Unveiling it during Oculus's annual conference in San Jose on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the Oculus Go as the "all-in-one" and "accessible" VR headset ever.
The research firm CCS Insight predicted that the vast majority of headsets shipped this year - 13 million of 16 million total - will be smartphone-reliant devices such as Samsung's Gear VR, which uses Oculus technology. Widespread release will likely lag behind by a year or more, judging from the gaps between the release of the Oculus Rift DK1 in March 2013, the DK2 in July 2014, and the retail Rift headset in May 2015. "That's why we were so excited to share our early work with Santa Cruz at Oculus Connect previous year", wrote Oculus Facebook in a statement following its announcement.
Facebook stressed its commitment to virtual reality, despite less than stellar adoption of headsets such as Oculus Rift which need to be plugged into computers. The Oculus Rift price is also coming down to $399, but you still need a high-end video card in addition to that.
By controlling the end-to-end experience, Facebook gets to tackle VR with a Cupertino-like approach to hardware that lets them avoid the headaches of Windows/Android and the OEMs that build for them. "And $199 is an low-priced entry for a lot of people who are just starting out in VR".
Like most kinds of consumer electronics, VR is going through a phase of cord-cutting, and in the not-too-distant future we might be able to do away with the tripping hazard of the cable that tends to wrap itself around your legs while using a Rift or Vive. The Oculus Go is a standalone VR headset, which means it does not require additional devices to function, like the Samsung Gear VR.
It's a standalone, lightweight headset with a controller akin to a soundbar remote or Google's Daydream controller.
"We're setting a goal: we want to get a billion people in virtual reality", said Zuckerberg. Of course, at that price, it won't offer you exactly the same VR experience.
The core benefit of a standalone Oculus Go, though, is that the whole VR solution is in one box.