Facebook pumps big bucks into Oculus venture

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Author: Will Westwater

Facebook announced on March 25 that they are acquiring Oculus Virtual Reality Inc. in the second quarter of the fiscal year. The partnership between a platform and social media source could change our technological world.

Oculus’ headset has won over the gaming community. Their latest iteration, the “Crystal Cove,” tracks the movement of the user’s head, allowing him or her to see and interact with whatever is in the high-definition virtual world.

Oculus Virtual Reality (VR) emerged from humble beginnings. The idea for a virtual reality headset was funded on crowd-funding website Kickstarter.com and promised developer kits for pledges of $300 and higher.

We started Oculus with a vision of delivering incredible, affordable, and ubiquitous consumer virtual reality to the world,” Oculus VR stated in its blog.

Its roots are based in gaming, but Facebook saw a bigger picture – expanding Oculus’ virtual reality to sporting events, video chat and more.

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,” Facebook co-creator and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg stated in a Facebook post.

Facebook purchased Oculus for approximately $2 billion. Though it will remain autonomous within Facebook, Oculus now has teeth in the fight for what may be the next big thing in media. The financial backing gives it a possible leg up over Sony, which recently emerged as a serious competitor in the fight for VR dominance.

A week before the acquisition at the Game Developer Conference, Sony and their “Project Morpheus” VR headset upstaged Oculus’ updated “Crystal Cove” VR headset. But Facebook, together with Oculus, has far broader ideas than Sony, which hasn’t shown anything more than gaming-centric ideas.

Though both Sony and Oculus will provide gaming devices, the question remains whether or not Sony will be as ambitious with their social integration. In addition, if Sony is not as ambitious with their VR headset, will the new ideas Facebook and Oculus have expand to other VR headsets?

Successful Silicon Valley social media and app-based businesses know that having their services on as many devices as possible is better, but Facebook buying a platform to co-op with a product has never happened quite like this. Oculus wants their ideas protected and exclusive for their hardware, while Facebook thrives on device diversity and sharing. It is a combination that begs questions about the outcome.

Facebook will probably keep their open door policy with their apps on all devices, but only time will tell what will happen in the future. However it is clear this kind of competition will raise the stakes.

Competition often nets big returns for the consumer, and Facebook buying Oculus means that all VR headsets will have to compete to provide more services, both inside and outside the gaming industry.

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