Reality Labs is a business of Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook Inc.) that produces virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) hardware and software, including virtual reality headsets such as Quest, and metaverse platforms such as Horizon Worlds. Reality Labs is the corporate successor to Oculus, a company that was founded in 2012 by Palmer Luckey, Brendan Iribe, Michael Antonov and Nate Mitchell to develop a VR headset for video gaming known as the Oculus Rift. Oculus raised over $2.4 million for the project via a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter—nearly ten times the original goal of $250,000.
Oculus was acquired by Facebook in March 2014. The company partnered with Samsung Electronics to release the Gear VR accessory for Samsung Galaxy smartphones in 2015. In March 2016, Oculus released the first consumer version of the Rift headset. In 2017, the company released a standalone mobile headset known as Oculus Go, produced by Xiaomi. In 2019, it released a high-end standalone headset known as Oculus Quest (which, since a software update, is capable of operating as both a standalone and PC headset), and Oculus Rift S, a follow-up to the original Oculus Rift manufactured by Lenovo. In 2020, the Oculus Quest 2 was released.
Oculus ceased operating as an autonomous subsidiary of Facebook in 2018, and became a brand of Facebook Technologies, LLC (marketed as Oculus from Facebook)—a subsidiary that includes other Facebook-developed hardware such as Portal. The Oculus team was later amalgamated into Facebook Reality Labs, a business of Facebook dedicated to VR and AR. In October 2021, Facebook announced that Reality Labs would begin to report its revenue separately from the Facebook “Family of Apps”. Facebook subsequently announced that it would change its corporate name to Meta, and the Oculus brand was replaced on current and existing products by the “Meta” (hardware) and “Horizon” (online communities) brands.
Under Facebook ownership, Oculus products have been increasingly integrated with Facebook and its social networking platforms: since October 2020, all new users, and any user of Facebook-produced VR hardware released since then (beginning with Oculus Quest 2) must log in with a Facebook account in order to use their headsets. Support for standalone Oculus accounts was announced as ending in January 2023, although in October 2021 it was stated that “new ways to log into Quest that won’t require a Facebook account” were being developed. This requirement has faced criticism due to digital privacy concerns and Facebook’s real-name policy, and prompted Facebook to suspend sales of all Oculus products in Germany due to concerns from regulators over its compliance with the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
History of Reality Labs
As a head-mounted display (HMD) designer at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, Palmer Luckey earned a reputation for having the largest personal collection of HMDs in the world and was a longtime moderator in Meant to be Seen (MTBS)’s discussion forums
Palmer created a series of new technologies that resulted in a VR headset that was both higher performance than what was currently on the market and was also inexpensive for gamers. To develop the new product, Luckey founded Oculus VR with Scaleform co-founders Brendan Iribe and Michael Antonov Nate Mitchell and Andrew Scott Reisse.
Coincidentally, John Carmack of id Software had been doing his research on HMDs and happened upon Palmer’s developments. After sampling an early unit, Carmack favored Luckey’s prototype, and just before the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), id Software announced that the BFG Edition of Doom 3 would be compatible with head-mounted display units.
During the convention, Carmack introduced a duct-taped head-mounted display, based on Palmer’s Oculus Rift prototype, which ran Carmack’s software. The unit featured a high-speed IMU and a 5.6-inch (14 cm) LCD, visible via dual lenses that were positioned over the eyes to provide a 90 degree horizontal and 110 degree vertical stereoscopic 3D perspective. Carmack later left id Software as he was hired as Oculus VR’s Chief technology officer.
Funding for Oculus Rift and company
The Oculus Rift prototype was demonstrated at E3 in June 2012. On August 1, 2012, the company announced a Kickstarter campaign to further develop the product. Oculus announced that the “dev kit” version of the Oculus Rift would be given as a reward to backers who pledged $300 or more on Kickstarter, with an expected shipping date set of December 2012 (though they did not actually ship until March 2013).
There was also a limited run of 100 unassembled Rift prototype kits for pledges over $275 that would ship a month earlier. Both versions were intended to include Doom 3 BFG Edition, but Rift support in the game was not ready, so to make up for it they included a choice of discount vouchers for either Steam or the Oculus store. Within four hours of the announcement, Oculus secured its intended amount of US$250,000, and in less than 36 hours, the campaign had surpassed $1 million in funding, eventually ending with $2,437,429.
