud of the research Michael Abrash’s team is working on at FRL-R Redmond—excited to get an early look at some of the technologies that will underpin the metaverse (we work on several prototype headsets to prove out concepts, this is one of them. Kind of. It’s a long story.)”

He then followed that up with the headset seen below, what looks like a heavily modded Oculus Quest with a halo strap and a bunch of sensors underneath – could those be for facial tracking? No further details were provided at this stage, so you’ll just have to stare at the images and ponder what this new tech might do.

Over on Facebook, Zuckerberg posted the image seen above, revealing that this particular model has a retina display: “I spent the day with the Facebook Reality Labs research team in Redmond to demo our next-generation virtual reality, augmented reality and artifical intelligence tech. This one is an early retina resolution prototype. The future is going to be awesome.”

Facebook - Boz Prototype 2

While it’s no surprise that FRL has several VR prototypes being worked on the timing is quite funny. HTC Vive has its special reveal event today, although it looks like that bubble has already been burst. Lynx-R1 launched a successful Kickstarter that easily hit its goal and enterprise-focused Varjo has its own unveiling event coming up. All of this before Facebook Connect on 28th October.

In the past, these sorts of prototypes would’ve been showcased at the annual conference but maybe with everything going on Facebook wanted in on the buzz. Plus, if the company is happily sharing these hardware snippets now, what else does FRL have up its sleeve? An Oculus Quest Pro maybe? There are exactly two weeks to wait to find out. For continued updates, keep reading VRFocus.

Eleven Table Tennis Reveals Major Menu And User Interface Redesign

The developers of Eleven Table Tennis revealed a sneak peek at a redesigned user interface for the game’s menu system, improving the aesthetic and usability for new players.

We’ve been long time fans of Eleven Table Tennis at UploadVR and it maintained its spot as one of the best, most realistic and immersive versions of table tennis available on any VR platform. However, the UI and menu system always looked a bit subpar and didn’t quite match the polished and sublime feel of the game experience. It looks like the menu system will soon be completely overhauled and improved, as you can see in the photo embedded above.

table tennis eleven ui old

While the old UI was functional (pictured above) it felt pretty dated compared to the UIs in some VR games. As someone who has played Eleven with my dad (who is fairly tech savvy himself but new to VR), the old UI didn’t seem to lend itself to easy navigation for new users or people who were just getting to grips with VR in general. It was difficult to explain the process of adding friends, inviting people to matches or accepting challenge invites. It looks like this new UI should fix a lot of those problems. Not only does it look much better from an aesthetic standpoint, but it also seems to improve a lot of navigation woes and should make all parts of the game much easier to access.

According to a tweet, it also seems like the new UI will bring in a new system for automatic matchmaking for ranked games, while keeping something similar to the existing system for unranked games.

Are you looking forward to Eleven’s new menu update? What do you think could be improved or changed? Discuss in the comments below or let the developers know on Twitter.

Oculus Quest Becomes a Paperweight as Facebook is Down

Oculus from Facebook art

At the moment Facebook has a real problem on its hands as all of its services including Oculus, Instagram and WhatsApp are currently down. And the issue has raised another important question relating to Oculus’ services being so closely linked with a Facebook account, your Oculus Quest/Quest 2 is essentially bricked until services resume.

The outage appears to be worldwide by the looks of reports coming in, with the problem appearing to stem from a DNS (Domain Name Services) issue. DNS works as a sort of global address book, allowing web browsers to find the server that houses the website using their IP address. Currently, if you head to Facebook.com or Oculus.com for example you’ll get “Site Can’t be Reached” with “DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_NXDOMAIN” underneath.

Facebook and Oculus’ accounts on Twitter have both issued the same message saying: “We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.” At the moment it’s unclear if this is an internal issue or whether malicious outside actors are at work.

While it might be quite nice to take a break from social media for a moment – these types of issues are usually solved fairly quickly – if you want to switch on your Oculus headset for a quick Beat Saber or Population: One session you might be disappointed. VRFocus checked its Oculus Quest 2 only to find a very blank home screen, completely devoid of games or the store, just the files and settings features were available.

Oculus Quest FB down
There are one or two games missing from the library.

This vividly highlights the problem with having to connect to Facebook’s services to gain access to apps – the WiFi connection was fine. Even all the ones downloaded and taking up actual storage space didn’t show up. It’s why some VR fans began boycotting the company when it made all mandatory that all Oculus Quest 2’s had to be affiliated with a Facebook account.

As this is an ongoing story VRFocus will up the article with any further breaking news.

Andrew Bosworth To Take Over As Facebook CTO In 2022

Facebook Vice President of AR/VR, Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth, will take over the role of Facebook Chief Technology Officer (CTO) after current CTO Mike Schroepfer announced plans to step down from the role sometime next year.

