Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to get one billion people using virtual reality.
On Tuesday, Facebook launched the VR headset the company hopes will get them there. Or at least get them headed in the right direction.
Facebook officially launched Oculus Go, the company’s standalone VR headset that it first announced back in October. The headset costs $199, but it’s Oculus Go’s ease of use that has Facebook executives excited. Unlike Oculus’s other headsets, Go doesn’t require a high-end smartphone, like the Samsung Gear VR, or an expensive, high-powered computer, like the Oculus Rift. It has no wires or cables like the Rift, either.
You can just take it out of the box and put it on. Voila, welcome to virtual reality.
“You don’t have to worry about setting it up or clipping it in. It is the highest-accessibility type of VR that we think can exist,” Oculus boss Hugo Barra told Recode back in January. “Standalone VR really is a key product category for us to try to get as many people as possible into VR.”
The headset really is slick. We’ve had it on hand to demo for the past few days, and the simplicity of picking up the headset without wires or phone clip-ins really is convenient. The Oculus Go also has speakers built into the strap so you don’t need to put anything over your ears in order to hear. (Beware: It’s possible that people sitting nearby can hear what you’re watching or listening to if the volume is up loud enough.)
The Go is Oculus’s latest attempt to bring VR into the mainstream, though affordable and easy-to-use headsets are only part of what has kept the industry from getting really big really fast.
“I think the biggest stigma we see with VR is this sort of isolationist argument that people make, that you get into VR to disconnect yourself from the world and other people,” Barra told us in January. “From our perspective, it’s exactly the opposite.”
Facebook is trying to solve that, too. As part of Tuesday’s announcement, which took place at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, the company rolled out a new version of “Oculus Rooms,” where people can spend time together in the virtual world, either playing cards, watching a movie or just chatting.
Oculus also hopes people will spend time watching TV in virtual reality — in May, it’s launching a new app called “Oculus TV” that works just like any other set-top box, with apps for Netflix, Hulu and Showtime. Another new app, called “Oculus Venues,” will let people watch live concerts or sports in virtual reality.
“The goal is to get immersive live content that you can kind of build a virtual crowd of people [around] who share interests,” explained Madhu Muthukumar, an Oculus product manager.
There are a lot of reasons Facebook and Oculus want to get virtual reality right. Zuckerberg thinks it will be a major platform in the same way that smartphones are a platform for people to access entertainment and communicate with the people they care about. Oculus gives Facebook a chance to own the hardware as well as the software with this new platform, something the company missed out on with the smartphone transition.
Here’s how Zuckerberg explained it on Facebook’s last earnings call:
We’re investing a lot in this because frankly, we haven’t to-date been a hardware company, but we’re an operating system company. And we think that we need to build up a lot of different muscles in order to be competitive and be able to succeed in that space and to be able to shape that space.
One of my great regrets in how we’ve run the company so far is I feel like we didn’t get to shape the way that mobile platforms developed as much as would be could, because they were developed contemporaneously with Facebook early on. I mean, iOS and Android, they came out around 2007, we were a really small company at that point — so that just wasn’t a thing that we were working on. But now, I think we’re living in a world where — the way that I think about this is that people should really be at the center of how we design technology.
Oculus gives Facebook a chance to control everything, without being at the mercy of another company’s hardware or operating system.
The other reason Facebook cares about Oculus: It wants to get its money back. Facebook paid more than $3 billion in total for Oculus, and has no doubt invested hundreds of millions more since it was acquired. There’s a real financial incentive to get virtual reality right.
Oculus Go is on sale starting Tuesday, and you can find it at Oculus.com and major online retailers like Amazon and Best Buy.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.