Since its inception, Facebook has not been a social media entity that has ever been accused of resting on its laurels. The company remains immensely aggressive in its pursuit of innovative ways to push the envelope of digital interaction. Recently, it has been become lucidly apparent that Facebook cofounder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, views virtual reality as an integral component in the future of computing, and it is his desire for Facebook to own this component. While highly optimistic about the future of VR and how it will be integrated into the schematics and delivery of the holistic product that Facebook offers its users, Zuckerberg admits that it will likely take anywhere from five to 10 years to reach a point in which the finish VR product will be rolled out to the public.
Due to some legal issues that Zuckerberg is currently involved in, the press has been afforded an opportunity to peer into the future of the company as its CEO took the witness stand to testify in a $2 billion lawsuit that is focused on the origin of a VR company acquired by Facebook in 2014. In March of 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus as a part of its push to take full advantage of virtual reality on its rapidly expanding platform.
At the core of this lawsuit is the claim that certain intellectual property that is now in the possession of Oculus has ties to the former employer of current Oculus CTO, John Carmack. Apparently, Oculus acquired this intellectual property from Carmack, and is has been highly instrumental in the development of the company’s core technology; however, ZeniMax has claimed that it has not been compensated for this core technology.
During his testimony Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook will likely invest in excess of $3 billion over the next 10 years for the purpose of bringing the virtual reality experience to hundreds of millions of users, according to a report from the New York Times.
Based on the information that has been released to this point, Facebook is already heavily invested in the idea of providing its users with VR. In fact, the acquisition of Oculus did not come cheap. Based on the report, then Oculus CEO, Brendan Iribe, presented an original asking price of $4 billion for the company; however, the two sides eventually settled on a purchase price of $2 billion, along with other incentive that included $300 million in milestones and $700 million in employee retention.
For those who may question Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to bringing Facebook users a VR experience, they only need to follow the money trail. While it is no secret that Facebook has deep pockets, and continues to position itself to make power moves when it comes to rapid technological advancements, the significance of this $3 billion plus investment makes it clear that the company will be invested in VR over the long term.
What is important to understand here is that Facebook is not simply looking to play in the virtual reality arena, it is looking to take over the industry. The Zuckerberg gets his way, VR will be managed and distributed through channels controlled by Facebook — further positioning the social media giant among the internet giants. It is not certain how the current lawsuit will turn out, but it’s not likely that the outcome, one way or the other, will have any significant impact on Facebook’s move to control VR in the coming years.
Being that the news of Facebook’s investment in Oculus and VR was revealed as part of court proceedings, it is unclear if the company was ready to actually come forth with its intentions at this current time. Additionally, it is not clear how the release of this information will impact how Facebook plans to move forward.
What can be derived from the testimony that was given during this trial is that the acquisition of Oculus is simply the first step in a series of moves in which Facebook looks to develop VR capacity in a manner that will allow it to completely dominate the industry. Since the acquisition of Oculus, Facebook has been examining ways that the technology created by Oculus can be used on its current platform. It turns out that the company initially began the process of attempting to integrate VR onto the social media platform in March of 2016 — despite the fact that the attempt was met with a great deal of skepticism, especially by Oculus co-founder, Palmer Luckey. Since this initial attempt, things have been somewhat inactive since that initial attempt. Outside of an occasional situation in which the company may present a demonstration of its VR potential, and the virtual reality emojis on the site, there has not been any significant discussion about how the progress is coming along.
It is a serious vision of Mark Zuckerberg to develop the capacity to provide Facebook users with VR interaction on a large scale, and the acquisition of the Oculus is the beginning of this process. It is not yet clear what direction the company will take in its quest to advance its current VR technology. While it is possible that the company may attempt to develop all of its new technology from within Oculus, it is also possible that other acquisitions might take place.
When the leadership of a company is so driven by creativity and winning, there is no such thing as operational or innovative inertia. Facebook is in a constant state of expanding and evolving with a purpose of providing its users with an optimal and enjoyable experience. It is worth noting that while the company is recognized as a social media giant, it facilitates a massive amount of business and enterprise activity. So, the push for VR products and services must also consider the major way in which business has been integrated into the natural flow of the social media platform. The presence of virtual reality will provide the capacity for Facebook users to interact with the world around them in an entirely different capacity than what is currently possible.