Schroepfer has been with Facebook for 13 years and after stepping away from his CTO role, he will move to a Senior Fellow role within the company. Here’s a copy of his full Twitter thread announcing his departure:

After 13 years at FB, I’ve decided to step down as CTO and pass the baton to @boztank at some point in 2022. I will stay on as long as it takes to ensure a successful leadership transition.

My new role as Senior Fellow will enable me to stay deeply connected to the company, working on key initiatives including recruiting and developing technical talent and fostering our AI investments in critical technologies like @PyTorch

It has been a privilege to lead our technology teams during a time of incredible growth & advancement. I am proud of what the team has achieved, from unleashing the benefits of AI & bringing VR to life to connecting more people around the world through technology.

I am still incredibly optimistic about the potential for AI and AR/VR to improve the lives of people every day. I am honored to be able to continue to support Facebook’s exciting future in my role as Senior Fellow.

Facebook VP of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth has taken on an increasingly public facing role over the last year or two, becoming a prominent spokesperson for Facebook’s VR/AR efforts. Bosworth has hosted Instagram AMAs (‘ask me anything’) with user-submitted questions on Facebook’s VR/AR efforts (his responses to which often flirt between informative, teasing and promotional all at once), moderated talks with Mark Zuckerberg and John Carmack on various VR and VR-adjacent topics, and dropped public hints and winks towards new products like Quest Pro.

In a statement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that as CTO, Bosworth will continue to lead Facebook Reality Labs:

As our next CTO, Boz will continue leading Facebook Reality Labs and overseeing our work in augmented reality, virtual reality and more, and as part of this transition a few other groups will join Boz’s team as well. This is all foundational to our broader efforts helping to build the metaverse, and I’m excited about the future of this work under Boz’s leadership.

Responding to Schroepfer’s thread on Twitter, Bosworth said, “Congratulations Schrep on an epic 13 year run. Lots to do still and I’m glad you’re sticking around to help.”

Facebook released Quest 2 near the end of 2020 and, last month, doubled the storage of the base $299 model to 128GB. The company also recently partnered to make Ray-Ban brand sunglasses that start at $299 and connect to your phone to answer calls or play music, or capture square stabilized 30 second videos and wide angle photos. As of the end of June 2021, Facebook employed more than 63,000 people with a significant percentage working on VR and AR technologies.

Want £100 off an Oculus Quest 2? Simply Buy Two

Oculus Quest 2 top down

Buying in bulk has always been the cheaper option, whether that’s a 50kg sack of potatoes that may never get eaten or that awesome deal for 10 scarfs during summer. Tech is a little bit different, usually offering singular discounts as you get on Black Friday. For the next week, Oculus is bucking that trend. Simply buy one Oculus Quest 2 at full price and you’ll get £100 GBP of another.

Oculus Quest 2

Yep, so that nets you two 128GB Oculus Quest 2’s for £500 which isn’t a bad deal. Especially if you and a mate have been considering stepping into virtual reality (VR) for the first time or changing VR platform. This offer is available only until next Monday, 27th September on Oculus.com. Plus it’s also available for the 256GB model as well.

The deal arrives almost a month after Facebook began to resell the headset after a short hiatus due to the facial interface issue which saw some customers report skin irritation. This time period saw the company discontinue the base 64GB model in favour of a 128GB version whilst still maintaining the same £299 price point. So if you do go for the offer you’ll get the newer Oculus Quest 2 edition which comes with a silicone cover in the box.

Silicone covers have been a widely available accessory for Oculus Quest 2 almost since its launch, particularly useful when playing more energetic games as it stops the foam interface from soaking up the sweat. A much more hygienic solution if you happen to be swapping the headset between players as all it requires is a quick wipe. That’ll be less of an issue if you’re buying two headsets at a time.

Oculus Quest 2

There’s another good reason for two friends to go in on the deal, all the multiplayer gaming to be had in VR. While multiplayer videogames struggled in the early years, now titles like Population: One, Demeo and Echo VR are firmly focused on that aspect, making for great social experiences.

Or maybe it’s all part of Facebook’s plan to sell more Oculus Quest 2’s ahead of Facebook Connect next month? Being held on 28th October as a virtual showcase, CEO Mark Zuckerberg may release further details on the Oculus Quest Pro, a headset that could include features such as eye-tracking. If that happens VRFocus will keep you updated.

Facebook Spins Out the Excellent ‘Quill’ VR Animation App, Open-sources File Format

Quill is a brilliant VR drawing and animation app originally born within the now shuttered Oculus Story Studio. The app continued on after the group’s closure, but with seemingly few long term plans for the app, Facebook has decided to spin it out by handing ownership over to its original creator. As part of the transition, Quill’s proprietary file format is being open-sourced.

