Facebook announced Tuesday that it’s buying the maker of the virtual-reality headset Oculus Rift for $2 billion—less than two years after the Irvine, California based startup launched its wildly successful Kickstarter campaign.
How did Oculus score such success?
1. Designing a better product. Oculus’ designers have created a technology that solved many issues gamers had with previous generations of virtual-reality headsets. Among the improvements: Oculus Rift is lighter weight, has higher resolution and faster response times. After Oculus released its second-generation developer kit last week, reviewers said the new technology looked polished and user-friendly. “The DK2 looks a lot more like a finished, commercial product that you’d be happy (or at least happier) to strap to your face for prolonged gameplay sessions,” wrote ExtremeTech.com. It remains to be seen, however, whether Oculus will win the gaming wars against Sony’s Project Morpheus, a competing virtual-reality headset.
2. Thinking outside the box. Virtual reality headsets are mostly associated with immersive gaming. But Oculus is clearly thinking about a future beyond games—and convinced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg he should, too. Oculus has been working on a 20-minute movie, Zero Point, that it plans to release to developers later this year, according to Slate. Zuckerberg sees a future for virtual reality in the social-networking world. “Facebook plans to extend Oculus' existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas,” a Facebook news release said. “Given these broad potential applications, virtual reality technology is a strong candidate to emerge as the next social and communications platform.”
3. Building an impressive team. Oculus has added some impressive names to its roster, including well-known game programmer John Carmack as its chief technology officer last summer and has built a team of respected engineers and designers. It’s also attracted some high-profile investors: Andreessen Horowitz led a $75 million investment round in late 2013 and Marc Andreessen joined Oculus’ board.
While it remains to be seen whether Facebook’s acquisition propels Oculus into a household name, Zuckerberg seems confident it will: “With Oculus, there are not that many companies that are building core technologies that can be the next major computing platform,” he said in a press call about the acquisition.
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Photos: Oculus Rift