After the announcement of the virtual reality helmet Project Morpheus by Sony, everyone expected some move on the edge of Oculus VR, which produces the competitor Oculus Rift. In fact, there was one at the recently concluded Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, with the announcement of a second version of the developer kit, but the bomb came just in time.
Facebook sees the future in augmented reality (AR) and virtual worlds, where you feel as if you are actually hanging out with your friends rather than staring at their pictures. To enter the AR market, the company announced on Tuesday that it had reached a $2 billion agreement to buy Oculus VR, including $400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of stock valued at a total of $1.6 billion. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2014.
The move of the social network giant gets a little surprise, although the smell of some acquisition of Oculus VR was in the air. The main suspects were Microsoft, which is planning launch a counter-offensive project to compete Sony, and Amazon, which seems about to launch its own console.
Facebook in a press release said it is planning to expand the Oculus Rift headset’s applications beyond gaming to broader fields such as media, entertainment, communications and education as well as in the gaming space.
“Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,” said Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, in the press release. “Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”
Oculus team in a press release said both the companies could work together to bring AR to millions of people. It opens doors to new opportunities and partnerships, reduces risk on the manufacturing and work capital side, and allows the team to publish more made-for-VR content.
“We’re culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step,” said Oculus.
This is the second biggest acquisition of Facebook after last month acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion.
Big computing platform for Facebook
Virtual reality is booming, the latest proof being the Sony’s Morpheus project unveiled it a few days. Google is all set to make its Google glass commercial later this year or early next year. The search giant recently announced they’ll be collaborating with Ray Ban & Oakley frames to design, develop and distribute a new breed of eyewear for Glass.
Facebook doesn’t want to miss the boat here. If you try to understand how the acquisition of Oculus VR will help Facebook, it seems that this move was made to accelerate the process of development of Oculus.
“Virtual reality and augmented reality are powerful consumer-oriented technologies that are vastly underrepresented in the market,” says Kyt Dotson, VR enthusiast and SiliconAngle associate editor. “This acquisition by Facebook feels like an ‘in before Google’ move, as the search giant is beginning to make inroads into augmented reality equipment with Google Glass.
“The two billion dollars to a company like Oculus VR will be an amazing foundation to build more products based on VR, and the opportunities for gaming are staggering. Not a day goes by that I hear about some new upcoming video game being questioned if it’ll be available on the Rift. With this money and the backing of Facebook a real push into the market cannot be too far behind.”
Oculus VR as a company does not offer any consumer product yet, but the design of virtual reality glasses, Oculus Rift, has changed the understanding of computer entertainment. The impression is that Oculus VR until now had always move without a precise marketing strategy and from its point of view, it was time to make a change in what has been developed so far.
It is difficult to find points of connection between your social network and a virtual reality platform. Probably, there will be none connection points ever, and the acquisition of Oculus VR will be a form of diversification of the business for Facebook, at least in the initial phase.
With the deal, Facebook has the potential to make it big in wearable hardware that reimagines how people will one day interact with information and other forms of content. The acquisition is one of several bets that Facebook is making in its effort to anticipate the future and secure its dominance of social communication.
Founded by Palmer Luckey, Brand Iribe and Michael Antonov, Oculus VR started in 2012 as a Kickstarter project, where the group picked up the beauty of $2.4 million. The company then developed a prototype and then made that available as a developer kit that is dedicated to developers only interested in making games. Oculus Rift since then pursued a path of small steps, gaining credibility and interest of thousands of developers around the world, especially in the gaming industry.
Facebook hopes to apply this technology to the communications, media and entertainment and ensures that it has the potential to become the next platform for social communication. Mark Zuckerberg pitches the future of AR is beyond gaming.
“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,” he said.
“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,” Zuckerberg added.
Rift can unlock new kinds of online social experiences. By working with developers and partners across the industry, Facebook can build entire new experiences and adventures in VR world, which will likely become a part of daily life for next billions of people.
Image credit: Oculus VR, Oculus Rift product image.