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The Quest Effect: Inside VR's Next Chapter | SXSW 2021

Mark Rabkin
Facebook at VP of Oculus
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SXSW 2021
March 16, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
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The Quest Effect: Inside VR's Next Chapter | SXSW 2021
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About speakers

Mark Rabkin
Facebook at VP of Oculus
Scott Stein
Editor at Large at CNET

Mark Rabkin is the VP of Oculus at Facebook Reality Labs (FRL). FRL’s mission is to build tools that help people feel connected, anytime, anywhere. At Oculus, Mark leads the teams building VR hardware, software and immersive experiences for the next computing platform. Before FRL, Mark led the Ads and Business Platform organization. In his down time, you can catch Mark in VR playing Arizona Sunshine.

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Scott Stein has been an editor at CNET since 2009, looking at everything from phones to tablets, wearable tech, VR/AR, and the role of immersive interfaces in a changing world. As Editor at Large, he's focused on the future of what's next in tech. He's been following VR since the first CES demos of the Oculus Rift in 2013, and spends a lot of his non-tech time practicing magic and playing board games.

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About the talk

Anyone who has entered virtual reality knows what a transformative experience donning a headset can be. Until recently, that experience was enjoyed mainly by hard-core VR enthusiasts. This year, all-in-one VR has become better, more powerful, and more affordable, expanding and changing the makeup of who spends time in VR. Now, that new group is discovering how great VR can be — not only for games, but also for fitness, media, hangouts with friends, and even real work. Join Mark Rabkin, Vice President of Oculus at Facebook, for a discussion about the future of VR, its changing ecosystem, and what its recent success means for the development of the next computing platform.#Quest2

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I am Scott Stein, Tech, writer and journalist for seen it. And I'm here to talk with Mark rabkin who's VP of oculus at Facebook and we're here to talk about the ER this is a topic that I think about all the time because I use a lot of er at home and and I think my five years ago when the Oculus Rift debuted and that was something that felt like it was on the, the precipice of something, really exciting and new and I think Dan was ever going back even years before that. Now, five years later, we're still at a point where everybody is using VR, but the Oculus quest which Facebook released in in

2019, and then revised in 2020 with the quest to hit a whole new level. Basically, the stuff that I've been thinking about 5 years ago, which was fully Wireless in and high rising and here it is. And yet, here it is for some people and I think about, you know, we spend a year that was fully virtual for a lot of people and VR wasn't necessarily a part of Plan, where do we go from here? From something that VR feels closer than ever to becoming the thing for more people, as they live more virtual lives possibly, and I want to kick off by talking about something. And then last year, I

heard people referring to possibly the, the arrival of the arse and iPhone moment. And it's empty because I think about that, it, if first suggest, the idea that that PR is good enough for everyone, but I think of it as being a little bit different. I think when they were smartphones before the iPhone, when the iPhone debuted, it was multi-purpose. And I think, for me, that the moment that I start driving to people's lives, was that it was doing more than one thing in their lives and started to eat up other functions of other gadgets camera. We're going to GPS were all these other

things. That is the thing that I wonder are we, are we close to that? We are is a game console now in a lot of ways, but they're striving for say social, or Fitness the workplace. What comes next? But that. I think I think we're in the middle of, it becoming much more than a game. So a game console on your face and thank you by the way, for for being a fan for so long from the early Rift days, for any VIP and exciting exciting Journey ups and downs. But I really

feel for the first time. I think we're in that hockey stick right now, right. In the crook of the are becoming way more popular, way more mainstream in way more accessible. And I think you're right that the quest line, I think you us really changed how we are feels and how it grows. It was the first all in one package. It was the first time it's truly accessible and easy to use. It's the first time when I was demoing it for people, young and old like you know, grandparents they can just be in there. It's natural that can do. The movement that can

do the stuff, there's no wires, there's no external, send it just works. And that I think was combined with good Optics. Good. Resolution. It really, just accelerated, how many people you can get in there, what they can do in there in the quest to which Builds on that quest. One moment for us, just keep him out a few months ago just doing incredibly Great quest. One was out for about a year-and-a-half quest to surpassed how many people got into it in seven weeks to seven weeks of Quest. 2 was more people in the whole lifetime of quest one, which is absolutely

amazing. And I think a lot of what that's driven by is that there is a lot more stuff to do in VR now that it's in this package and that means developers are succeeding. So one of the biggest things we're doing internally to measure. Are we doing well, are how many people building except Chances for prrr are having their dreams realized and decided to say, we now have 60 titles in our store that are over a $1000000 announced 1/3 of the titles in the store. So 1/3 of the

