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Facebook Acquires Oculus VR

To the tune of $2 billion, Facebook has acquired virtual reality and headset maker, Oculus VR. From the Facebook Newsroom:

Facebook today announced that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Oculus VR, Inc., the leader in immersive virtual reality technology, for a total of approximately $2 billion. […]

While the applications for virtual reality technology beyond gaming are in their nascent stages, several industries are already experimenting with the technology, and Facebook plans to extend Oculus’ existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas. Given these broad potential applications, virtual reality technology is a strong candidate to emerge as the next social and communications platform.

In a wall post to his personal account, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerber explained how his company sees virtual reality as a (the?) “new” communication platform:

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. […]

But 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 – just by putting on goggles in your home.

Not everyone is excited, or confused, about the acquisition. Indie game developers, who were looking forward to using Oculus’s “Rift” headset prototype, are justifiably concerned about future plans for the acquisition.

Notably, Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of Minecraft, expressed his concern in an article titled, Virtual Reality is going to change the world:

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. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.

You could argue that Facebook is a company of grass-roots enthusiasts, given their last two acquisitions of companies that fit the “grass-roots” bill. However, this logic only works if Facebook keeps both WhatsApp (~$19 billion) and Oculus VR as independent companies — something that remains to be seen.

No matter how you look at this, the world’s largest social network just bought the world’s first (truly) consumer-focused virtual reality company. An odd combination to be sure, but one that is indicative of Facebook’s determined march towards becoming the company that powers the world’s communication.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014