Facebook’s Social Virtual Reality Strategy, A Revolutionary Fact or Fiction?

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  • 3 years ago
  • Posted: February 23, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Facebook is building virtual reality versions of its apps that would allow users to share their current environments with other users.

“We’re working on apps for VR,” Facebook’s Head of Product Development Chris Cox said Tuesday at Recode’s Code Media conference. “You’ll do it. Beyoncé will do it,” he added, using Beyoncé as a generic example of a celebrity who might use the platform.

Facebook bought virtual reality startup Oculus VR for $2 billion last year, saying at the time that Oculus would be part of Facebook’s plan to share experiences with friends. “Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures,” Mark Zuckerberg quipped at the time. But it may be a long time before Facebook gets you into accessing its apps via Oculus or some other virtual reality platform.

Facebook’s move is a bet that a technology commonly associated with science fiction can help eventually turn social networking into an immersive, 3-D experience. It wants to stay ahead of the pack and be a leading technology company. Mark Zuckerberg believes that the deal reflects his belief that virtual reality could be the next big computing platform after mobile, a technology the company has spent most of the last several years adapting to, for the major part, quite successfully. Facebook’s deal somewhat shakes the logic because Oculus, a small start-up that has not yet flourished a product to the broader public, which is working on to what some view as a niche technology aimed at hard-core video game player. But, what is social networking but a game amongst social beings.

Beyond the pale, Zuckerberg though hints that Facebook has much bigger plans for its acquisition. “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,” Mr. Zuckerberg scribed in a post on Facebook. Now, imagine that!

Wearables are a big thing, huh, not to mention Microsoft’s HoloLens and companies are coughing up big buck to get a hold of these technologies, it’s no wonder they were a huge thing in this year’s CES chapter. With a billion users worldwide, this is a huge gamble for Facebook in a bid to anticipate the future. Let’s look at the Math Oculus has sold more than 75,000 of its headsets to game developers, but has not announced when it will release a version to the public.

Let’s look at the Math-Facebook pays $400 million in cash and about $1.6 billion in stock for Oculus, with up to $300 million more depending on Oculus’s performance, which means Oculus is pretty sorted and has enough firepower to be able to achieve Facebook’s desired reality. Palmer Luckey, the visionary founder of Oculus thinks that they have the financial muscle for R&D, not having to worry short term profit potentialities. Palmer also believes and guarantees that you will not need to log in to your Facebook account every single time you would wish to use the Oculus Rift, and he assures us that the price will go down significantly! A great combination this marriage is, Facebook is more of an Ad company and Oculus, hardware.

There lies a disruptive quality in this economic union, especially in the Ad industry. Facebook thrives on owning and selling data about its users. Potential education and medical applications are rendered null by privacy concerns. So, many people are wary of this huge piece of reality, which is an enormous determinant of the ‘internal interactions’ between the two companies, and although Oculus remains independent during this process, the future might spell interesting realities. On paper, this marriage is a match-made in heaven, I just hope the two companies each signed pre-nups! Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see what comes out of this matter-of-fact situation, the technology, the possibilities, aah, I excitingly shudder to think!

What is your opinion on the topic?
Stefan Wolf
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