In March 2014, Facebook shocked the world when it announced it was paying $2 billion for Oculus Rift . Oculus makes a virtual-reality headset that delivers a mind-blowing experience to its users.
Oculus Rift  is a California-based company established by Palmer Luckey who designed its main product-the Oculus Rift headset-as a 20-year old engineer at the University of Southern California.
Hoping to raise $250,000 to make several headsets for gaming enthusiasts, Luckey started a Kick starter project in 2012.He hit the target in 4 hours and went on to raise about $2.5 million in a month.
Soon, the VR headsets started to draw attention at tech conferences with gaming legends such as John Carmack coming aboard as the company chief technology officer. In 2013, Time and CNN honored the headset as one of the best inventions of the year.
How does the VR work?
The headset resembles a scuba diver or skier’s mask. It fits comfortably over the wearer’s face and has a pair of headphones. A 3-D display ushers you into an interactive world. This can be anything including a tropical jungle, a medieval village or a jet’s cockpit. To navigate around the virtual world, you use a game controller.
So, why did Facebook acquire Oculus Rift? The reality-gaming company is not a threat to Facebook in the near term or long term. And it is definitely not a social platform. Compared to previous acquisitions in technology, this one did not make sense.
When Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion, everybody understood why. Instagram was encroaching into Facebook’s photo sharing niche. The world understood when Facebook bought Whatsapp for $19 billion. Whatsapp was an independent social network which was enrolling millions of users. It posed a threat to Facebook, so Mark Zuckerberg acquired it.
Virtual reality: The next big thing
One of the most straightforward explanations was given by Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg believes that virtual reality is the next major computing platform. According to him, first there was desktop computer, then came the mobile, virtual reality is going to be the next big thing.
Zuckerberg says that soon it may be possible to take a seat at your favorite game, study in a virtual classroom full of students and teachers as well as consult with doctors. All this will be possible by donning goggles at the comfort of your home.
Many critics are highly skeptical of this development since people do not like wearing glasses or goggles in their homes. This explains why 3-D televisions have never become popular. Though Oculus’s VR offers a mind-blowing experience, it is also isolating. This could limit its mainstream appeal.
If Zuckerberg is wrong about VR, it is no big deal. $2 billion may sound like a lot of money but the deal terms are good for Facebook.
Some schools of thought claim that Oculus VR is Zuckerberg’s toy . The logic is simple; he tried the Rift and loved it so much that he bought it. He is rich, powerful and he can, so the youthful CEO acquired it.
Zuckerberg claims that acquiring the VR is long-term investment strategy. “At this point we are in a position where we can start focusing on platforms that will come next to enable useful, personal and entertaining experiences. The Rift is highly anticipated by the gaming community and there is a lot of interest in developing this platform. We are going to assist Oculus build their product and establish partnerships to develop more games.”
Fat Sniper, a popular gamer on XBOX Live, and Senior Editor at oculusdrifter.com added, “There is nothing better than Oculus Rift. Because reality isn’t enough anymore.”