Facebook’s acquiring of Oculus, the company behind the revolutionary virtual reality device, Oculus Rift, was unexpected and puzzled everyone. Of what use could virtual reality equipment be to social media’s biggest giant? Facebook purchased Oculus for a hefty $ 2 billion, so one would think that they have a plan in mind. They had previously said that they plan to provide internet access to the world, especially remote areas, with the aid of aerial drones. It shows that they’ve got expansive plans in mind that go beyond just social media.
But as far as Virtual Reality and social media is concerned, they do indeed have a plan, an innovative and potentially pioneering one, which Mark Zuckerberg revealed at the Facebook F8 press conference held the day before. Facebook has said that all they wish to do is make the world a more open and connected place. How then does the Oculus Rift come into the equation? One possibility emphasized at the conference was to allow an individual to attend and celebrate the birthday party of a friend who lives on the other side of the world.
But let’s be real: it’s hard to imagine Virtual Reality performing an adequate job of mediating or facilitating a social gathering. Will conversation be the same? How disconnected would you feel in a celebration? And how many people are going toss on a clunky, tacky and cumbersome device?
One of the possibilities, as mentioned before, is to allow people to be a part of an event virtually, when circumstances prevent them from participating physically. Attendees at the conference strapped on the Oculus Rift headset and were treated to a tour of the Facebook office. Zuckerberg stated that the rift could be used to stream videos and experience them in a whole new manner.
It’s still very early days in the captivating plot of Virtual Reality. While they haven’t provided a concrete date for the release of the device, they have said it would be released in the “near future.” The potential of virtual reality itself is endless. The idea of Virtual Reality as the ideal form of digital social bonding, however, seems oxymoronic. There are as many questions to address as there are possibilities with the Oculus Rift. The odds of Facebook coming good on their lofty claims is half and half. They’ve certainly got the business strategy and technological prowess to shape something out of it, but whether or not the individual will accept the wearing of a handset in favour of an actual experience will be the deciding factor.