On December 12, 2013, Marc Andreessen joined the company’s board when his firm, Andreessen Horowitz, led the $75 million Series B venture funding. In total, Oculus VR has raised $91 million with $2.4 million raised via crowdfunding.
Reality Labs Acquisition by Facebook
Although Oculus only released a development prototype of its headset, on March 25, 2014, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook, Inc. would be acquiring Oculus for US$2 billion, pending regulatory approval. The deal included $400 million in cash and 23.1 million common shares of Facebook, valued at $1.6 billion, as well as an additional $300 million assuming Facebook reaches certain milestones. This move was ridiculed by some backers who felt the acquisition was counter to the independent ideology of crowdfunding.
Many Kickstarter backers and game industry figures, such as Minecraft developer Markus Persson, criticized the sale of Oculus to Facebook. On March 28, 2014, Michael Abrash joined the company as Chief Scientist. As of January 2015, the Oculus headquarters has been moved from Irvine, California to Menlo Park, where Facebook’s headquarters are also located. Oculus has stated that this move is for their employees to be closer to Silicon Valley.
In May 2015, Oculus acquired British company Surreal Vision, a company based on 3D scene-mapping reconstruction and augmented reality. News reported that Oculus and Surreal Vision could create “mixed reality” technology in Oculus’ products, similar to the upcoming HMD, Microsoft HoloLens. They reported that Oculus, with Surreal’s help, will make telepresence possible.
On March 28, 2016, the first consumer version of Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift “CV1”, was released. In October 2017, Oculus unveiled the standalone mobile headset Oculus Go in partnership with Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi. On December 28, 2016, Facebook acquired Danish eye tracking startup The Eye Tribe. In September 2018, Oculus became a division of a new structural entity within Facebook known as Facebook Technologies, LLC. Facebook announced in August 2018 they had entered negotiations to lease the entire Burlingame Point campus in Burlingame, California, then under construction. The lease was executed in late 2018, and the site, owned by Kylli, a subsidiary of Genzon Investment Group, is expected to be complete by 2020. Oculus was expected to move to Burlingame Point when development is complete.
In February 2019, Facebook released Oculus Quest, a high-end standalone headset. In March 2019, Facebook unveiled Oculus Rift S, an updated revision of the original Rift PC headset in partnership with Chinese electronics manufacturer Lenovo, which featured updated hardware and features carried over from the Go and Quest.
On August 13, 2019, Nate Mitchell, Oculus co-founder and VP of product announced his departure from the company. On November 13, 2019, John Carmack wrote in a Facebook post that he would step down as CTO of Oculus to focus on developing artificial general intelligence. He stated he would remain involved with the company as a “Consulting CTO”.
In September 2020, Facebook unveiled Oculus Quest 2, an update to the original Quest with a revised design and updated hardware.
Reality Labs Facebook integration
Upon the acquisition of Oculus by Facebook, Inc., Luckey “guaranteed” that “you won’t need to log into your Facebook account every time you wanna use the Oculus Rift.” Under its ownership, Oculus has been promoted as a brand of Facebook rather than an independent entity and has increasingly integrated Facebook platforms into Oculus products. Support for optional Facebook integration was added to Gear VR in March 2016, with a focus on integration with the social network, and integrations with features such as Facebook Video and social games. By 2016, the division began to be largely marketed as Oculus from Facebook.
In September 2016, support for optional Facebook integration was added to the Oculus Rift software, automatically populating the friends list with Facebook friends who have also linked their accounts (displaying them to each other under their real names, but still displaying screen names to anyone else). Users have been increasingly encouraged to use Facebook accounts to sign into its services (although standalone accounts not directly linked to the service were still supported).
In 2018, Oculus VR became a division of Facebook Technologies, LLC, to create “a single legal entity that can support multiple Facebook technology and hardware products” (such as Facebook Portal).
Users and media criticized Facebook for the move. Ars Technica noted that there is no clear way to opt-out of information tracking and that the collected data will likely be used for targeted advertising. Furthermore, Facebook requires the use of a person’s real name. In September 2020, Facebook temporarily suspended sales of all Oculus products in Germany; a German watchdog had presented concerns that this integration requirement violates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which prohibits making use of a service contingent on consenting to the collection of personally identifiable information, and the requirement that existing users also link to a Facebook account to use Oculus hardware and services.
On August 25, 2020, Facebook announced the formation of Facebook Reality Labs, a new unit that would encompass all of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality (AR) hardware and software, including Oculus, Portal, and Facebook Spark AR. The Oculus Connect conference was also renamed Facebook Connect.
