We’ve had the good, the bad and the ugly on Wareable this week.
The good: Samsung’s confirmed its Gear Sport smartwatch and Gear IconX smart earbuds are launching on 27 October. Hooray.
The bad: After a glitch was discovered in a small number of Google Home Mini speakers, Google has entirely killed the device’s top-touch functionality. Ouch.
The ugly: Me wearing the new Oculus Santa Cruz headset. Lucky for you I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, so I’ll spare you that one. But speaking of…
Oculus: VR for all!
This week was Oculus’s fourth Oculus Connect, one of the rare times of the year the PR team let Mark Zuckerberg out of his big blue cell. He was joined by Oculus head Hugo Barra for a flurry of announcements, all of which came back to the same principle: Oculus wants to let more people aboard the VR train.
That started with reducing the price of the Oculus Rift and Touch Controller bundle to $399 – permanently this time. It’s been quite a climb down from the $599 it launched at, and that was for the headset alone. Another HTC Vive price slash can’t be far away.
Read this: There are flaws to the VR empathy machine
But then came the really exciting stuff: two new headsets. One, Santa Cruz, we already knew about because we tried it last year. But it’s come a long way since then, and next year it’s going to launch as a fully standalone headset. You can read more in our hands-on Oculus Santa Cruz review, but the main thing to note is that this will give you total freedom from wires. It won’t be quite up to the spec of the Oculus Rift, but in our demo it didn’t feel far away.
Second was a different standalone called Oculus Go. We know, we know, it’s a little confusing, and admittedly when Zuckerberg announced Go we thought this was the evolved form of Santa Cruz. Turns out this will sit between Santa Cruz and the Samsung GearVR, providing an untethered experience – with controller – that doesn’t need a smartphone. At $200 it’s a significantly less expensive option for those who don’t own a Samsung phone, but time will tell if it’s much better.
So yeah, Oculus is opening out the VR spectrum, which is probably the smartest thing it can do right now, rather than just give us the Oculus Rift 2. In his talk at Connect, Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash explained once again how many of the major advancements in optics and compute power to get us to truly amazing VR are still a while off.
Amazon’s next idea to get in your home
Another story that got the Wareable office buzzing this week revolved, once again, around Amazon. The relentless internet behemoth is said to be planning bigger strides in the smart home with a smart doorbell that would let its delivery bods drop off parcels right inside your home.
What may sound unnerving to some could be a dream come true for those who are sick of picking up endless missed delivery notices from their doorstep. We’re willing to give this rumor some credit as it makes perfect sense with what Amazon is doing. With Alexa inside the home and Amazon’s delivery army outside, there’s an opportunity here to cross the divide.
Amazon is said to be partnering with Phrame on the new service, but details beyond that are unknown. It wouldn’t surprise us if it utilized Alexa somehow here – perhaps the Echo doorbell is next?
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