The recent acquisition of Oculus Rift by social networking giant Facebook came as somewhat a surprise to many. With a price tag of around $2 billion, the burning question has been what could Facebook have in common with a company that builds virtual reality technology? Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has, however, a very clear vision for the future, and he sees the virtual technology acquisition as a tool under his belt to achieve that mission. According to Zuckerberg, 'our mission is to make the world more open and connected'. He argues that the last few years have seen mobile apps being built, enabling people to interact with each other, and whilst this is still a growth area, Zuckerberg firmly believes that the future lies in focusing on new platforms that will give people an even more useful, entertaining and personal experience.
Where does Oculus Rift fit in then with Facebook's vision for the future? Understanding what Oculus Rift is and does can give us a hint as to where Facebook wants to take its technology. Oculus Rift is gaming technology, and when you put the headset on, you enter a computer-generated, virtual reality environment reminiscent of a movie scene, game or far away place. It enables users to have the impression they are in another place with other people, enabling new experiences that may have once been deemed impossible.
Oculus chief technology officer, John Carmack, who claims not to have been aware of the negotiations going on with Facebook prior to the acquisition, has also had to face questions about where Facebook might fit in with the virtual reality company. Carmack also initially reasoned that there were probably other companies out there who possessed more obvious synergies with Oculus. However, he also claims that he can appreciate that Facebook does get the big picture, and will no doubt be a powerful force to making things happen.
The partnership with Facebook could, therefore, exist to create the best virtual reality platform in the world. Zuckerberg believes that communication drives new platforms, and the partnership could create a more open, connected world. He believes that virtual reality is the key to making this happen. By using the Oculus gaming platform, the technology could be manipulated to create other scenarios that connect people in a way not ever imaginable before now. The virtual reality technology could be used to create scenarios such as studying in a classroom with other students, taking part in watching a sports match, or consulting with a medical professional face-to-face, for instance. The options for implementation could be enormous.
How this all translates for the future to consumers has yet to be seen. Many people may question the affordability of this type of new technology platform, and the accessibility to everyone. Yet, the reality is, rewind back a few years and the prospect of the internet, tablets and smartphone technology may have seemed like a pipedream, so there is little reason to cast any doubt over the viability of this new generation of technology becoming an every day feature of our lives. With the domineering force of Facebook behind the steering wheel, then anything could be possible.