In June 2021, Facebook announced it would do a test launch of targeted advertisements in applications for Oculus Quest. The company claims that movement data, voice recordings and raw images from the headset will not be used in targeting. Instead, the ads will rely on information from the user’s Facebook profile and all user activity related to Oculus, including apps used or installed. The company has not stated whether ads will appear only in applications or in the Oculus Home experience as well.
In July 2021, Facebook announced it would be deprecating its proprietary Oculus API and adding full support for OpenXR.
Rebranding of Oculus as Meta
On October 25, 2021 during Connect, Facebook announced that it would invest $10 billion over the next year into Reality Labs, and that it would begin to report its revenue separately from the Facebook “Family of Apps”—which includes Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. Three days later on October 28, Facebook announced that it would change its corporate name to Meta (legally Meta Platforms, Inc.), as part of the company’s long-term focus on metaverses and related technologies. The company also teased a high-end mixed reality headset codenamed “Project Cambria”.
As a result, CTO Andrew Bosworth announced that the Oculus brand would be phased out in 2022; all Facebook hardware products will be marketed under the Meta name, and Oculus Store would be renamed Quest Store. Likewise, immersive social platforms associated with Oculus will be brought under the Horizon brand (such as Horizon Worlds). He also stated that “as we’ve heard feedback from the VR community more broadly, we’re working on new ways to log into Quest that won’t require a Facebook account, landing sometime next year. This is one of our highest priority areas of work internally”.
In January 2022, the Oculus social media accounts were renamed “Meta Quest” in reference to its current VR product line. Concurrently, Meta began to retroactively refer to the Quest 2 as the “Meta Quest 2”.
Reality Labs Products
Virtual reality headsets
The initial Oculus headsets, produced under the “Oculus Rift” brand, are traditional VR headsets that require a PC to operate. In February 2019, Facebook first released Oculus Quest—a standalone headset which contains integrated mobile computing hardware and does not require a PC to operate, but can optionally be used with Oculus Rift-compatible VR software by connecting it to a PC over USB-C.
In 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that the original Oculus Rift “CV1”, Oculus Go (a lower-end standalone headset released in 2017), and Quest represented the company’s first generation of products, and expected that successors to the three headsets would form its second generation. Oculus began to phase out the original Oculus Rift “CV1” in 2019, in favor of Oculus Rift S — a follow-up to the original model manufactured by Lenovo that incorporates elements of the Go and Quest. In September 2020, the Oculus Quest 2 was unveiled as an updated iteration of the first-generation Quest, and the Rift S was concurrently discontinued—making Quest the division’s sole active product line.
On September 26, 2018, Facebook unveiled Oculus Quest. It is a standalone headset which is not dependent on a PC for operation; the Quest contains embedded mobile hardware running an operating system based on Android source code, including a Snapdragon 835 system-on-chip, and 64 or 128 GB of internal storage. It contains two OLED displays with a resolution of 1600×1440 per-eye and running at 72 Hz. It supports included Oculus Touch controllers via an “inside-out” motion tracking system known as “Oculus insight”, which consists of a series of cameras embedded in the headset. The controllers were redesigned to properly function with Insight.
It supports games and applications downloaded via Oculus Store, with ported launch titles such as Beat Saber and Robo Recall. It also supports cross-platform multiplayer and cross-buys between PC and Quest. Facebook stated that they would impose stricter content and quality standards for software distributed for Quest than its other platforms, including requiring developers to undergo a pre-screening of their concepts to demonstrate “quality and probable market success”. In June 2019, Facebook announced it sold $5 million worth of content for the Oculus Quest in its first two weeks on sale.
In November 2019, Facebook released a beta for a new feature known as Oculus Link, which allows Oculus Rift-compatible software to be streamed from a PC to a Quest headset over USB. In May 2020, Facebook added additional support for the use of USB 2.0 cables, such as the charging cable supplied with the headset. Support for controller-free hand tracking was also launched that month.
In September 2020, Facebook unveiled an updated version of the Quest, Oculus Quest 2. It is similar to the original Quest, but with the Snapdragon XR2 system-on-chip and additional RAM, an all plastic exterior, new cloth head straps, updated Oculus Touch controllers with improved ergonomics and battery life, and a 1832×1920 display running at 90 Hz, and up to 120 Hz as an experimental option. Similarly to the Rift S, it uses a single display panel rather than individual panels for each eye. Due to this design, it has more limited inter-pupillary distance options than the original Quest, with the ability to physically move the lenses to adjust for 3 common IPD measurements. The Quest 2’s models are both priced US$100 cheaper than their first-generation equivalents.
