The news just dropped that Facebook acquired virtual reality headset developer Oculus for 2 billion USD, $400 million in cash and 23.1 million in Facebook shares (as in shares in the company, not sharing on their timeline). Oculus management released the following statement on their blog:
Today, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve joined forces with Facebook to create the best virtual reality platform in the world.[...] Facebook understands the potential for VR. Mark and his team share our vision for virtual reality’s potential to transform the way we learn, share, play, and communicate. Facebook is a company that believes that anything is possible with the right group of people, and we couldn’t agree more.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg also released a statement via his official Facebook page:
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 -- just by putting on goggles in your home.
This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.
These are just some of the potential uses.
Reactions from the gaming community are mixed, some see it as a great opportunity for growth and product development, some see it as a hijack of a much coveted technology. Notch is the latter and has pulled the plug on his Oculus Rift ready version of Minecraft. He stated in a passionate blog post:
Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. [...].
Don’t get me wrong, VR is not bad for social. In fact, I think social could become one of the biggest applications of VR. Being able to sit in a virtual living room and see your friend’s avatar? Business meetings? Virtual cinemas where you feel like you’re actually watching the movie with your friend who is seven time zones away?
But I don’t want to work with social, I want to work with games.
Just last week, Sony unveiled Project Morpheus, a prototype reality headset for the PlayStation 4. As consoles are now entertainment media hubs that are also really good for gaming, it's only natural that Virtual Reality headsets follow the same trend. These headsets may be a gaming accessory first but they're aiming at eventually being part of any media consumption and most of our digital interactions.