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Oculus Go
The Oculus Go headset is designed to be comfier than a smartphone holder for virtual reality. (Oculus Photo)

Oculus is filling the virtual-reality niche between smartphones and its high-end, wired-up Oculus Rift headset with a standalone mobile headset that’ll sell for $199.

The Oculus Go headset, unveiled today in conjunction with the Oculus Connect conference in San Jose, Calif., is due to ship early next year, the Facebook subsidiary said in a blog post.

At today’s conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the product fills a “sweet spot” in his company’s campaign to get a billion people using virtual reality.

Oculus Go is compatible with mobile apps and content produced for Samsung Gear VR, the smartphone that’s optimized for Oculus. But it has a comfier facial interface, built-in speakers for spatial audio (plus a headphone jack) and wide-angle lenses.

Oculus says the standalone headset’s fast-switch, high-resolution LCD display reduces the “screen-door effect” that’s noticeable when experiencing virtual reality on smartphones — that is, the sense that the display’s pixels are separated by fine black lines.

The product still has to win the Federal Communications Commission’s authorization for commercial use, Oculus said.

During today’s conference, the Facebook subsidiary provided updates on several other VR initiatives:

Project Santa Cruz: Oculus showed off its latest prototype for an untethered headset that could be paired with a computer and positionally tracked hand controllers for a Rift-type, immersive virtual-reality experience.

Oculus Dash: The company introduced a new type of VR interface that could replace real-life computer screen displays with dashboards like the ones that Tom Cruise swished his fingers through in the movie “Minority Report.”

Oculus Home: Oculus Rift users will be able to customize their “home base” to place their own furniture, artwork, toys, etc., in a virtual environment. Home and Dash will be part of the Rift Core 2.0 software update, due for beta distribution to Rift users in December.

Oculus Rift and Touch: The bundled price of Oculus’ top-end Rift VR headset and Touch controllers has been set permanently at $399, which had been a promotional price for six weeks this summer. That doesn’t include the PC hardware required to run the software.

Venues: Zuckerberg said that Facebook is working on a virtual-reality app called Venues that would let users “watch live concerts, and live sports, and premieres of movies and TV shows, all around the world with friends.” He said Venues would launch next year.

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