Even though Oculus didn't have an official presence at CES this year, its leader, Hugo Barra, made a surprise appearance at Qualcomm's press conference to make an important announcement: Xiaomi would be its global hardware partner for Oculus Go, its first standalone VR headset. What's more, Xiaomi would also be making a special variant of the Go, the Mi VR Standalone, especially for China. In an interview with Barra following the press conference, he explained the reason for the push in standalone headsets: social VR.
"This is a product category that will help us bring the most number of people into VR and really start unlocking these opportunities for social presence," said Barra. "It's the idea of having a completely self-contained product that you can just put on and start using it. You can do everything in one step."
"Everything is integrated together in one device," he continued. "That is the best experience that we think can be created."
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stood on stage at last year's Oculus Connect and said that he wants to bring VR to a billion people, he really meant it. And a key reason for doing so is not just to sell hardware or games -- although that's obviously a pretty good incentive as well -- but it's to further Facebook's agenda of connecting the world via social VR.
"The vision that we have is for VR to enable people to spend time together and to do things together that they otherwise wouldn't be able to," said Barra. "It could be something as simple as Facebook Spaces, where you get in a place together with your avatars and interact. But it could also be watching something together, or playing a game together or doing any number of things together."