Oculus is Turning Facebook’s VR Dream to Reality, But Who’s Impressed?

Chaitanya Tapase

Around 2 years ago, in 2014, Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR (an 18-month old company) for a whopping $2 billion. A social media giant betting large on a company that made VR headsets, which at the time were mostly part of the gaming culture, didn’t really add up. But in his own post, Zuckerberg noted that games was a stepping stone to something much bigger.

Oculus hardware and Facebook's social network in one place | Image: Oculus
Oculus hardware and Facebook’s social network in one place | Image: Oculus

Virtual Reality was the next big thing and Facebook wanted to be at the forefront of it. He implored his followers to imagine a new world, by stating –

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.

It seemed a goal too hard to reach. But it looks like this might soon turn to reality. We got a taste of it at the Oculus Connect event and as creepy as it might seem, we might just be interacting with each other more and more in the virtual world.

#OC3: Facebook’s Big Bet on VR

In the 2 years since Facebook’s acquisition, Oculus has grown from a company that employed 75 people to more than 400. The acquisition itself caused other players like Sony and HTC to up their own game in VR. And at the OC3 event, Mark Zuckerberg finally revealed what their vision with VR was.

Great Software without Great Responsibility?

Facebook’s entire presentation about Oculus’ VR was about one thing – having a great experience, built on great software. There’s little doubt that the team which has built a dynamic social media platform is capable of writing great software, but whether it will fulfill it responsibly, remains to be seen.

Image: Facebook
Image: Facebook

What do I mean by that? Well, Facebook was built on a great idea of connecting friends from across borders without ads. Without sponsored content. And without video ads popping out from nowhere. But in the past few years, we’ve seen all of these. Sure, you can block ads by using AdBlock software and turn off auto-play videos, but is that what a great experience is about?

We might experience the virtual world in a completely new way thanks to Facebook’s prowess with software and Oculus’ hardware expertise. Whether it will be free of distractions, remains to be seen.

The Virtual World Experience

Gaming in VR isn’t new, but living on Facebook’s virtual world certain is. The demo given by Zuckerberg and his colleagues consisted of their avatars talking to each other in the virtual world, where anything goes. In a click of a button, they were at the bottom of the ocean and a moment later, Zuckerberg was in a video chat with his wife while watching his dog at their home.

VR is certainly cool, but it isn’t for everyone, in its current state.

The demo certainly was cool, especially when Zuckerberg’s colleague drew a sword and started wielding it. The possibilities certainly are limitless in a virtual world, but it’s a world which will surely come with its own set of problems. The first being monetization.

The Cost of Facebook’s VR

Right now, Facebook has not said anything about how it plans to make money for its VR concept. But, the hardware that you will use is a good starting point. The Oculus headset currently costs $599 with accessories (though a reportedly cheaper one is on the way) and the Touch Controller demoed at the event was listed at a pre-order price of $199.

A standard Oculus headset | Image: Oculus
A standard Oculus headset | Image: Oculus

Extra sensors that will help you map out the room you’re currently in, will be available for $79. That’s roughly $880 for a VR experience for just one person. If you want to join in all the ‘coolness’ with your spouse, that’s probably another $880 (unless you share the additional sensor which saves you a measly $79).

The VR experience certainly isn’t cheap in its current state. Also, the avatars that were seen at the demo were not as sharp as you’d like. Which really is a problem with any VR headset in production. While we’re slowly moving to the 8K platfrom from 4K, VR isn’t at its sharpest moment.

That Weird Feeling

I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about VR. I had tried the Oculus only once and that too for a game demo. Full disclosure: I’m not a gamer in any sense and I actually hardly play. But, the immersive world that VR created for those few fleeting moments was quite enjoyable.

Is VR only enjoyed with gaming? That’s the real question Facebook will be faced with.

And that’s a place where VR should excel. Even the futuristic book, Ready Player One, had imagined a VR world – where everyone connected in the VR world and literally lived there. But the main aim was to win the game that was designed by the same guy who had created that world. Mark Zuckerberg sure is starting to sound a lot like James Donovan Halliday.

Virtual or Real?

If given a chance, which world do you see yourself spending time in? Virtual or real? Bring your honest replies to our comments section which, you know, are virtual in nature.

ALSO READ: Enter the Matrix: Comparing Virtual And Augmented Reality

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Chaitanya Tapase has varied interests in Technology from Android to Windows to DSLR Photography. On weekends, you'd find him catching up on TV Shows like Game of Thrones and enjoying House Music.