When Facebook unexpectedly acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion last month, the internet cried out in synchronized outrage. The fear was that the social network giant would trample Palmer Luckey‘s vision of a glorious virtual reality revolution and replace it with ad-infested versions of Farmville and a gaming platform powered by Facebook Connect. Yesterday, however, the null
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Immediately following the acquisition announcement, Facebook hosted a public conference call to delve into detail. During the call, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg insisted that they’d allow the Oculus VR team to carry out their existing roadmap without interference. This vague promise didn’t seem strong enough to reassure the original Kickstarter backers of the Oculus Rift, nor their legions of devoted fans.
Go ahead and take that sigh of relief now. Following an on-camera interview with Maximum PC, Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey confirmed several things: null , the acquisition won’t affect the open nature of their SDK (Software Development Kit), and there will be zero Facebook branding. The Oculus team will remain completely autonomous.
Remember that even if Facebook does retain a completely hands-off approach, there are ample revenue opportunities from potential licensing fees to promoting widespread adoption of the Oculus Rift outside the gaming space. Zuckerberg expects to profit not from the hardware, but from software and services tied into virtual reality.
Luckey also reaffirmed why VR enthusiasts will actually benefit from the Facebook deal. The company has been “relying a lot on the scraps of the mobile phone industry,” he told Maximum PC. (They’ve literally been assembling dev kits with mobile-centric displays, etc). Facebook will not only accelerate the Oculus Rift’s path to retail, but allow the team to develop custom hardware to maximize Oculus VR’s vision of low-latency, high-refresh rate virtual reality.
And with $11.45 billion in Facebook’s war chest, the resources aren’t lacking.
The visionaries and executives at Oculus VR have good heads on their shoulders, and I’m confident they want to continue unfettered in their dream to spread VR to the masses. In fact, Luckey has a fascinating prediction about the future of display tech: “There’s almost no way tradition displays will be around in a couple decades,” he insisted. His argument is that much like Nintendo's Wii commercialized and commoditized accelerometer tech, the same outcome is certain for VR.
“Why in the world would you buy a 60-inch TV — that even if it were dirt cheap — it’s still gonna cost a lot to ship it and make it from raw materials. A VR headset is going to be much better, much cheaper, and you can take it anywhere.” He also engages in some decidedly philosophical issues regarding VR versus the real world in the video interview.
So let’s take that collective sigh of relief and start believing in Oculus VR again, regardless of who their parent company is.