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Facebook's Oculus VR buy is about much more than gaming

James Niccolai | March 26, 2014
Mark Zuckerberg has seen the future, and it's inside a virtual-reality headset.

And while Google doesn't have a virtual-reality headset like the Oculus Rift, it does have Google Glass, and a more immersive experience might not be far behind.

Still, the companies are all gambling on a market that doesn't yet exist, as Zuckerberg made clear. "Today's acquisition is a long-term bet on the future of computing," he said, referring several times to a "five- to 10-year timeframe."

And the enthusiasm he feels for being strapped into a headset that makes you believe you're somewhere else — "it's like teleporting," he enthused, "you actually believe you are there" — might not be shared by everyone.

Nor does Oculus have a product that consumers can buy today, though Facebook claims the Rift has received 75,000 orders from developers. Zuckerberg wouldn't be drawn on when the device will be made widely available. "We don't have anything to say on that today," he said. "There are developer kits; you can order them, they're good."

Virtual reality is taking off now because the components needed to build the systems, particularly the graphics chips, are widely used in smartphones, he said. That has helped to make the parts cheap enough for other mass consumer uses.

"Virtual reality certainly sounds like something out of science fiction," Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe said on the call. "But science fiction has a habit of becoming fact."

 

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