The Oculus Rift CV1, also known as simply the Oculus Rift, was the first consumer model of the Oculus Rift headset. It was released on March 28, 2016, in 20 countries, at a starting price of US$599.The 6,955 backers who received the Development Kit 1 prototype via the original Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign were eligible to receive the CV1 model for free. On December 6, 2016, Oculus released motion controller accessories for the headset known as Oculus Touch.
Samsung Gear VR
In 2014, Samsung partnered with Oculus to develop the Gear VR, a VR headset accessory for Samsung Galaxy smartphones. It relies on the phone’s display, which is viewed through lenses inside the headset. At Oculus Connect in September 2015, the Gear VR was announced for a consumer release in November; the initial model supported the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7 product lines, as well as the Galaxy Note 5.
On October 11, 2017, Oculus unveiled the Oculus Go, a mobile VR headset manufactured by Xiaomi (the device was released in the Chinese market as the Xiaomi Mi VR). Unlike the Oculus Rift, the Go is a standalone headset which is not dependent on a PC for operation. Unlike VR systems such as Cardboard, Daydream, and the Oculus co-developed Samsung Gear VR (where VR software is run on a smartphone inserted into a physical enclosure, and its screen is viewed through lenses), it contains its own dedicated display and mobile computing hardware. The headset includes a 5.5-inch 1440p fast-switching LCD display, integrated speakers with spatial audio and a headphone jack for external audio, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 system-on-chip, and 32 or 64 GB of internal storage. It runs an Android-based operating system with access to VR software via the Oculus Home user experience and app store, including games and multimedia apps. The Go includes a handheld controller reminiscent of one designed for the Gear VR, which uses relative motion tracking. The Oculus Go does not use positional tracking.
While official sales numbers have not been released, according to IDC the Oculus Go and Xiaomi Mi VR had sold nearly a quarter million units combined during the third quarter 2018, and in January 2019 market analysis firm SuperData estimated that over a million Oculus Go units had been sold since the device’s launch. In his keynote at 2018’s Oculus Connect developer conference, John Carmack revealed that the Go’s retention rate was as high as the Rift’s, something that nobody at the company had predicted. Carmack also noted that the Go had done especially well in Japan despite lacking internationalization support and the company not specifically catering to the Japanese market.
Oculus Go was declared end-of-life in June 2020, with software submissions to end in December 2020, and firmware support ending in 2022
Oculus Rift S
On March 20, 2019, at the Game Developers Conference, Facebook announced the Oculus Rift S, a successor to the original Oculus Rift headset. It was co-developed with and manufactured by Lenovo, and launched at a price of US$399. The Rift S contains hardware features from the Oculus Go and Oculus Quest, including Oculus Insight, integrated speakers, and a new “halo” strap. The Rift S uses the same 1440p fast-switching LCD display and lenses as the Oculus Go (a higher resolution in comparison to the original model, but lower in comparison to Oculus Quest), running at 80 Hz, and is backwards compatible with all existing Oculus Rift games and software. Unlike the original Oculus Rift, it does not have hardware control for inter-pupillary distance.
In September 2020, Facebook announced it would be discontinuing the Oculus Rift S and in April 2021, shipments of the headset ceased
In September 2021, Reality Labs and Ray-Ban announced Ray-Ban Stories, a collaboration on camera-equipped smart glasses that can upload video to Facebook.
Reality Labs Oculus Studios
Oculus Studios is a division of Oculus that focuses on funding, publishing and giving technical advice to third party studios to create games and experiences for Oculus Rift. Facebook pledged to invest more than US$500 million in Oculus Studios for games. By 2020, Facebook purchased Beat Games and Sanzaru Games studios and integrated them with Oculus Studios. Ready at Dawn, a game studio composed by former members of Naughty Dog and Blizzard Entertainment, developers of Lone Echo, was acquired by Oculus in June 2020, though will continue to operate as its own subsidiary studios for Oculus.
