In today's surprise news, Facebook announced it just acquired Oculus VR, maker of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, to the tune of US$2 billion (US$400 million in cash and US$1.6 billion worth of Facebook shares).
The Oculus Rift is a yet-to-be-released headset that promises an immersive, stereoscopic 3D view which lets you take 360 degree look-arounds in a more natural manner. As an additional bonus, it's not going to break your bank to acquire, with its makers focusing on creating a lightweight, wearable, and comparatively affordable device.
As to why it made the buy, Facebook thinks virtual reality is going to be the next big thing. In a conference call to analysts, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said Oculus could well be the most social platform ever. ‘“Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.” Virtual Candy Crush anyone?
It also sees a lot of potential in taking Oculus' technology past just gaming, saying "Facebook plans to extend Oculus’ existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas."
What is certain is that developers got plenty excited at the Games Developers Conference (GDC) 2014 when a US$300 Oculus Rift development kit was unveiled, opening a way for developers to get onboard the virtual headset wagon without paying a bomb. But Minecraft developer Markus Perrson was not impressed, canceling an earlier plan to create an Oculus Rift-compatible version of Minecraft.
You won't be seeing virtual Facebook notifications on your headsets as yet, as for the moment Oculus VR will concentrate on gaming. With Sony also developing its own VR platform, the virtual reality space looks like it's going to heat up real soon.