apps are making a million bucks which is really starting to become, it's not just a dream, it's not just a nice hobby, Fame as a developer. You can really start to build a business on there and that amount of a million-dollar absence doubled in just over 5 months. So really exciting inflection point. To those apps are they are? They mostly games or are they in? Are there others? They're doing more than games. I see Fitness being a being a focus as well. Yeah, there is there's a very interesting expansion right now as a ecosystem girls

of both audience and experience. And that's what makes me really excited about the future of VR. Just being a lot more people coming in it, which I'm starting to do. More to, I mean, I friends were getting them, you know, it's, it's slowly starting to become the case that I might know people who were using VR, but from there. I know the Facebook's plans for this evening at some point. This becomes a larger scale, social platform and and Facebook is social media company in, we haven't hit the massive scale stuff yet. And what, even

that implicates, I was curious about what, what are the steps to that? You're right now. You know, when I think about going online socially, it's on a very small scale. You know, inviting a few friends and we have this kind of small cluster and and at some point Start working on Horizon as a, a type of an open social platform. When do you see that becoming more of a thing or how do you see the steps towards getting there? I think there's going to be a ton of progress on it, just this year alone. So making the system social and letting people have

experiences together is a huge Focus for us right now. So one way I think about VR, obviously it's a incredible computer on your face but just because of the immersion of gives you, because of the way, it gives you navigate the world, it's a feeling machine and it makes you kind of feel things that makes you feel travel. It makes you feel social connection. And what we're doing is we're building the building blocks this year to let you experience that social connection with other people. You alluded to the early days of ecosystem. Yeah. When it was so nice, there just not enough people online

and not enough people, you know, for you to have that. But that's really changing with quest to him and how many people are in there? So we're starting to think about all the Call the building blocks to make connecting with other people, great, whether it's on messaging and communication, whether it's voice and even how you present yourself. So, one thing I wanted to show you. And we can take a look, is a sneak peek at the new avatars, we've been working on for Horizon and you'll see them in her eyes and very simple, also be available across the whole

Quest, ecosystem for any developer who wants it. So this is me and my coworker Megan goofing out as avatars. I am so excited to show you today. The new version of Avatar is that we're going to be bringing in to Facebook Horizon. Hey I can definitely see you too. I think we're a lot spiffy or today than we usually are in Horizon recognized. You immediately. And just feel like you're really here with me, there is so much about your expression and about how you show up in the space that really overcomes the

distances between us right now. Can you tell me a little bit more about what's changing with these avatars? I'm pretty sure there was just so much engineering work that goes into making avatars. Like this feel natural and expressive the expressive medicine, and the face, and how, how we look, it's basically like, creating an animated movie, there's lighting the rigging. There's body positioning. There's animation is all the stuff that goes into it, but you're not creating a predetermined. Seen your you have to do it live for a

performer. Who is a Wily random human just doing whatever they want to do? Is it going to make Horizon a lot better which will tell you a little bit about and it's going to be available to all apps on Oculus system that you've seen in Horizon. Over the last couple of months with the invite-only beta group, that might be interesting for for this audience is that when avatars are hanging out and goofing around something, for mean, showing off for the other and we had it really interests me examples of that energy lately. So for example, in September after a Facebook connect

conference, John Carmack, who is our PR Guru. He always does this hallway talks that for many people are the highlight of the conference and he did them in Horizon with 30 people crowding around. Asking questions, he's telling stories, the energy was so amazing. He burned through to full headset charges for hours, just talking with them. So that's one of those things were thinking about for these Virtual Worlds, is, can we find a way in there to not just what people hang out? Play games. But let artist Express themselves and I really natural way.

That sucks. That looks a lot more fluid. You know, I tried and early beta Verizon last year and was also, you know, everything in VR, no more cartoonish but but they're sending me a lot more. Graceful motions and expressions going on. Is that is that my imagination there? No huge progress on the avatars in the last year. Just amazing work by both artistic and Technical teams on it. But what I'm really excited about is how it changes the feeling when you're in there. I know if you noticed it was kind of me it was my

gestures but like you're in this virtual world, your this Avatar you look in the mirror and kind of looks like it's very free when I recorded that that was just a couple of days ago. I was just like bouncy. I was energetic. I was excited. I'm trying to I saw myself as an amateur now. I'm trying to bring that same energy to real life and that's one of the things were really excited about to Rison. I think it unlocks a lot of creativity. It unlocks people to both be themselves and share that space with others. In that goofy way, I talk to, you know, a tiny bit earlier. But a

VR being a feeling machine, what I really want people to be able to do is create memory With each other and no spaces to hang out at the house that real social connection to talk to play to express themselves and that story. My avatar me told about Carmack at our conference. I am really excited to where that can lead in Horizon. I think there's a lot of types of performance that has benefits. So much from the audience interaction either between the performer and audience or the audience creating a vibrant energy.

