It was no surprise that virtual reality company Oculus VR was acquired, but what was a shock to fans was the fact that it was acquired by Facebook. The technology firm was snapped up by Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, for a cool £1.2 billion it was revealed yesterday.
In an unexpected announcement on Tuesday 24th March 2014, the social media giant revealed that it had paid $400m in cash for the company and paid for the rest with 23 million shares worth a whopping £970 million. Another $300 million will be paid out depending on the site’s future performance.
The acquisition has taken place at a time when more and more people are now spending time in the world of digital, rather than going out and actually seeing people. Mark Zuckerberg is keen to tap into this trend and hopes to be at the forefront with Oculus VR.
In the blog post announcing the acquisition, Facebook wrote:
"Virtual reality technology is a strong candidate to emerge as the next social and communications platform. Facebook plans to extend Oculus’ existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas."
Not moving anywhere
The virtual reality company, that has only recently announced the Dev Kit 2 version of the Rift headset, will keep its base in Irvine, California, while the Facebook transaction is likely to complete in the second quarter of 2014.
Oculus say that the new headset comes complete with a very high definition display and also has much better head-tracking hardware. They have also managed to eliminate motion blur and any juddering, meaning that motion sickness will be greatly reduced – this is vital for the company to grow a larger fan base for the product.
Oculus aim to help people experience the impossible, and CEO and co-founder, Brendan Iribe has said:
"We believe virtual reality will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in magical, new ways. It is a transformative and disruptive technology, that enables the world to experience the impossible, and it’s only just the beginning."
While tens of thousands of developer headsets have already been sold, and tons of games supporting the technology have been created, the headset is not actually going to be available to the public until early next year.
This acquisition follows Facebook’s other big transaction that hit the news recently, when it paid an eye watering $19 billion for social messaging app WhatsApp. While Oculus VR doesn’t seem to pose quite the same threat to the social network that WhatsApp did, it does show the company is trying to cover all points of modern technology that could eventually encompass an online social lifestyle.
So what does this mean for the world of marketing? The possibilities are endless when it comes to the scope of using this virtual reality device. Travel companies will be able to use the headsets to show holidaymakers exactly what the resort they are travelling to will look like. Who needs piles of holiday brochures when you can step into your dream destination and experience it there and then?
Again, this headset could come in very handy in the world of estate agents. There was speculation on how Google Glass could provide a live tour of a property, but virtual reality headsets could work in the same way, with buyers able to tour the property room by room just by putting on a headset.
An immersive car crash
An Australian insurance company called NMRA has recently used an Oculus Rift to create a car crash demonstration in the hope that it would discourage dangerous driving. A person sat in a car and put the headset on and together with a hydraulic system, the car and headset created a realistic experience of what it was like to be in a car crash.
There are tons of different ways that the headsets can be used for marketing purposes, including training videos, online lectures for students and of course, games. Not to mention shopping, as illustrated brilliantly in this video.
The possibilities really are endless and it will be interesting to see how the devices are adopted down the line by brands and agencies alike.