In the early days of Oculus the company started internal groups like Oculus Story Studio which was tasked with exploring cinema through the lens of VR. One of the films the group released was Dear Angelica (2017), which was played back in real-time with a unique painterly look. That VR film was made possible by an internal tool that allowed artists to use VR headsets and controllers to draw and animated in 3D. Eventually Oculus moved to release the tool to the general public for VR drawing and animation; that’s the short story of how Quill came to be.

Quill uniquely combines the artistry of hand-drawing and hand-animation with the benefits of CGI, enabling some seriously beautiful works of VR cinema.

That’s why it’s something of a shame that Facebook has announced it’s giving up on the app. Seemingly uninterested in any long-term play with the brilliant tool, the company is handing off ownership.

But only time will tell if this is an end or a new beginning. Thankfully Facebook opted to give Quill away to its original creator—Iñigo Quilez and his company Smoothstep—which will maintain the app going forward. The app will continue to be available on Rift under the name Quill by Smoothstep. The Quill Theater viewer app on Quest will continue to be available but generically rebranded as VR Animation Viewer.

While Smoothstep hasn’t said much in the way of its long-term plans, the hand-off from Facebook came the same day as a new patch for Quill, version 2.9, which made some small improvements and fixes.

Seemingly in an effort to unbind Quill from its proprietary nature, the hand-off has also brought an open-source version of Quill’s unique file format called IMM. Facebook says it hopes the move will bring an “expanded creator and audience ecosystem for VR animation.”

Indeed, one of Quill’s key challenges was distribution. Unlike making a flat film which can easily be viewer via built-in players on literally billions of devices, the proprietary nature of Quill has meant that native playback of the artwork is ‘stuck’ on Oculus headsets only. The only other approach is exporting to a more interoperable format and then use other tools to render and distribute your project.

Now that IMM has been open-sourced, it should be possible for people to build IMM players for more devices, which could mean more wider distribution. We’d love to see a version built with WebXR so that Quill works could be seen easily by a wider range of devices from VR headsets to smartphones. With the open-source format, it’s also possible that other VR artwork tools could support exporting to IMM.

With Quill in the hands of Smoothstep, the app could also overcome another issue: platform exclusivity. Because Quill was made by Oculus, there was little hope that we’d ever see a version for other VR platforms, like PSVR or SteamVR. With the app now owned by an independent company, that might be a real possibility for the future, which would give more artists access to this excellent tool.

– – — – –

The path of Quill is strikingly similar to what happend with another VR art tool that was also started at Oculus, Medium. Apparently not interested in any long-term plans with the tool, Facebook opted to sell off the project to Adobe, which has recently incorporated it into its latest 3D creation tools.

The post Facebook Spins Out the Excellent ‘Quill’ VR Animation App, Open-sources File Format appeared first on Road to VR.

Facebook Spins Out the Excellent ‘Quill’ VR Animation App, Open-sources File Format

Quill is a brilliant VR drawing and animation app originally born within the now shuttered Oculus Story Studio. The app continued on after the group’s closure, but with seemingly few long term plans for the app, Facebook has decided to spin it out by handing ownership over to its original creator. As part of the transition, Quill’s proprietary file format is being open-sourced.

In the early days of Oculus the company started internal groups like Oculus Story Studio which was tasked with exploring cinema through the lens of VR. One of the films the group released was Dear Angelica (2017), which was played back in real-time with a unique painterly look. That VR film was made possible by an internal tool that allowed artists to use VR headsets and controllers to draw and animated in 3D. Eventually Oculus moved to release the tool to the general public for VR drawing and animation; that’s the short story of how Quill came to be.

Quill uniquely combines the artistry of hand-drawing and hand-animation with the benefits of CGI, enabling some seriously beautiful works of VR cinema.

That’s why it’s something of a shame that Facebook has announced it’s giving up on the app. Seemingly uninterested in any long-term play with the brilliant tool, the company is handing off ownership.

But only time will tell if this is an end or a new beginning. Thankfully Facebook opted to give Quill away to its original creator—Iñigo Quilez and his company Smoothstep—which will maintain the app going forward. The app will continue to be available on Rift under the name Quill by Smoothstep. The Quill Theater viewer app on Quest will continue to be available but generically rebranded as VR Animation Viewer.

While Smoothstep hasn’t said much in the way of its long-term plans, the hand-off from Facebook came the same day as a new patch for Quill, version 2.9, which made some small improvements and fixes.

Seemingly in an effort to unbind Quill from its proprietary nature, the hand-off has also brought an open-source version of Quill’s unique file format called IMM. Facebook says it hopes the move will bring an “expanded creator and audience ecosystem for VR animation.”

Indeed, one of Quill’s key challenges was distribution. Unlike making a flat film which can easily be viewer via built-in players on literally billions of devices, the proprietary nature of Quill has meant that native playback of the artwork is ‘stuck’ on Oculus headsets only. The only other approach is exporting to a more interoperable format and then use other tools to render and distribute your project.

