Oculus VR grew from humble beginnings, gathering interest and support from their well-known Kickstarter campaign in 2012. Since then, founder Palmer Luckey and his fellow workers have pioneered virtual reality experiences with the innovative Oculus Rift headset, with a real emphasise on changing the way we play.
The CES 2014 got to road test the Oculus Rift Crystal Cove prototype, which eradicated sensor sickness by reducing judder and motion blur. The 360-degree wraparound visual display allowed players to truly immerse themselves in the game, while positional tracking cameras gave them six degrees of freedom to move around and explore the virtual world.
The company also recently announced the release of the Oculus Rift development kit 2, allowing independent developers to create ground-breaking titles for the technology. The potential impact that the Oculus Rift could have on gaming is huge whether it be the ability to bring an online casino to life or transform the battlefields of MMO’s such as WoW. Major console developer Sony has even branched out into VR, with Project Morpheus.
It’s therefore understandable why the gaming community reacted negatively to the news that social networking giant Facebook had acquired Oculus VR for the hefty sum of $2 billion. Many voiced the opinion that the deal would move Oculus away from gaming and into other more corporate ventures, which would benefit Facebook.
Developer with Die Gute Fabrik studios, George Buckingham said: “I’m irritated. The FB acquisition of Oculus seems 80% likely to kill their momentum… It’s probably going to get locked down in annoying ways and stop being a cool weird tech you can freely hack on. I hope someone else comes and makes basically the same thing. Though I guess that’s Sony, now.”
Other big names in the gaming community also felt the move spelled the end for Oculus’ gaming innovations. Creator of the successful hit title Minecraft, Markus Persson wrote: “We were in talks about maybe bringing a version to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.”
However, Palmer Luckey is standing by the acquisition, which will see the company remain independent and focused on gaming for the time being. “Facebook is run in an open way that’s aligned with Oculus’ culture,” wrote Luckey in his announcement on Reddit.
“Over the last decade, Mark [Zuckerberg] and Facebook have been champions of open software and hardware, pushing the envelope of innovation for the entire tech industry. As Facebook has grown, they’ve continued to invest in efforts like with the Open Compute Project, their initiative that aims to drive innovation and reduce the cost of computing infrastructure across the industry. This is a team that’s used to making bold bets on the future.”
Aside from the critics, many are praising the acquisition, noting the potential it has to improve and radicalise industries outside of the gaming sector. “[Oculus Rift] has been marketed as a tool for gaming, but there’s clearly far more important uses for it, treatment being one of them,” said James Crowson, creator of Games of Throne based VR experience The Wall.
“I’m sure that it’s going to play an important part in the bridge between technology and health, for example, using exposure therapy to treat people with phobias such as acrophobia. Mark Zuckerberg has already identified uses for the Oculus other than gaming, for education purposes as well as health, so it’s clearly on the radar for them.”