Facebook has been on something of a spending spree recently. Not content with their $1bn purchase of photo sharing app they recently spent $19bn on the messaging service WhatsApp and, even more recently, $2bn on the Virtual Reality firm Oculus – make of the Rift virtual reality hardware system.
Messaging and photos are easier to understand, even though the prices sound outrageous for companies that are essentially not making any money, but why buy a virtual reality company?
Well there could just be something to it. The Oculus Rift might look strange – watching someone using it is like looking at a person with a plastic box on his or her head – but everyone who uses it raves about the immersive experience.
The Rift allows the user to be immersed into an artificial world – if you turn your head then your view changes. To date it has been seen mainly as a tool for immersive video gaming, but with Facebook involved there could be a new direction ahead.
I can imagine that users of social networks will eventually expect them to be immersive. Chatting with friends will feel more like you are there with your friend, not typing text to each other. In fact, what we now think of as a news feed may eventually become a floating stream of photos and information in the air all around you – you can just watch it and physically pull out a photo that looks interesting.
And beyond the social experience, there are already brands like Tesco that have experimented with the recreation of their stores inside virtual tools like the Rift.
It could be that virtual reality will eventually allow us to be in two places at the same time, at work, with friends, checking news, going shopping, and all without ever leaving home.
Photo by Michael Newman licensed under Creative Commons