Facebook just took one step closer to making the world of Ready Player One a reality by acquiring Oculus for $2 billion.
Oculus is the company behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset that’s coming soon to PCs and to Android devices. The company counts Doom creator John Carmack as an employee, and is working to build a new way of playing games with its virtual reality headset. After the acquisition closes next quarter, it will do so as a division of Facebook instead of as an independent company.
In its press release announcing that it bought the company Facebook says the Oculus Rift isn’t going away, virtual reality gaming is still definitely coming. We’re not exactly sure when a consumer version of the VR headset will come out, though Oculus is selling pre-orders for its second developers kit now for $350. The consumer version, when it eventually comes out, should support Android devices. If nothing else, a version of the headset that supports Android is coming at some point.
Facebook’s vision for Oculus involves using the headset and Oculus’ software for other forms of virtual reality beyond just gaming. The headset could put sports fans court side at games, or pale students in virtual classrooms. Mark Zuckerberg’s company wants to use Oculus to create the OASIS MMO from Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. In that book the MMO takes over almost all human interaction to the point where public school is held within virtual classrooms in OASIS. Maybe we won’t go that far, but Facebook is potentially heading in that direction.
Taken in that context, Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus makes perfect sense. If virtual reality is the future, Facebook would want to be a leader in the space, as it seems like the natural evolution of the social network. From a gaming perspective the move doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Gamers probably would have preferred a company like Microsoft or even Amazon to pick up Oculus, assuming Google wasn’t interested. But with some added thought it’s obvious gaming is just a small part of Oculus’ potential.
Of course, as it happens whenever Facebook acquires any company, some people aren’t happy with the decision. Notch, the creator of Minecraft, already announced on Twitter that he cancelled a deal to make the popular game for Oculus because, he said, “Facebook creeps me out.”
Does Facebook acquiring Oculus concern you? Or are you excited about what the company can do with the virtual reality hardware and software?