In addition to just users building World building games building, private spaces for children, Horizon ugc building kind of communities, four different kinds of people. I'm also really thinking how can artists Express themselves in their, how can we eliminate distance as a thing? You know, pandemic brought this to, to the Forefront for us ever in thinking about remote work. Why I know that, you know, there's some Avatar experiments, whether it's in work with biometric capture or Facebook, reality Labs research looking at in the last year, showing a year before

showing really realistic faces. And it looks like it's beginning to sort of borrow some of the expressions from that I think also about their kind of Rules of Engagement in the social world, like I see a lot of Peter attia, see, a lot of theater and in our performance that are very compelling that you space and movement. And then I think about Zoom which at the same time as existing, which is what everybody is using, where we've caught ourselves, a kind of a Rules of Engagement. You never used to the jokes about meeting and and sharing your screen and all that stuff. And

we done that in a short. Of time. Yet when I think about VR, I feel that, you know, some people approach a bit like a chat, some people approach it like a game, are you seeing a point where we again to figure out those social rules and and get comfortable? Without really being seen, you were sort of presenting but not being seen. Yeah, there is there's a very interesting tension on our teams right now between taking some of the cues from The Real World and social stuff for stuff that maybe just instinctive for

people and building it into the products and experiences we have, and then exploring on the other side, what should the new Norms be? Cuz the laws of physics in some ways are different in a virtual world. I think it's early, I think the product to evolve, I think behavioral evolve, I think, based on the experiences that become the most popular in the most valuable to people. I think those Norms from those experiences. What kind of takeover? But we are thinking about a sound working out. Interruption working about space, we're thinking about distance. How close

is too close how far is too far and we're exploring a lot of that in Horizon. All of our other experiences. I wanted to read about Zoom for a second cuz I think that's also very interesting comparison. Just like and you mentioned earlier, what does Br mean for work? How do you think about working VR? Are you excited about nervous about it? No, it's get you so you can bring that up. I I I tried it a bit, you know, I've used that I've used apps like a murse to try to cry. When I did that,

I thought of it, in a lot of ways like a peripheral, you know, here. I was where I realized I don't want to recreate the stuff that I've got and this has to do with Dr. Is a tool. I don't want to recreate the stuff that I've, I've got on my workflow computers or tablets or phones. So, in a sense like headphones, I think of it as something that I would put on to expand my space, make it easy like a monitor, what kind of plug and play, and the more it can do that. The more I I use it, I think and I think that that's something you want to see my work. I know, I know Facebook's got a

lot of focus on infinite office and in other projects in that in that realm. How much do you see it? Like, like being a tool for the stuff we already have interfacing easily with that, or is it going to be more of its own space? I think it's going to be booked. So I think for document editing and presentations and just like or work communication, I think the thing my team is seeing as how do we make it work in PR, how do we connect to the cloud you have? But there's a lot of experiences that

just potentially can feel different in VR. Some one thing for him since we've been noticing in Horizon and are other worlds. When we hang out is you get a big group in there. There's a lot less of sorry, you're just a spatial audio, the body language the position of people in naturally directs the conversation around in a much more kind of fluid natural way. That's awesome. I'm also a very kind of Visual memory person back in the days. When we could have real meetings on Facebook campus, I would remember all these people sat here, this person

interjected from over here. There's a Vibe change in the room. When someone brought up this point, I don't have that Vivid of a memory of a lot of my video conference and it's been just so exciting for me. Cuz, you know, these virtual worlds on multi-purpose, we're hanging out in them for work at work all the time. That's kind of one of our luxuries of being in this business. I just have way more Vivid memories of hanging out with my co-workers in there, an understanding who was there and that feeling afterwards of sharing that space with people.