Now that IMM has been open-sourced, it should be possible for people to build IMM players for more devices, which could mean more wider distribution. We’d love to see a version built with WebXR so that Quill works could be seen easily by a wider range of devices from VR headsets to smartphones. With the open-source format, it’s also possible that other VR artwork tools could support exporting to IMM.

With Quill in the hands of Smoothstep, the app could also overcome another issue: platform exclusivity. Because Quill was made by Oculus, there was little hope that we’d ever see a version for other VR platforms, like PSVR or SteamVR. With the app now owned by an independent company, that might be a real possibility for the future, which would give more artists access to this excellent tool.

– – — – –

The path of Quill is strikingly similar to what happend with another VR art tool that was also started at Oculus, Medium. Apparently not interested in any long-term plans with the tool, Facebook opted to sell off the project to Adobe, which has recently incorporated it into its latest 3D creation tools.

The post Facebook Spins Out the Excellent ‘Quill’ VR Animation App, Open-sources File Format appeared first on Road to VR.

Oculus Quest v33 Update Begins Rollout Adding Air Link Improvements

Oculus Quest 2 top down

Normally each month Facebook makes a generally modest announcement regarding the next software update for Oculus Quest, touting its latest features. September hasn’t missed out on the monthly rollout but the company has stayed fairly quiet about it. v33 was released this week adding small improvements to features like Air Link, Guardian history and safer browsing.

Oculus Quest 2

If you happen to use Oculus Link or Air link then there’s some good news the image quality and text clarity has been improved thanks to a feature called Link Sharpening. “Link Sharpening makes images crisper, fine details clearer, and text more clear and easy to read,” notes the v33 changelog.

For those that enjoy browsing the web in VR, Oculus Browser now offers an additional layer of security powered by Google Safe Browsing. Should you find yourself heading towards a potentially harmful website: “you’ll be redirected to a separate page with info on why the site may be unsafe and recommendations for how to proceed.”

As for the other minor enhancements, you can now clear the Guardian history if you’re having tracking issues, the Oculus Touch controllers will now go to sleep faster to conserve battery life, and some of those experiment multitasking features are now being brought to everyone.

Oculus Quest - Space Sense

It’s likely that the v33 update remains uneventful due to Facebook Connect in October, with many big reveals being saved for the event. That could be where the “Space Sense” feature officially arrives. That was discovered recently in the v32 software, giving Oculus Quest the ability to track active objects when they come into the play area.

The virtual conference is also expected to reveal further details regarding the Oculus Quest Pro, a device CEO Mark Zuckerberg began talking about a few months ago. When further details on the latest Oculus Quest advancements do arrive, VRFocus will let you know.

Horizon Workrooms to Introduce Zoom Meetings in 2022

Horizon Workrooms

Several weeks ago Facebook launched its vision for work-based collaboration in virtual reality (VR), Horizon Workrooms. Designed to help colleagues connect remotely, this week it has been revealed that the highly popular video conferencing service Zoom will be integrated into Horizon Workrooms next year.

Horizon Workrooms - Zoom

Horizon Workrooms is currently in open beta for Oculus Quest headsets, allowing anyone to test the new software. With the integration of Zoom, users will be able to join Zoom Meetings and use Zoom Whiteboard directly within VR, to create what could be a seamless experience between the two platforms.

With companies having to switch to remote working during the course of 2020, many have turned to video platforms such as Zoom to stay connected. This has helped Zoom’s popularity soar but has also meant a new term being coined in the process, “Zoom fatigue”. Whereby people find themselves in so many video meetings that it just becomes mentally draining, lacking the fluidity of being together in person. So it’s no surprise that Zoom aims to combat such an issue with initiatives like this with Facebook.

A sneak peek was shown at Zoomtopia this week, Zoom’s annual conference (taking place virtually, of course!). Inside Horizon Workrooms users will be able to dial into those video calls as they normally would, so they can sit around a virtual desk with others in VR whilst talking to even more over Zoom. And with Zoom Whiteboard on hand, brainstorming new ideas shouldn’t be too difficult either as everyone in the meeting can add their input.

Horizon Workrooms

Zoom and Facebook haven’t said when they plan to integrate this functionality into Horizon Workrooms during 2022 but the software has plenty of features to keep you busy. There’s the mixed-reality desk and keyboard tracking, which alongside Oculus Quest’s hand tracking means you can see your desk and keyboard to naturally type as you would outside of VR. There’s also remote desktop streaming, spatial audio, and the new Oculus Avatars for that immersive feel.

There are plenty of other ways to collaborate in VR with Horizon Workrooms joining the likes of Spatial, MeetinVR and Arthur to name a few. For continued updates in this field, keep reading VRFocus.