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Facebook wagers its future on experience-sharing

Posted: 27 Mar 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Facebook  Oculus  Rift 

Facebook has taken the industry by surprise with its recent acquisition of Oculus, a start-up that has yet to launch a consumer product, for $2 billion in cash and Facebook stock.

Oculus traces its beginning from a crowd-sourcing campaign at Kickstarter in late 2012, amassing tenfold its original $250 thousand funding to prototype the development kit of its virtual reality headset Oculus Rift, which was first showcased at the consumer electronics show in January this year.

The company is actively working on its second version of DK2, using two 960×1080 pixels low persistence OLED displays (one per eye) to eliminate motion blur and judder, which the company claims could eliminate simulator sickness. The kit also includes positional head tracking and orientation tracking for better navigation through virtual worlds.

Oculus Rift DK2

Source: Oculus

With this acquisition Zuckerberg makes a bold bet on the future of social networks, he certainly expects social networking to extend beyond Facebook's seemingly simple screen-walls. Instead of just building more apps to help users share multimedia content online, Zuckerberg detailed his ambition to expand content-sharing to experience-sharing.

"Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures" he wrote on his Facebook page.

In the fully immersive computer-generated environments that virtual reality headsets can deliver in 3D (choose from gaming, remote training, movie immersion or any other fake life scenario), the wearer can be induced to feel like he/she is actually present in another place with other people.

In this context, a Facebook wall could be replaced with a virtual room (for example a virtual concert-hall, a virtual football stadium or whatever scenery designed for private or public purposes) where connected people could have their avatars meet, pretty much like in networked games such as Electronic Arts' The Sims or Linden Lab's Second Life, the latter being Oculus-ready.

In fact, this hardware acquisition would only be more complete if the company did shell out a few extra millions to secure all the virtual infrastructures and the important gamer base that both The Sims and Second Life have nurtured over more than ten years of existence.

In his statement, Zuckerberg said his goal of making the world more open and connected is what drives him to explore new platforms such as this virtual reality (VR) headset. Immersive gaming will be first, he admits, but then Facebook could use Oculus as a platform for many other experiences, such as enabling wearers to enjoy a court side seat at a game, or to study in a virtual classroom with other students and teachers from all over the world.

Imagine that with low-cost stereoscopic cameras, new infrastructures could be developed at stadiums and public venues, creating new ticketing opportunities to cater for non-physically present spectators.

Going more intimate, consulting with a doctor face-to-face is another example put forward by Facebook's founder.


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