To start off my blog posts, I decided to begin with something that has surprised me the most in the tech-business world in the past year.
In March 2014, Facebook has purchased the virtual reality company Oculus Rift for a staggering $2bn. It is not the price that has surprised me the most, it is the partnership. If you are an avid reader of tech/business websites like I am trying to be, you have noticed the massive uproar from the online audience. The main reason for discontent of the public was that Oculus Rift (OR), an innovative company which created a major piece of future virtual reality gaming systems has agreed to partner with a social media website. For hardcore gamers and “normal” gamers alike, the partnership made no sense. Though, I will get to that in more detail a bit later.
The primal reason for this post was to find out what is currently going on with OR. After the initial shock of the acquisition there hasn’t been much information on the plans of the partnering companies and the “buzz” from the shock has completely died out. Some of us are silently waiting and asking ourselves what’s next? As I do not have a software developer background, I will have to wait for the consumer version like everybody else. So far, it seems this version will be out in public beta sometime between April and summer 2015. The headset will be in a limited amount as was the Google Glass, which is understandable as the device might not be ready for the masses and the masses might not be ready for the device. Other than these two pieces of information, there have been no news.
The only “news” available are ones where Facebook (Fb) and OR executives explain the unexpected deal and what their vision for the future is. As Mark Zuckerberg states in one of his Fb statuses, OR headset is a “new communication platform“. For some gamers and VR enthusiasts this might send cold shivers down their spines. However, this is the Fb point of view. From OR’s perspective Fb provides a great support environment where they can be safe financially and be introduced to a number of other partners, but most importantly they hope Fb can help accelerate their efforts and time to market. Even with this reasoning and the promise to not change OR’s big plans, some of us have stayed skeptical about the outcome of the partnership and its impact on the initial direction in which OR was headed.
This brings us back to the point I made in the beginning – the gaming community does not understand nor appreciate the partnership, for now. One of the bigger players has openly announced he will not further support OR. Markus Persson, creator of Minecraft wrote in his blog post that he was open to working with the virtual reality company on a “slimmer version” for the headset as he was one of the largest backers of the company during their Kickstarter campaign. His attitude immediately changed once the Fb – OR deal was in place. He wrote, “Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers.” M. Persson’s statement pretty much covers all of our worries and skepticisms – Fb is NOT a video game company, it is a social media and FarmVille or Candy Crush do not count as “proper” games. I, as a customer that mainly enjoys gaming consoles would not appreciate or pay for being immersed in FarmVille.
On the other hand, M. Zuckerberg usually has a very clear vision of what he would like to achieve. To him, “new communication platform” does not mean chatting in 3D; to him it means a whole new world of opportunities. I will call his vision an initiative to create a number of “virtual reality universes”, each with a different use. As Zuckerberg fantasized in the previously mentioned Fb status; “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.”
At first, this idea gets your inner child excited because you imagine the sci-fi future coming closer and closer. Now stop and think. Imagine all of these possibilities available to you, but to truly be able to access them you have to just do one last thing – log in through your Facebook account! Remember just how angry you were when Facebook made you download another app just to be able to respond to your private messages through your phone, or when your iPhone has asked you to add your Facebook account between your general settings. I might be old school, but I want Fb to be convenient for me not for itself, as well as I want at least some privacy/limitation to where Fb can be used or implemented.
So to circle back to my previous point of Zuckerberg working on a number of “virtual reality universes”, is this what we truly want? Is it something we truly need? Isn’t it just another convenience for the already lazy and spoiled customer? Of course, it will provide convenience for older or disabled people but what about the younger generations or the computing society as whole? Will we stop going out of our houses altogether? Sure, people know they should be going out to the nature; they also know they should be going to the gym, but how many of us do actually do it ?
If you have read this, please leave any praise or criticism. I am looking forward to your feedback and hope to learn from it! Thank you.
These are some references I used and was inspired by: