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The Oculus Rift, at a mere two years old, has taken the gaming press by storm. The Rift is a motion-tracking, head-tracking 3D screen that you wear on your head for complete immersion. After the thoroughly terrible VR days of the 90s, maybe nobody expected VR to be a real thing that would happen. But by all accounts, Oculus somehow got it right, with some calling it, “the coolest product in the world right now.” The project picked up some impressive talent, most notably John Carmack of Id Software fame, then went on to a successful round of VC funding. And Oculus was on its way.
Or maybe not, because people are pretty angry. They’re angry because Facebook (a social media startup you may have heard of) went ahead and bought the company for $2 billion. The internet was flooded fearful speculation that the Rift would come with ads, that you would have to log in with Facebook, that it would sell your personal data, and so on. People loudly declared they would ditch the Oculus for the brand-new competitor, the Morpheus from Sony. Notch, the creator of Minecraft, canceled an Oculus version of the game because Facebook “creeps him out.” Many writers jumped to defend Oculus, saying that the billions in funding will help Oculus compete against the big boys (such as Sony) that will be able to sell their devices at an absorbed loss. Yet negativity still flourishes among widespread confusion as to why Facebook was even interested in the device.
If Oculus’ statements since then are any indication, Oculus and Facebook want to do big things. Lawnmower Man-type things. Shortly after the acquisition, Oculus poached Michael Abrash, a hot commodity in tech development, from Valve Software. In his introductory statement, Abrash called Oculus a “path to the Metaverse,” the Metaverse being a collective virtual shared space. VR is already promising for things like 3D design and medical technologies. If you add interconnectivity to an immersive 3D experience, you’re pretty much just a few Pentium processors away from the Matrix. The thought of this, to many, is simultaneously exciting and terrifying.
This all started from humble beginnings: a Kickstarter asking for $250,000 back in 2012. This was the source of much of the anger after the Facebook acquisition; many people put money into helping this little game startup, now they’re owned by a media behemoth. Oculus already had corporate overlords thanks to the VC, so some of the anger comes from unrealistic expectations in running a business with both massive R&D and manufacturing costs. When you’re working to make Inception a reality, you’re not going to stay indie forever.
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