The seventh annual Facebook Connect virtual and augmented reality conference, formerly known as Oculus Connect, is being streamed online today. Facebook is expected to announce a new Oculus Quest VR headset, which has been widely leaked over the past few months. But we could also see a slate of new virtual reality games, extra Spark AR features, updates on Facebook’s Horizon virtual world, and hints at the company’s long-term AR headset plans.
And like many events during the pandemic, Connect 7 is being held fully online.
Facebook Connect 7 starts with a keynote at 10AM PT / 1PM ET, then continues with panels and developer sessions. It concludes at 7PM PT/ 10PM ET with an “afterparty” concert from Jaden Smith. Unlike the physical events of past years, it’s being condensed into a single day.
Connect is being streamed on Facebook Live through the page for Facebook Reality Labs, the company’s AR / VR division. The keynote will go live at 9:55AM PT / 12:55PM ET here, and FRL’s page includes links for the day’s other events, including the highly anticipated 5:30PM PT / 8:30PM ET annual talk by Oculus consulting CTO John Carmack and the 7PM PT / 10PM ET Jaden Smith afterparty.
If you’ve got an Oculus Quest VR headset, you can also view the event in Venues, a live VR event space. Venues is currently in beta and doesn’t appear to be available to everyone. But if you’ve got access, you can use the event link here.
You can view the full Connect schedule on Facebook’s event page, but there are a few highlights.
Connect keynotes typically feature appearances from Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg and chief scientist Michael Abrash, covering the day’s big VR and AR news. In addition to product and game announcements, they outline where Facebook is directing its VR efforts in the near future, while offering tantalizing details about experimental research and development.
If you’re interested in VR development, Facebook is offering a series of streams after that. They start with a 12PM PT / 3PM ET “super session” that outlines the state of Oculus development tools, then proceed with specific sessions on topics, like increasing accessibility and designing live social VR experiences.
Carmack, formerly of id Software, officially stepped back from Oculus last year to work on artificial intelligence at Facebook, but he’s still listed as consulting CTO of Facebook Reality Labs. He’s scheduled to give one of his “unscripted” talks — typically long, entertaining, and often illuminating digressions on the state of VR and Oculus development specifically.
This is the first time Facebook is dropping the “Oculus” name from Connect, and overall, we’re not sure how much it will change the event’s tenor. Connect has covered more than Oculus for a while now, but Facebook is increasingly folding VR into its main offerings; among other things, it’s requiring a Facebook account to log into future headsets. That could mean we’ll hear more about issues like privacy and disinformation — or it might simply keep the focus on games and tech.