Facebook sees the future — a 3-D virtual world where you feel as if you are hanging out with your friends rather than staring at their pictures.
To fulfill that vision, the company announced on Tuesday that it had reached a $2 billion agreement to buy Oculus VR, the maker of a virtual reality headset. It’s a bet that a technology commonly associated with science fiction can help eventually turn social networking into an immersive, 3-D experience.
Virtual reality technologies give people the illusion that they are physically present in a digital world.Continue reading the main story
Mark Zuckerberg, a co-founder and the chief executive of Facebook, said the deal reflected his belief that virtual reality could be the next big computing platform after mobile, a technology the company has spent most of the last several years adapting to, for the most part successfully. Facebook’s deal came as a surprise, because Oculus, a small start-up that has not yet shipped a product to the broader public, is working on what some view as a niche technology aimed at hard-core video game players.
Mr. Zuckerberg, though, said Facebook had much bigger plans for its acquisition. “Imagine enjoying a courtside 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,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Facebook.
With the deal, Facebook is the latest Silicon Valley company to invest in wearable hardware that reimagines how people will one day interact with information and other forms of content. Google has taken a different approach with Glass, its high-tech eyewear that overlays maps, messages and other data on a transparent lens in front of people’s eyes, through which they can still view their surroundings.
The acquisition is one of several bets that Facebook, with about 1.2 billion users worldwide, is making in its effort to anticipate the future and secure its dominance of social communication.
For example, last month, the company announced it would buy WhatsApp, a mobile messaging app, for $16 billion plus as much as $3 billion in future payouts. That purchase was a bet on the fast growth in mobile messages, a type of one-to-one communication that largely bypasses Facebook.
More recently, the company has tried to leverage its strong position in mobile applications into new mobile markets, and Mr. Zuckerberg seemed to suggest that Oculus, which now requires the horsepower of a personal computer, could one day work on mobile devices.