Oculus Story Studio
Oculus Story Studio was an original animated virtual-reality film studio that existed between 2014 and May 2017, which launched three films. The studio aimed to pioneer animated virtual reality filmmaking and educate, inspire, and foster community for filmmakers interested in VR. Oculus Story Studio was first launched publicly at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it presented three VR films – Dear Angelica, Henry, and Lost. Despite generally positive reception and critical acclaim, the studio did not publish any other works and was closed in May 2017.
Following Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR, ZeniMax Media, the parent company of id Software and John Carmack’s previous employer, sought legal action against Oculus, accusing the company of theft of intellectual property relating to the Oculus Rift due to Carmack’s transition from id Software to Oculus. The case, ZeniMax v. Oculus, was heard in a jury trial in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and their verdict was reached in February 2017, finding that Carmack had taken code from ZeniMax and used it in developing the Oculus Rift’s software, violating his non-disclosure agreement with ZeniMax, and Oculus’ use of the code was considered copyright infringement. ZeniMax was awarded $500 million in the verdict, and both ZeniMax and Oculus are seeking further court actions.
In May 2022, Immersion Corporation sued Meta Platforms for patent infringement relating to the use of vibration functions in their gaming controllers.
VirtualLink was a proposed USB-C alternate mode that was historically intended to allow the power, video, and data required to power virtual reality headsets to be delivered over a single USB-C cable and connector instead of set of three different cables as it was in older headsets. The standard was supported by Nvidia, AMD, HTC Vive, Oculus VR, Valve, and Microsoft. The VirtualLink Consortium was chaired by Rambo Jacoby representing Nvidia. VirtualLink never launched successfully.
According to its specifications, the VirtualLink cable consisted of:
- 4x DisplayPort balanced pair data path
- DisplayPort HPD (hot-plug detection pin) as a single wire.
- DisplayPort AUX signal as a balanced pair
- USB 3.1 signals
- A USB TX balanced pair for USB 3.0 data
- A USB RX balanced pair for USB 3.0 data
- I2C wire to control the USB Billboard interface, in case the cable is plugged into an unsupported interface.
- VBUS carrying power to HMD visor
- GND ground
The USB-C plug pinout specified:
Unlike most alt-modes this remapped A7, A6, B6, B7 to carry a USB 3.0 signal, instead of the usual passive USB 2.0 signal. This means that one would not be able to extend the cable using a standard USB-C 3.0 cable, which has these pins mapped only for unshielded USB 2.0 signals. Also this required the VirtualLink port to also detect the correct orientation of the USB-C plug to ensure that the USB 3.0 TX and RX lanes are correctly connected.
In VirtualLink mode, there were six high-speed lanes active in the USB-C connector and cable: four lanes transmit four DisplayPort HBR 3 video streams from the PC to the headset while two lanes implement a bidirectional USB 3.1 Gen 2 channel between the PC and the headset. Unlike the classic DisplayPort USB-C alternate mode, VirtualLink has no USB 2.0 channels active, instead providing a higher speed USB 3.1 Gen 2 (SuperSpeed+) over the same A6, A7, B7, B6 pins. VirtualLink also required the PC to provide 15 to 27 watts of power. No information pertaining to VirtualLink alternate mode compatibility with USB4 (and so Thunderbolt 3 alternate mode) had been published.
To achieve six high-speed lanes over USB-C, VirtualLink required special cables that conformed to version 1.3 of the USB-C standard and used shielded differential pairs for both USB 2.0 pairs.
The available bandwidth was estimated to be equivalent to DisplayPort 1.4 (32.4 Gbit/s, up to 4K @ 120 Hz with 8 bpc color) for video and 10 Gbit/s of USB 3.1 Gen 2 data.
Implementation in graphics cards and devices
Nvidia GeForce 20 series cards, initially released in 2018, implemented a single VirtualLink port in all RTX Founders Edition (FE) cards (2060, 2070, 2080, 2080 Ti). This port was also made available on Quadro RTX cards.
As of Nvidia’s GeForce 30 series cards announcement, all of Nvidia’s new Founders Edition GPUs, alongside the partner boards announced so far, lacked a VirtualLink port due to its discontinuation. By contrast, the AMD Radeon RX 6000 series, announced in October 2020, implemented a VirtualLink port for the first time.
Discontinuation & abandonment
As of August 2020, the VirtualLink standard had failed to propagate into the virtual reality headset market. The Valve Index had initially developed a VirtualLink accessory, but it was canceled due to technical signaling and reliability issues. By September of that year, it had been abandoned by its consortium, and the website now redirects to its Wikipedia page
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