Facebook has opened its humongous chequebook yet again, this time to snap up Oculus VR, the maker of breakthrough virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift. Through reading Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook post, the idea is clearly to take social to another level using immersive reality. In real reality, has Oculus just sold its soul to the devil?
The most vehement backlash has come from the gaming industry, and understandably so. Rightly or wrongly, gaming companies and enthusiasts felt the Oculus Rift was their baby. The two main reasons for this assumption are:
1) A number of high profile games developers invested significantly in the original Kickstarter project
2) Virtual reality is a concept that is synonymous with gaming.
Were we all just kidding ourselves? You have this unbelievable piece of technology that opens a whole new world of potential. Were we really to think that it would get bought by a more loveable giant than Facebook or Google? Business is business after all, as John Briggs outlines in this Tech Crunch article.
So, we have the violently opposed, the neutrally tolerant, but also the positively glowing supporters of this move. Social media enthusiasts are awash with the idea that sooner or later people will be chatting to each other by immersing themselves into each other’s living rooms. Not that they’ll be any point having a living room if that’s what it comes to.
Fact: Facebook can’t ruin virtual reality
The natural reaction is to get a bit hysterical about this and yell: ‘Facebook is going to ruin virtual reality’. The fact of the matter is – it can’t. It can sure as heck make social media a far more creepy and antisocial place to hang out, but right now we just have to watch this space.
The reason Facebook can’t ruin virtual reality for the gaming world is incredibly simple and was illustrated perfectly today. Markus Persson, the developer genius behind Minecraft, wrote in an impassioned blog post that he would no longer see through plans to do business with Oculus VR to realise virtual reality Minecraft. He wrote that ‘Facebook is not a game tech company’ and said he found the whole idea ‘creepy’.
Soon after, Min Liang-Tan, CEO, Razer weighed in on Twitter, claiming that his company may be able to help him out – implying that the company is developing VR gaming hardware.
@notch perhaps we can help out. Will be in touch.
— Min-Liang Tan (@minliangtan) March 25, 2014
With Sony and Valve already keeping a close eye on this space, have no fear that virtual reality will continue to rock the gaming world.
For non-gamers, virtual reality won’t remain exclusive to social media and gaming. The Oculus Rift is still a piece of hardware that exists regardless of Facebook ownership. All the independent development and reverse engineering that has already been done cannot be undone and will continue to bring new developments to help immersive reality impact everyday life and industry. Take our very own Plextek Consulting’s immersive telepresence technology, for example.
So, in a way, and I’m startled that I have come to this conclusion: Facebook’s swallowing of the most exciting VR company on the block has added a new use of the technology we hadn’t banked on. But it doesn’t necessarily take away all the applications we have dreamt of.