Facebook Swallows Up Oculus Rift

So today we learned that Facebook bought Oculus VR for $2 billion.  That’s a lot less than the $19 billion Facebook paid for WhatsApp, and in my opinion Oculus Rift is a much more exciting product than WhatsApp with a lot more long term potential. I’m just not super excited that it’s Facebook that now controls Oculus Rift.

Oculus-RiftWhat does Zuckerberg have in mind?  In a statement, he talks about immersive gaming (let’s hope he isn’t thinking VR Farmville!) but goes on to say “after games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. 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.”

But is Zuckerberg implying we can all look forward to spending time in virtual reality with our Facebook friends?  I think that may be more than many of us bargained for, if that’s the case.  Nothing against my Facebook friends, but probably the LAST thing I’ve thought about when I’ve imagined what Oculus Rift could be good for was that it would let me spend time in VR with my Facebook friends. And I’m sure many of them feel that way about me 🙂 So, hopefully Zuckerberg has something else in mind (and please let’s hope it isn’t direct-to-brain VR-advertising)?

Oh wait, he goes on to say “imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.” So he does think we will want our Facebook friends in our skull with us in VR? Not sure this is going down a good path but maybe it will at least get people to think about who they really want as their Facebook friends.  How many of your Facebook friends are truly Rift-worthy?

In any event, I am encouraged that Sony is keeping up the pressure in the VR space with its Project Morpheus.  Competition here can only be good.

As always lately, one question remains.  Apple, where are you?  With $160 billion cash on hand, what are you planning on buying to top all of this?  Maybe the International Space Station?

About Tom Novak

Tom Novak is the Denit Trust Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Marketing at the George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

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