The Acquisition - Shock Followed by Sadness, Followed by Intrigue
Oculus VR popped up onto my radar as soon as it hit Kickstarter asking for $250,000 in funding to get a virtual reality headset built for consumers. Between then and now, we've seen them receive over $100 million in funding, which led to the company being acquired by the largest social network known to mankind: Facebook.
The news broke toward the end of March as I was sitting at a bar in San Jose writing some content for NVIDIA's GTC 2014 conference. I was really taken aback by the news, and I was filled with pure anger that Oculus VR allowed itself to be consumed by Facebook.
Now, I'm not fully against Facebook as I'm a daily (or even minute-by-minute) user of Facebook. I use it every single day, hundreds of times a day. Personally, professionally, I'm connected to Mark Zuckerberg's social network like it is oxygen. But as a company, it doesn't really do much for the world other than keep people connected, consuming petabytes of personal data for various government spy agencies of the world (that's an entirely different story).
So when I heard the news of Facebook acquiring Oculus VR, it made me angry. For the entire day, it felt like I heard news that my wife had cheated on me with my best friend, or at least that's how it felt for me. I've had a few sit downs with some of the guys with Oculus VR, shooting e-mails back and forth every now and again. This has given me the unique feeling of having a personal connection with Oculus VR, which is great.
After the news of the acquisition, I walked around in a near zombie-like stance for a few hours. I couldn't believe that Palmer Luckey would 'sell out' like this. It felt like everything he built up for the last year or so had been thrown out the window. This is where I entered the sadness stage.
The sadness stage didn't last as long as the shock stage, as I became more and more critical and less personal over the news. I was sad because the analytical side of myself let its guard down, and it felt like a personal attack on me--the fact that Facebook acquired Oculus VR.
Until this point, I had looked at, and referred to, Oculus VR-again, both personally and professionally--as the "Valve of the VR world." Valve is a private company who doesn't need to bend and move for its shareholders, being able to hold off a game like Half-Life 3 for over ten years. This wouldn't happen if Valve were answering to EA or Activision.
The sadness I felt was strong, but it was quickly diminishing, as intrigue began to set in.
The intrigue was that Facebook has billions of dollars, as well as a name that billions upon billions of people know. There are nearly a billion monthly active users on the social network, with Facebook being a household name. A household name now owns Oculus VR, but that household name isn't all sunshine and rainbows.
Facebook has the money and influence to do wonderful things with Oculus VR, but we don't know the scope of it so far. What's intriguing is that Oculus VR is still a separate company, something that its founder, Palmer Luckey, has come out and confirmed to the world.
But with this tornado of emotions swirling around inside of me, I still have a mountain of doubt to climb over--something that isn't going to be an easy task. Most people are quite hurt by the news, and rightly so--we don't know what the future holds for Oculus VR, but this is why I'm here to convince you that it's going to be great.
VR is Quickly Becoming a Mainstream Topic, and It's About Time
Since consoles became the target of game development, high-end PC gaming has suffered. Sure, we have NVIDIA and AMD releasing kick-ass GPUs, multi-GPU technology, multi-monitor technology with NVIDIA's Surround Vision and AMD's Eyefinity, and countless other technologies.
But, the problem is that games are built around consoles--and not just their limited, ageing hardware. They're developed with controllers in mind and not keyboard and mice; they're developed for sitting X feet away from the TV, and not arms reach away from your monitor. This waters down the gaming experience, something I feel has happened in the last decade.
Virtual reality, on the other hand, is the first time that technology has been truly exciting, because it's a truly new direction for technology. VR, and more specifically, Oculus VR (and well now, Facebook) are going to be the new Apple--in the way that the iPhone truly did change everything for the entire tech world.
The original iPhone made every competitor on the market at the time stand up and take notice, but before it came out, most companies either laughed, saying that a company like Apple couldn't make it in the phone business, or continued chugging along--companies like Nokia, RIM, and Sony Ericsson, champions at the time, are either gone, or struggling.
The same thing is happening with Oculus VR right now, before it has even delivered a product to consumers. The first development kit, DK1, was a very basic device, but still blew minds when used. It had a pathetically low resolution of 1280x720, which provided a "screen-door" effect in front of you, as well as the heavy lag associated with the display.
DK2, the second development kit, has a Full HD (1920x1080) display, with multiple technologies that make it a huge leap over DK1. DK2 features a 100-degree field of view, a refresh rate of 75Hz, and an OLED panel. Positional tracking was a big part of DK2, where an included camera picks up points on the Rift headset, which provides a much more real, you're-in-the-world feel.
This is all before we know the final specifications on the consumer version, which I suspect will use a 2560x1440 (or 2.5K) panel and even more technology baked in for lower latency.
Oculus VR has delivered the VR subject to the masses, prompting a technology giant like Sony to unveil a VR headset--showing off Project Morpheus at CES earlier in the year in Las Vegas. VR being a mainstream topic is a very big deal as it means that companies are spending large sums of money behind the scenes, because they see it as the next big thing.