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Facebook is launching a new virtual reality headset that does not require a separate computer to operate, allowing more mobile uses than the company’s existing Oculus Rift product, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday. Zuckerberg, speaking at a conference for virtual reality developers, said the “Oculus Go” device would cost $199 and ship early next year, too late for this year’s holiday shopping season but likely ahead of rivals. Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality hardware in hopes the technology, which offers a 360-degree panoramic view of faraway or imaginary spaces, will move from a niche interest to a widely used platform for gaming, communication and business applications. In 2014, Facebook paid $3 billion to acquire Oculus and retain its employees. The Oculus Go is billed as simpler than the Rift, which went on sale last year, or the Vive system made by HTC Corp.
Both of those require desktop computers to operate. “I think you’re going to see these a lot on airplanes, because it’s way better than the back-of-the-seat monitor or my phone,” Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, said in an interview.Schroepfer said the device is aimed at people who do not have Samsung smartphones. Oculus and Samsung Electronics already sell a device, named Gear VR, that when paired with certain Samsung phones is similar to Oculus Go.