Published on March 25th, 2014 | by APant11
Facebook Buys Oculus for $2 Billion
Yeah, that Oculus. The makers of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset; Facebook owns it. That combination sounds a bit like chocolate and fish to me, but Facebook is saying VR is going to be a big part of the social networking landscape of the future. I think that sounds stupid. Going beyond the easy jab of “Pictures of Your Stupid Toddler in 3D,” I don’t know where anyone possibly thinks this will go because I don’t think there are any practical social applications of VR. Beyond games, I don’t there are any applications of it period.
Video conferencing and virtual tours are often-cited examples, but these things hardly work in 2D. Remember that internet infrastructure in the US is pretty much garbage compared to the rest of the world; If I can’t stream HD video at peak hours now through Netflix, there’s no way a VR signal can come close to anything near real time.
I hate to sound like a grumpy old guy, but virtual reality only sounds good for games. The argument can be made that it could create realistic education experiences, but they said that about laser disks. It’s graphically taxing on a computer to render multiple realtime images at a high frame rate, it represents a significant time and money investment, and requires compromise in terms of how you use them. This is built for gaming. You don’t just throw on VR goggles to check email, because the current solution is simply better.
There’s also the argument that Facebook’s interests and VR customer’s interests don’t line up. Notch, the creator of Minecraft, has already publicly announced he will not be doing any development for the Rift. On his blog, he said about Facebook “Their motives are too unclear and shifting, and they haven’t historically been a stable platform.” I will never a fault a business for trying to make money, but if I ever purchased any kind of new platform from Facebook, I don’t think I would be able to shake the feeling that I was more product than customer.
I may have been slightly overreacting with my above comments about being brained by a laptop, I actually think this could be good for VR as a whole. The market for it is there, but the product basically doesn’t exist yet. Multiple companies creating and selling a product are going to help all of them succeed due to the higher interest and competition. Just this news alone should be a huge boon for all VR developers. And who knows, maybe I’ll be eating crow in 10 years when we’re all wearing augmented and virtual reality glasses every day. All I know is if that happens, I’ll be making ultra-dorky Shadowrun jokes about living in the matrix all the time. And you young whippersnappers can’t stop me.