Facebook removes Oculus name from its annual VR conference, renames its AR/VR business

Oculus Connect, on Sept. 16, becomes Facebook Connect. And Facebook has named its AR/VR division Facebook Reality Labs.

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I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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2 min read

Testing out hand-tracking at Facebook's headquarters before last year's Oculus Connect. This year's show will be completely virtual and free.

James Martin/CNET

Facebook's AR and VR businesses are about to sound a lot more Facebookish. The company's annual Oculus Connect VR conference is happening Sept. 16, as a free online event. But the name is changed: it's Facebook Connect now, and it'll be focused on a wider range of VR and AR experiences. Facebook's also officially renamed its AR/VR division to Facebook Reality Labs, according to a post from Facebook hardware head Andrew Bosworth. 

Facebook Reality Labs was already a division at Facebook focused on next-gen VR and AR research, but the name change is meant to acknowledge Facebook's larger-scale umbrella of AR tech as well as VR, which expands into flat-screen devices too (Facebook Portal, and Instagram's Spark AR).

FRL's mission is to build tools that help people feel connected, anytime, anywhere. We enable depth of connection through social presence — the feeling that you're right there with another person and sharing the same space, regardless of physical distance," Bosworth says in the post. "Moving forward, our annual AR/VR event will be called Facebook Connect to better reflect its broader scope, and we look forward to sharing even more news that represents the work happening across the entire Facebook Reality Labs team." 


The new Facebook Connect logo.


Since Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014, the VR division has transformed over time, with most of the key Oculus executives from the acquisition now gone (CTO John Carmack stepped down in 2019). The renaming of Facebook Connect looks like another step in that transformation.

Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg already laid out clear plans for AR and VR to merge for Facebook, while the company focused on Oculus Quest to explore introducing emerging technologies like hand tracking.

This news comes after Facebook has already announced that new Oculus devices will now have to log in using Facebook accounts starting in October, and existing users will have to merge their accounts by 2023 or lose them. 

The Oculus name will survive for products and services, Facebook confirms. The Oculus Quest and Rift, for instance, still exist. But with future VR software like Facebook Horizon already ditching the Oculus name, it's unclear how long Facebook will keep using the Oculus brand down the road if the company's vision for immersive reality evolves beyond just VR.