The successful crowdfunding campaign for the Oculus Rift, which led to Oculus VR’s acquisition by Facebook in March (which I have covered here), brought virtual reality back to the media’s spotlight. Suddenly, everybody discovered the immense potential offered by VR, but the discussion has been focused mostly on the devices and not on VR itself. This can easily lead to confusion. In fact, it already has.
As is already well-known by pretty much everybody in the computing world, Facebook, Inc. acquired Oculus VR in a $2 billion deal, causing rather colourful reactions by both Oculus Rift backers and virtual reality enthusiasts, not least because of Facebook’s entirely hostile stance to important notions pertaining to one’s freedom of self-expression like avatar identity and anonymity and pseudonymity, notions that are integral parts of virtual reality and virtual worlds. Needless to say, this stance is what literally makes Facebook one of the worst candidates in the world to enter the virtual reality arena, despite their undeniable technological prowess and contributions.
About an hour ago, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, Inc., announced on his personal Facebook account that his company acquired Oculus VR, developers of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset that has been discussed quite a bit within Second Life circles. As was announced on Facebook, Inc.’s newsroom blog, this is a $2 billion deal. The deal was also announced on Oculus VR’s blog. The announcement, in which Mr. Zuckerberg explains his rationale, reads in full:
A lot of pixels have been turned black (sorry, I couldn’t find a better analogy for ink in our domain, which is the internet) for the Oculus Rift’s sake – and much has been made about its integration with Second Life. Personally, as I’ve explained elsewhere, I’m underwhelmed. I see the Rift as a bulky, unwieldy device that will have only limited usefulness – and, honestly, I’d much rather spend that money on having my car serviced or paying my bills than on a product that doesn’t fit in with my usage model of Second Life and, thus, will spend the rest of its life gathering dust on a shelf.
UPDATE: Shortly after I published this post, virtual worlds expert Will Burns also presented an even more in-depth and technically-oriented analysis of the whole Oculus Rift overhype situation, which I highly recommend. You can find it here.
Lately, several influential Second Life bloggers have been going ga-ga over the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that follows in the footsteps of the Virtuality from the previous millennium. The hype around this headset reminds me of the days when every
ragnewspaper and/or magazine in the world was paying lip service to Linden Lab, telling us that Second Life would be the next phase of the web (file that one under Famous Last Words). Back in May, I had blogged about it and, even then, although I do believe that Second Life would be a “killer app” for Oculus Rift, I didn’t share the extreme enthusiasm that fills blog posts about it.
Now I’m going to rain on the parade, and not because I want to play the role of the Devil’s Advocate, but because there are some basic flaws both in the device itself and in the mentality that runs through the way people blog about it. So, let’s start getting things straight a bit… Mind you, I’m not alone in my skepticism w.r.t. the (already overhyped) Oculus Rift. Will Burns has expressed doubts about it, so has Garrett Martin of Paste Magazine.