Facebook surprised everyone with their purchase of virtual reality headset manufacturer Oculus Rift earlier today. It immediately caused a mix of excitement, anger and confusion. But Facebook and Oculus haven’t been quiet on what their intentions are, and in a conference call for investors almost immediately after the announcement, they gave us a glimpse of the future. While Mark Zuckerberg and Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe touched on it in their respective statements, it was this conference call where we got a real look at what Facebook and Oculus are planning together.
Facebook plans to take Oculus Rift and make it the future of social networks. While their short term goal is to help Oculus become successful in its current focus on gaming, they plan to fundamentally change the way we share experiences and communicate with each other.
Zuckerberg touched on it slightly in his announcement, bringing up images of sitting courtside at a basketball game and virtual doctors offices. But he sees it going much further than that.
First, he talked about the communication possibilities:
If you think about the social applications alone, this could change the way we communicate with our friends, families and colleagues. Little details like being able to make eye contact with someone with zero latency makes you feel really present together. Oculus has the potential to be the most social platform ever. Today, social networks are about sharing moments, and tomorrow they will be about sharing experiences.
Zuckerberg would later go on to say that he feels Oculus has the potential to become the next big computing platform, and that since the company has good grasp on mobile it needs to start looking at what the next platform would be:
We can envision this being the next platform. It might take five or ten years to get there, kind of like how the first smartphones were introduced in 2003 and then only reached a billion people about ten years later. . . if we are going to push [Virtual Reality] forward, [Oculus] is the team we want to work with and they are years ahead, so [the purchase] actually became a pretty clear decision from our point [of view].
It was Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, when explaining why his company was moving towards the social media space with Facebook, that we got the best look at what they are planning.
As we started developing virtual reality, and we actually got a lot of hard problems solved, we started to realize that virtual reality, it was going to be a lot about gaming and it was going to be a lot entertainment and different aspects of that, but something that became really obvious was how big the potential was for the social experience.
When you truly feel in virtual reality that you are actually present in another state and you look around and your brain is just comfortable and okay but in this entirely impossible place, something fundamentally changes about virtual reality and how big it can be. Then when that same sense of presence and same sense of minute space, if you can see somebody else if you can see and actually look at them and your brain actually believes that they are right in front of you, you are not looking through a screen or a TV window, but they are actually there, you get the goosebumps and you get a sense of how big this could be for social and communication — how big of an impact it can have on those industries.
As we were talking to Mark, it became incredibly obvious and exciting to partner up and create that new social platform.
Combining all of this together, we can start to see where this is going. While the first priority for Facebook and Oculus is making Virtual Reality successful in gaming, long term they plan to make a virtual world where we can communicate, shop, and experiment.
Imagine putting on the Oculus Rift and finding yourself as a witness to your own wedding, from five years earlier. You could be sitting in a chair, watching yourself give your vows to your significant other. You could look to the right and see your mom’s tears as fresh and real as they were the day she shed them, you could look down and see the flower petals in the aisle way, then to your left and see your bored cousin picking his nose.
Now, imagine sharing that experience with your Facebook friends and family list. This, along with virtual shopping, virtual vacationing, virtual teleconferencing, and yes, virtual reality gaming, is how Facebook plans to go from “just” the world’s most popular social media site to the most popular portal to a virtual world we are just starting to see our first glimpses of.
[Photo Credit: BagoGames]