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Written by Lucas Matney

Facebook sells off Oculus Medium to Adobe

Facebook is selling Oculus Medium — a 3D virtual reality sculpting tool for creatives — to Adobe. The team was an expensive effort for Oculus and its sale signifies a broader rethinking within Facebook in what virtual reality projects they tackle in-house.

It’s clear that Oculus pumped an awful lot of money into Medium over the years and the sale probably isn’t great for the Oculus Medium team, if only because there is now a proper price tag attached to the effort that will be looming for the fairly niche software. Terms of the deal weren’t shared so who knows what kind of deal Adobe got.

What is nice is that Facebook went to the trouble of properly spinning out Medium. When Facebook shut down Oculus Story Studio, the company quietly laid off its employees. Medium is well-liked by a small community and it makes plenty of sense at Adobe where first-party integration with other products will undoubtedly make it better software. It’s nice to see it live on.

The sale of Medium after the purchase of Beat Saber-maker Beat Games really encapsulates the VR content strategy of Oculus at the moment. Non-gaming creative tools aren’t getting new investment, cinematic VR content isn’t being prioritized, and Facebook is preparing to buy more game studios with the goal of scaling their titles. For a division that has been talking only about the distant future for years, it’s a pragmatic strategy that probably signifies broader contentment with how things are looking on the hardware front.

Gift Guide: VR gear you won’t feel stupid for buying

Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2019 Holiday Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We’re here to help! We’ll be rolling out gift guides from now through the end of December. You can find our other guides right here.

There have been holiday gift guides for VR for the past five years or so and for most of that time, buying a VR headset was generally a bad call.

There were still fun experiences to be had, but the gear was expensive and the troubleshooting was not for the faint of heart. I’ve played around with most of the gear that’s out there and honestly most of it isn’t ready for consumers, but if there’s someone in your life dying to get into VR, here are some earnest recommendations.

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The best headset for 99.5% of people

 

 

This year, Facebook released the Oculus Quest for $399 and, honestly, it’s the only headset made by Oculus or anyone else that I’ve been able to give a full-throated recommendation for. Setup and upkeep are both simple and benefitted by its standalone mobile form factor — this one just works by itself, no PC required. There’s a worthy amount of content for something in its price range and it’s overall not a purchase you’ll feel dumb later for making.

$399 a little steep for a Christmas present? Obviously that’s understandable, but I would honestly just not go for a VR gift if that’s the case. Most VR gear below this price point is relatively clunky (with the caveat that for PlayStation owners, the PlayStation VR is still a great deal… though I think I’d still recommend the Quest if you’re willing to drop the extra money. It’s just such an easy system to love.)

Price: $399 from Oculus

To help you see better: prescription inserts

 

All of Oculus’s new headsets have a good amount of space in the headset to accommodate users that wear glasses, but if you’re the main person using the headset, it’s a lot more comfortable to just get prescription inserts made. It’s a little extreme, sure, but comfort is a big deal in VR so you won’t regret it if you’re already logging some decent mileage on your headset.

Price: $80 from FramesDirect

To help you be less gross: VR Cover

 

If you’re using your VR device as a device to get you moving and you’re regularly sweating while playing some of the more intense titles, that headset is getting pretty nasty I guarantee. VR Cover has been making masks that cover up the section your face touching the headset and they’re pretty decent quality and available for most popular headsets. These are great if you’re a bit sweaty or are regularly showing friends your new headset.

Price: $19 on Amazon

To help you get mobile: carrying case

 

The Quest is a portable console but that doesn’t mean you just want to toss it into your bag without any cares. It still is rather sensitive and if you scratch the lenses or tracking cameras, you are probably in for a bad time. The first-party Oculus Quest case is a pretty solid purchase with room for your headset and controllers, but not much else.

Price: $40 on Amazon

To help you get immersed: some solid wired headphones

 

If you’re the owner of a new Quest, Go or Rift S, you also will probably also want to be the owner of some decent wired headphones. The stereo speakers embedded in the headsets are good in a pinch, but your experience is going to be a lot better with some decent headphones and the Quest doesn’t allow for bluetooth headsets, so, sorry, no AirPods.

There are two schools of thought for which headphones are best for VR, ones that cut you off completely or ones that let you hear what’s going on a bit so that you’re at least somewhat aware of your surroundings. But be reasonable, you shouldn’t be basing your headphones purchase on what works for VR, so get some noise-cancelling headphones you’d also want while you’re traveling or some on-ear headphones you’d also use for at-home listening.

I’m a big fan of Grado headphones even though they aren’t all that comfortable for long sessions, but you can’t do wrong with an $80 pair of Grado SR60e headphones. I never miss a chance to recommend them. I’ve always been a Bose user when it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, but I also haven’t owned many pairs and I know most audiophiles will point you in Sony’s direction, so maybe a classic pair like their WH-1000XM3 will do (though remember you’ll have to use the included wire with most VR headsets.)

Price: Grado SR60e (Wired), $80 on Amazon | Sony WH-1000XM3 (Wireless), $278 on Amazon

The best headset for die-hards

 

 

 

If the best headset for 99.5% of people is the Oculus Quest, for the rest it’s the Valve Index. The PC headset is about as high-end as you would reasonably want as a consumer, though you are still definitely investing in a more complicated solution than the Quest. No other products on the market have the well thought-out feature set that the Index does. It’s less approachable, but its feature set screams high-end even if most VR games can’t make the most of what it offers. For PC gamers, there aren’t many good choices out there these days, but if you’re going to take a step beyond the Quest, you should get the Index (though it’s worth noting this is on pretty hefty back-order and won’t ship pre-Christmas.)

Price:  $999 from Valve

 

Report: Magic Leap’s early device sales aren’t looking good

Magic Leap just announced that they’re in the midst of closing a series E round of funding, but it sounds like they’re going to have to clinch that investment with some pretty troubling sales numbers for their only device on the market.

The Information‘s Alex Heath is reporting that Magic Leap managed to sell just 6,000 units of its $2,300 Magic Leap One headset in its first six months on sale, a figure made worse by CEO Rony Abovitz’s internal claims that he wanted the startup to sell at least one million units of the device in the first year, a goal the report states he was later convinced to rethink, then internally projecting the company would sell 100,000 units in the first year.

We reached out to the company for comment.

Given the company’s long much-hyped road to the release of the Magic Leap One, such low early reported sales are anything but encouraging for their ultimate goals of building a pair of augmented reality glasses that can rival the efforts of Apple and Microsoft. There aren’t many sales figures out there being shared for existing AR headsets on the market, but Magic Leap has also raised and spent more than any other startup to release their first device.

The company has now raised around $2.6 billion in venture funding from firms like Google, Alibaba and a slew of other investors. The story also reports that Google — and now Alphabet — CEO Sundar Pichai stepped down from the board and was replaced by another Google executive.