For some completely inexplicable reason, Facebook has announced that it is buying Oculus VR — the future of virtual reality awesomeness — for $US2 billion. What?!
Facebook’s plans for the totally rad VR headset aren’t immediately apparent, and the social media giant’s announcement of the acquisition does little to clear it up, citing the possibility of using the future headset for things like communication and education along with more obvious things like entertainment. Which is to say VR Facebook games, and hopefully — hopefully — other truly awesome stuff. Which, it damn well better.
Mark Zuckerberg pitches the future of Oculus at Facebook this way:
But this is just the start. 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.
This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.
It’s actually a reasonably promising vision of the future. If there’s anything that can catapult Oculus (and VR by extension) to widespread acceptance it is probably Facebook. That is if you can deal with a dollop of Facebook “ugh” in your Oculus VR “wooooooooo!”
The deal includes $US400 million in cash along with about $US1.6 billion in stock, which is no small sum, but comes off as a liiiiiiittle bit meager when compared to the $US16 billion that Facebook paid for messaging app Whatsapp.
Still, despite all the weirdness of this acquisition — it is super weird — there could be promise to the pairing. Facebook has both a gigantic userbase and deep, deep pockets, both of which could be insanely valuable to Oculus, which is essentially fighting the uphill battle of creating a whole new kind of media, a tall order regardless of how great your product is. We’ll have to wait and see if what Facebook can bring to the virtual Oculus table. It better be more than a 3D timeline.