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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Facebook Teases VR Headset Prototypes Following Vive Flow Leak

Seemingly in an effort to keep the spotlight during an increasingly hot month of VR announcements, Facebook teased a look at two new XR headset prototypes just a day after an apparent leak of HTC’s upcoming Vive Flow headset.

Although Facebook is expected to make major XR announcements at its upcoming Facebook Connect conference later this month, it seems the company couldn’t help but tease some of what its been working on.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today posted an image of himself looking into what he called an “early retina resolution prototype.”

Image courtesy Mark Zuckerberg

‘Retina resolution’ refers to a display which has enough pixel density that it meets or exceeds the resolving power of the human eye. With no cameras apparently on the outside of the headset, this particular prototype is likely a VR headset. However, Zuckerberg said he was checking out a range of “next-generation” XR projects from his company’s VR division, Facebook Reality Labs.

“I spent the day with the Facebook Reality Labs research team in Redmond to demo our next-generation virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence tech. This one is an early retina resolution prototype. The future is going to be awesome,” he wrote.

Zuckerberg’s post was coordinated with another from Facebook’s VP of XR, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who tweeted an image at what he says is another prototype from the FRL Research team in Redmond. The device appears to be a compact XR headset that takes on a goggles form factor

Image courtesy Andrew Bosworth

“Proud of the research Michael Abrash’s team is working on at FRL-R Redmond—excited to get an early look at some of the technologies that will underpin the metaverse (we work on several prototype headsets to prove out concepts, this is one of them. Kind of. It’s a long story.),” he wrote.

The wording suggests that the device isn’t itself an upcoming product but simply a prototype to “prove out concepts,” though he also teases that there’s a “long story” behind the headset, without going into detail.

While it could be something as simple as a non-functional ergonomic prototype, Facebook Reality Labs researcher Douglas Lanman seems to have confirmed that the headset is a display prototype in his own tweet. “I’m excited to see this preview of another headset prototype from the Display Systems Research team at FRL-R Redmond,” he wrote.

It doesn’t seem like coincidence that the Facebook teases happened today. Just yesterday, HTC’s own upcoming compact VR headset, Vive Flow, appears to have leaked ahead of the company’s event on Thursday. With pre-orders for Vive Flow purportedly starting on October 15th, the unspoken sentiment of Zuckerberg & Bosworth’s posts feel akin to ‘wait until you see what we’ve got up our sleeve’.

HTC likely got the message; the company’s President of Vive China quickly tweeted back to Bosworth, “Hey Boz, Nice looking research project. Want to trade for a production quality device hot out of our factory? 😎,” insinuating that HTC is ahead of the game by already having its compact headset ready for production.

With all this new XR hardware in the works, it’s certainly turning out to be an exciting month. Facebook will surely save its major announcements at Facebook Connect later this month and high-end headset maker Varjo has been teasing its own big announcement.

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