Is Oculus Preparing To Announce An AR Device?

Oculus yesterday revealed that it would be releasing updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy documents to adhere to new requirements set forth by the European Union. Curiously, Oculus slipped in a mention of AR, even though the company doesn’t currently offer AR hardware. Does that mean Oculus has a surprise coming?

It’s no secret that Oculus’ parent company, Facebook, is interested in augmented reality technology. Last year, the company revealed the Facebook AR Studio and how it uses computer vision technology to add augmented features to video feeds. And in December 2017, Facebook added AR features to Facebook Messenger.

Facebook isn’t new to AR, either. Last month, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer told Forbes that Mark Zuckerberg pushed Facebook’s executive team to invest in AR around the same time as the company famously purchased Oculus for over $2 billion.

The development of AR technology is a little bit behind the pace of VR technology, but the AR industry is building steam and beginning to move quickly. This year, we should see several augmented reality and mixed reality devices hit the market, such as ODG’s R8 and R9 smart glasses and the Magic Leap One mixed reality developer kits. If Facebook is planning to move into the AR hardware market, now would be a good time to catch the early adopter wave.

F8 In May

While we’re on the topic of timing: there doesn’t seem to be a better time for Facebook to announce a new Oculus device than the company’s annual F8 developer conference, which is coming up in just over a week. Facebook F8 2018 runs from May 1 to May 2, and the opening keynote would be the most likely time for Facebook to reveal any big news. Facebook doesn’t traditionally announce hardware at F8—the conference is catered to the development community. However, Oculus doesn’t usually have a presence at Computex, and E3 doesn’t seem like the right place to reveal an augmented reality device. Augmented World Expo would also be a good venue for such an announcement, but we’re not aware of Facebook or Oculus attending the show at the end of May. That leaves F8 as the most likely candidate for an AR hardware announcement.

Is There Precedence For Our Speculation?

Of course, the idea that Oculus is developing an augmented reality device is just speculation. Right? Well, no.

Last summer, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Oculus for a “Waveguide display with two-dimensional scanner.” In the documentation for the patent, Oculus included an illustration of what appears to be a standard pair of glasses with a display for augmented reality experiences.

We don’t expect to see a device of that nature this year at F8, though. Last year, Oculus’ Chief Scientist, Michael Abrash, set the precedent that we should expect five to 10 years before a device like that exists. However, Magic Leap appears to have made significant headway in trimming down the form factor of see-through AR glasses, so Oculus could feasibly demonstrate a device of that nature.

The timeline for Oculus’ rollout of augmented reality hardware remains to be seen, and the company surely has its hands full with the upcoming launch of the Oculus Go standalone mobile VR headset and the ongoing development of the Santa Cruz standalone VR headset. But that doesn’t mean it won’t tease something new that’s coming down the pipeline a little bit later. After all, Oculus has a history of teasing its upcoming wares months and even years in advance of their release. F8 is just around the corner, so we’ll know soon enough.

 Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years.