And we we were a try. We were in a space together. We inhabited it. We shared ideas, we came together. I think there's a lot of stuff like that. They just Irreplaceable with all the other amazing work tools we have well. And speaking of that, you know what, and I want to get to something that you know was announced last year and and people kind of wrestled wet when you think about connecting you want to think about, you know, under which identity and under and then how do you login Facebook last year changed the policy with that? You know where there is a Facebook

login for VR which was arrested on easily? You know what people you know myself included what I thought you know I want to be able to have a choice and have some free time with that I recognize that other devices have logins that under under their IDs to. So in a sense it's not different but also you want to be able to have freedom And I was going to have to. How does that all work? You know, if you are connecting to your work services or it's your apps or maybe do a different ecosystem, you know say like OK, Google Suite of tools. How do you say that playing out and how much do you see the

identity playing out as opposed to what you want on Facebook? I think there's so many diverse things people are going to do and we are number one, thing, people are going to need is that ability to present themselves correctly, in each space, stay and have it. I think it's really important for the device to have Facebook login overall, so we can have your profile. You can have your default identity. You can have the connection to all the social graphs. You've built up over time on messenger, on WhatsApp, on Facebook, on on Instagram and

be able to bring that in with you both so that you can hang out with people in VR and do stuff together. But also just communicate with them while you were in VR. So, it's not just a cut off shutoff isolating experience when you're playing a giant multiplayer game with jeans and some relatively impersonal interactions, you probably want to be a pseudonym. That's a key use case, we're always going to support that up for work. You might present under your Name. But, you know, you might have a slightly different Identity or a different outfit even for your avatar, even if

it's the same likeness in a different way of presenting. So we are we are we want this base, social layer for the device that ties you in total. Your most important grass. But we want to have a lot of flexibility to be with the present, under a pseudonym log into their work account, to use Google Docs, use whatever. And I think that combination of things will it will enable people to present themselves the right way in each experience being a different experiences. One thing we didn't bring up which is which is saying that I another use for VR is Fitness. You

know, when I think about the identity of a VR Yeah like I over the course of the past handful of months have been using it more more. It's simply beat saber and there are more indep apps like Supernatural which is almost like a Peloton experience and how much do you see that Palatine? You know we're all working on it home the possibilities for that type of training and it brought up subscription apps being part of that picture. I would also think how much are you going to fold in existing Health platforms? You know what the ability to more

easily, connect your watch and and other things to these services and what that could be Super excited about Fitness. It's really interesting how beat saber in particular, it developed to really organic people were just in there smashing blocks to music with, with their sticks and just noticing realizing hey, I am after an hour of gaming like this. I just feel better and different than another hour of gaming. And it's such an interesting thing to me that virtual reality brings real benefits to your body, even though it's virtual, it's a such an interesting

connection of your real body, moving in real space. And end this experience really, really hot vertical in the area right now. Fit XR is doing well, Supernatural is doing amazing. One thing I'm so tired of a supernatural. They have almost exactly 50/50 male female braids Other users. So really, it is just on welcoming such a diverse set of people who want to get fit in VR. And I love the community, that's forming around that Depot it. Just so positive people

really encouraging each other and it really brings a lot of benefits of the art to the Forefront. The fact that there is physical movement involved, the fact that it can be so motivational that the motion machine, we talked about all the time, it can get you going, you can get you excited, can have a personal trainer, you can have great music, you can have virtual Landscapes on, it's just very, very engaging and it's super fun for me to get into a Zone where technology is making people healthier and happier,

because I think a lot of times people People kind of worried about what the new technology will ring and I think between the social aspects of it and the closeness they can bring people distance and the fitness aspect, it can bring to really positive development for the whole week. Oh system, I want to know when the next VR headsets coming out too, but I'm sure you won't actually tell me that I made the quest to just emerged, right? So I guess your. Yeah. And I think that's the question now is, you know, it's not so much, a question of of something

new hardware-wise. It's a matter of what we make out of the hardware. That's there. I'm really curious about seeing what emerges, and I'm glad to get this Insight. I want to try using it for work. You know, I want to see what happens with that and see if I can see if you can blend Zoom at the Spirit of Zoom with the Smith, the spirit of this in and what that could turn into if that's something we'd want or something I can help or something, though. Weird. Mark, thank you for the conversation on this. Thank you so much. It's a it's been a pleasure. Awesome

top, always awesome to talk to a real BR fan and I hope all of you out there can get a chance to jump in the headset soon and try try game, try productivity app try working out in their, it truly is a transformative experience, once you put it on and it's so much easier to do it than it used to be a jerk. It just works and teleports you, and off you do. And it's a very exciting time to 2 to see what magic could can bring to your left. All to see what emerges next. Thanks, look forward to talking to you and in the real world

sometime, Thank you, see you soon.

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