Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR this week put the social media giant in the news again. The company recently purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion, but their most recent move signals Facebook’s plans to embrace the futuristic world of virtual reality. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been open of late regarding the future of social media, and it’s apparent he is attempting to secure the long-term success of his business.
Oculus VR displayed their prototype at E3 in June 2012, and initiated a Kickstarter campaign soon after. With a target of $250,000, the company had secured this within four hours, eventually amassing a total of over $2 million. Anticipating the hardware’s immense potential, Facebook has secured the company under their name. With most technology now home to social media, is the next step the virtual world?
Eyeing The Future
Virtual reality has long been a popular concept, although its more advanced features have been restricted to science fiction. It can be traced back to the 1860s, when 360 degree murals of artwork were used as public attractions. From the 1920s vehicular simulators were being used, and by 1968 Ivan Sutherland had created the first head-mounted unit. Jaron Lanier helped to coin the phrase “virtual reality” in the 1980s after his company pioneered VR goggles, and NASA continued to develop the technology in the 1990s as part of their space program. Since then, public fascination has rapidly grown.
Recent hardware is bringing virtual reality closer to reality, and Facebook are attempting to be prescient and jump ahead of the competition; whether their deal pays off is subject to the passage of time. Many business insiders are still baffled by the $19 billion spent on WhatsApp, and the move to secure Oculus VR could be construed as another overly hasty piece of money flaunting. However, Facebook’s recent endeavours suggest they are aware their long-term future isn’t secure, despite their current unprecedented success.
The hardware itself, called the Oculus Rift, consists of a headset which has a mounted display the user places around their head. From here, a user can observe a display screen. The consumer version is in development and will advance upon the developer model. Although details haven’t been finalised, it is expected that head tracking motion detection, positional tracking, 1080p resolution, and wireless operation will be part of the finished product. Several versions of the device have motion tracking, which employs an external camera. This tracks the movement of the headset, allowing a user to lean and crouch and have their movements simulated. This would help alleviate any motion sickness. Asides from this, until we all try one it’s difficult to comment on the actual experience (you can see videos of it in action here).
Naturally, CEO Mark Zuckerberg delightedly noted the acquisition with an official blog post. He stated, “They build virtual reality technology, like the Oculus Rift headset. When you put it on, you enter a completely immersive computer-generated environment, like a game or a movie scene or a place far away. 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.”