Virtual Reality: Fad or Flop? Facebook Invests $2B

Brandon Dimmel's picture

Facebook has made a major investment in virtual reality technology by purchasing Oculus VR, a virtual reality technology firm for $2 billion US dollars. For the past several years Oculus VR has been developing Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that is said to revolutionize home entertainment.

The Oculus Rift was first unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (or "E3") during the summer of 2012. The head-mounted display generated a great deal of interest among the video game community.

This interest led Oculus VR to initiate an August 2012 Kickstarter campaign to further develop the Rift project. The response to the project was overwhelming, with the Oculus Rift securing its goal of $250,000 in just four hours. By September, the Kickstarter campaign had raised over $2 million.

High-Tech 3D Headset Immerses Users in Virtual World

In the past year-and-a-half, the Oculus VR team has been working hard to bring the Rift to home consumers. In its current state, the headset looks like a pair of scuba goggles. Inside, users find a high-definition and three-dimensional display that effectively immerses the wearer in a highly-interactive world.

Navigating the 3D world can be done through the use of a game controller, but it's the headset that really sets the device apart. Because it's equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass, the Oculus VR can track the position of a user's head and synchronize the visuals to where a person is looking.

Facebook founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg says the company has big plans for the device. (Source:

"After games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences," Zuckerberg said. "Imagine enjoying a courtside 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."

Current Hardware Specifications and Pricing

Hardware wise, current specs for the device include a stereoscopic 3D 7-inch (18 cm) LCD screen, with color depth of 24 bits per pixel and 1280 x 720 (720p high definition) resolution. When the final consumer version is released, the screen resolution is expected to be 1920 x 1080 (1080p).

Currently, the weight of the headset is approximately 379 grams, or 13.4 ounces. The headset has a dial that allows the user to adjust each display to be moved closer or further away from the eyes.

Special 'head tracking' technology is used to determine where the user points his or her head. The developer version of the Rift has DVI (digital video input) and HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) input on a control box.

It's rumored that the device will sell to consumers for $300, while developer modules will range in the $300 - $350 area. (Source:

Oculus Rift "A New Communication Platform"

Overall, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees the Oculus Rift as more than just a video game system.

Instead, he says the Rift "is really a new communication platform" that will allow a user to "share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures." (Source:

Facebook Acquisition of Oculus Rift Met with Disbelief

Not everyone is happy about the Facebook's deal to acquire Oculus VR, however. The project has been slammed by former fans, particularly those who supported the company's Kickstarter campaign.

"... Selling out to Facebook is a disgrace," noted one of members that backed the projected through Kickstarter. "It damages not only [Oculas Rift's] reputation, but the whole of crowdfunding. I cannot put into words how betrayed I feel by this [recent acquisition]." (Source:

Other critics expressed concern that the Oculus VR team -- which will remain an independent body within the Facebook fold -- will now focus on less-engaging projects. "I definitely want to be a part of VR (virtual reality), but I will not work with Facebook," noted Markus Persson, creator of the game "Minecraft" and a former supporter of the Rift project.

"[Facebook's] motives are too unclear and shifting, and they haven't historically been a stable platform. There's nothing about their history that makes me trust them, and that makes them seem creepy to me."

What's Your Opinion?

What do you think of the Oculus Rift? Does the idea of wearing virtual reality goggles for an extended period of time in order to "engage others" in a remote location seem strange to you? Or, do you foresee this technology being widely adopted as a method for people to communicate with one another in the near future? Do you think the Oculus Rift and similar virtual reality technology will change home entertainment or is it simply a fad? Finally, do you think Facebook's acquisition of Oculus VR will help or hinder the project's development?

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