Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Facebook Buys Oculus VR For $2 Billion

Oculus Rift – the future of everything?

Mark Zuckerberg has described VR as the ‘next major computing platform after mobile’, as Notch pulls support for Minecraft.

Virtual reality has an unexpected new champion, as Facebook announces it has bought Oculus VR for $400 million cash and 23.1 million Facebook shares, plus another $300 million in potential bonuses. Not bad for a company that first shot to fame with a Kickstarter campaign for the Oculus Rift headset.

The obvious question though is what does Kickstarter want with what was a start-up company aimed primarily at hardcore PC gamers?

‘Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,’ said Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. ‘Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.’

‘The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you’re actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it’s different from anything they’ve ever experienced in their lives’, wrote Zuckerberg on Facebook.

‘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,’ he added.

‘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’.

The response from hardcore gamers and developers has been predictably reactionary, with Minecraft creator Markus ‘Notch’ Persson immediately cancelling an Oculus Rift version of Minecraft. In fact he got so angry about the whole deal he then went on to write a blog about how virtual reality is going to change the world but Facebook is ‘creepy’.

Many ordinary Kickstarter backers have also been demanding their money back, but as you might imagine gaming isn’t really what Facebook is interested in.

‘This is just the start’, wrote Zuckerberg. ‘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.’
‘Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming and we have a chance to build it together. I can’t wait to start working with the whole team at Oculus to bring this future to the world, and to unlock new worlds for all of us’.

All of which is fair enough, but $2 billion does seem an awful lot when virtual reality has been a commonplace idea for many years now and Oculus VR don’t own any important patents on the technology. This is evident from Sony’s recently unveiled Project Morpheus, which many have already described as superior to Oculus Rift.

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