On March 25, 2014, hot on the heels of its acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp, the social-networking behemoth that is Facebook announced that it would be purchasing the VR headset company, Oculus VR – famous for the Oculus Rift gaming device, which was originally funded on Kickstarter – in a staggering US$ 2bn deal, a deal that is expected to close in the second quarter of 2014.
Facebook wants eventually to be able to utilize the Rift’s technology for media, communications and entertainment – which presumably still includes the kind of gaming the Rift was initially designed for.
In fact, the Rift’s immediate future looks set to remain centered on its gaming capabilities. After all, according to David Ebersman, Facebook’s CFO, that was what made Oculus VR worth US$ 2bn in the first place.
On his Facebook page, CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted this: “Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate. The Rift is highly anticipated by the gaming community, and there’s a lot of interest from developers in building for this platform. We’re going to focus on helping Oculus build out their product and develop partnerships to support more games. Oculus will continue operating independently within Facebook to achieve this.”
However, he continued, “this is just the start. After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face… Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”
According to Time magazine, Facebook doesn’t have a business model for Oculus yet, but it seems that the company won’t be basing its revenues on sales of headsets. Zuckerberg imagines instead, in an extension of his comments regarding the sharing of experiences and adventures, people dropping in to virtual environments where they can purchase goods and receive targeted publicity.
That might smack a little bit of the invasiveness of advertising envisaged in Minority Report, but then, here, you have a choice about whether to enter a virtual environment or not. At least for the time being.
Still, the technological possibilities are endless and, indeed, fascinating. The idea of hooking up with friends across the planet in a virtual space is mind-blowing.
Exciting times are ahead, that’s for sure. Keep your Oculus peeled.