About a month ago, after waiting more than an hour on the sidewalk in Austin during SXSW, I sat down in a chair as a young woman placed a headset over my eyes and followed with a pair of headphones. I chose an experience that was, in my closest comparison, a documentary; only it was sensory, immersive and responsive.
I chose my path through the story by simply settling my eyes on a question that seemed interesting. I learned about a team of engineers who were working to visualize music as art. As I moved my head, I could spin around the audio-driven visuals. When I saw an individual speaking on screen, I could glance down to better understand their credentials on a sort-of virtual dossier.
This was my first trip into the Oculus Rift. The following day at the MIT Media Labs booth, I tried playing a game, a very primitive game that involved tilting the head to avoid hitting oncoming walls at increasing speeds. I can’t say I was overly impressed with either experience, but what left me in a sense of bewilderment was the potential this device holds for the future.
Facebook’s announcement to acquire Oculus VR for $2B is a move that came unexpected to many. With Facebook now making a push to enter the hardware and tech space, the question on everyone’s mind is why. “Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences” said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook has a very simple economy. Its success is directly tied to our time. Our time translates to data, which is perhaps its single most valuable asset. So, amid the talk of a declining younger audience and content frustrations, it is only natural to assume Facebook is positioning its brand to continue understanding consumers.
Oculus’ most viable business product and implementation is gaming. It has gained a lot of traction on the online gaming platform Steam and has seen further development from independent game developers. Even legacy competitors will be working to catch up. Immersive viewing experiences are a close second.
In my mind, Facebook’s interest in Oculus is three-fold.
- Oculus users will likely be spending millions of hours in the Rift in coming years, and that will continue to feed the data machine that Facebook has become.
- It will very much evolve into a second-life platform similar to how people already use Facebook.
- Facebook had to acquire Oculus. It simply had to, because if not Facebook, another company (Google) would have made it there first.
In this digital marketplace, acting on instincts is everything if you want to diversify and broaden horizons. That being said, Facebook might not have a fully developed strategy, but it was the early bird and, in this case, it gets the virtual worm.
Have you tried Oculus yet? What are your impressions? Tell us in the comments below or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.