Facebook launches Oculus TV – but will people watch it?

virtual living room showing redbull extreme sports content on oculus tv

A month after being announced at this year’s F8 conference, Facebook has released Oculus TV – its take on watching TV on a virtual reality headset.

An impressive list of partners have already come on board the Oculus TV train, including Netflix and Hulu, who all have apps users can watch video content from via the platform. Facebook’s own video content and new apps from the likes of Red Bull (extreme sport-related content) and Pluto (a TV streaming service) will also be accessible for those interested in deep diving into VR videos.

Facebook describes watching Oculus TV as akin to watching a 180-in TV in real-life in a living room-like set up, but its launch gives weight to the question: do people really want to watch TV virtually? Watching and enjoying content on a TV after all, often is a shared experience – although cool, it can’t help but feel a little isolated.

With this clearly in mind, Facebook is trying to push Oculus TV as a shared experience by allowing users to virtually share what you’re watching with friends (if they also own an Oculus headset), if you’d rather keep your popcorn to yourself but still let them know what you're enjoying.

VR gaming makes perfect sense to be immersive, but whether people are grabbing their phone or tablet (a record 57% of video plays worldwide in 2017 were on phones), in a world where ease of use is being prioritised over everything else to watch content, it can’t help feel like too much effort to have a significant uptake – however good the video quality is reported to be. There’s also the issue of nausea and other aches and pains from wearing headsets for a long period of time that still really need to be ironed out before sitting down to binge-watch your favourite show in VR.

All Oculus Go headsets (Facebook’s standalone VR offering) will have Oculus TV pre-installed, with the service available for owners of older headsets via software update from the Oculus Store.

Watch this space (through your headset) to see if VR TV takes off.