Facebook Acquires Oculus Rift VR—Now What?
By Gel Galang | March 27, 2014 11:59 AM EST
Oculus Rift has been known as one of the pioneering forces in virtual reality gaming—but this bit of news may come as a big shock and source of confusion.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has issued a statement on his own account, starting with a jab at the mission of Facebook, which is to create a more open and connected world.
It seems that the company wants to go beyond merely building mobile apps that keep people connected with each other, and Oculus Rift seems to be one of the other platforms that they want to dabble into.
"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," said Mr Zuckerberg.
While this seems to truly mean that Zuckerberg is going to allow Oculus Rift a chance to debut big in the gaming industry and create content solely for gaming, this will only be the start of Oculus Rift, as the next industry in line that it aims to tap seems to be the communication platform.
"One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people."
While it's too early to judge where Facebook will actually take Oculus Rift in practice once it has shaped up to become the virtual reality technology it aims to be, fans have given their two cents' worth, particularly those who have been with the Oculus Rift project since the start.
What Fans Think: A Big No?
Given that the Oculus Rift VR headset started out as a Kickstarter project supported by a community, it's not surprising that those who have backed the project will need to voice out what they think. And many of them are voicing out anger, betrayal, disappointment and sarcasm, among others, over at the official Kickstarter page.
"What a disappointing decision to cash out even before getting first consumer version out," said Kert Tamm.
"I'm impressed; usually forms of media have to come into existence first before they are taken over and ruined by ad companies. This may be a new record," said Wilson Bilkovich.
"You selling out to Facebook is a disgrace. It damages not only your reputation, but the whole of crowdfunding. I cannot put into words how betrayed I feel by this," said Sergey Chubukov.
There are even others who have brought in the PS4's own VR project into the discussion. "In the months since backing this, I began to believe that the Rift would be a commercial flop, but I mostly didn't express this opinion. But between this and Sony's VR project, I'm absolutely sure that the Rift is doomed," said KoboldPrime.
Still, there are other backers who see a positive side to the move, as in Grillo de mal who said, "I feel that people right now are just blinded by their hatred for Facebook... I know that they've [Facebook] done lots of bad things against their user's privacy and that Mark might not [be] the nicest person on the planet, but they are pumping lots of cash into the project, and at least this will only help the project to move faster to their goals."
The Deal from the Oculus Rift Founder
In order to attain damage control and perhaps enlighten fans on why the Facebook acquisition happened for Oculus Rift, founder and inventor Palmer Luckey responded via the Oculus subreddit to address some main concerns that fans may have.
First and foremost, Mr Luckey is quick to assure (several times, in fact) that it will always remain the indie developer that it had started out on Kickstarter—only this time, it is standing on firmer ground with what can be seen as a backer that provides it with the resources to go build a better Oculus Rift VR headset.
"Oculus continues to operate independently! We are going to remain as indie/developer/enthusiast friendly as we have always been, if not more so. This deal lets us dedicate a lot of resources to developer relations, technical help, engine optimizations, and our content investment/publishing/sales platform," said Mr Luckey in a statement quoted by Worlds Factory.
"We don't have to compromise on anything, and can afford to make decisions that are right for the future of virtual reality, not our current revenue," he added.
It seems to always boil down to the fact that Oculus Rift needs the backing of a giant like Facebook in order to attain its goals of delivering the device, despite having and acknowledging existing partners that help in funding the project.
Mr Luckey has continued to reiterate that making the Oculus Rift VR is an "insanely expensive, think hundreds of millions of dollars" endeavor and one that requires quite the number of people in order to propel the progress. And there's also content that needs investments to create, which is also a big part of Oculus Rift's goal.
And while he claims that there will be no big deviation from the direction that Oculus Rift was going at from the start, there was an interesting reference to the way that the device is meant to expand to other territories and industries beyond gaming.
"The current focus on gaming is a reflection of the current state of VR, not the long term potential. Education, communication, training, rehabilitation, gaming and film are all going to be major drivers for VR, and they will reach a very wide audience. We are not targeting social media users, we are targeting everyone who has a reason to use VR," he stated.
From the get-go, the deal, while seemingly off-putting, may actually have some sense, if only to help Oculus Rift with its goal of creating the device. Even though fans are now clamoring for refunds and hailing disappointments and whatnot at the founder, it may be a good idea to see where Oculus Rift is going. After all, it has gone a great deal in terms of the technology—Facebook backing it may be the start of exploring other options for the VR concept.
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