It’s the Experience dammit! Consolidation Part 3 (Facebook and Oculus VR)

by Brian Katz on March 26, 2014 · 1 comment

I don’t usually do deal analysis but when your twitter timeline fills up with the news of Facebook acquiring Oculus VR it becomes hard not to comment. Now to be fair, many of the jokes are hilarious (I especially like the Yahoo buying ViewMaster one) but at the same time a lot of people are saying Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and wondering what they have to do to get some of Mark Zuckerberg’s money. The simple answer is that it’s the experience dammit! (As a side note, it’s always interesting to watch the number of people who are instant pundits who have never even tried a product out.)

Oculus riftFacebook is buying Oculus VR that makes the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset. If you’ve never seen one, it looks like a scuba mask with an iPad glued on the end of it and you hook it to a PC. Once you put the headset on, you are completely immersed in whatever environment is programmed for the headset. A number of games have been built for it and as you move around in the games you can look up and down, left and right, and the view changes like you are in the game. It’s a mind-blowing experience and the first time you try it on you want to be careful you don’t get dizzy/nauseous from moving to fast. Once you get used to it, there’s nothing like it, you are there, wherever there happens to be

Oculus started on Kickstarter and raised over 2 million in funds from people who wanted to get their hands on the Rift headset. The concept was easy to understand and it was the first headset that really made sense to users. Yet, what does a virtual reality headset have to do with Facebook? Ostensibly, Facebook is all about your social graph and getting you to post updates and use Facebook as your jumping off point for all things that you want to do. There doesn’t seem to be much of a fit here.

That’s because most people don’t understand that Mark Zuckerberg is playing chess while everyone else is still looking for the board. Humans may inherently be social beings, but there are a lot of outlets for them to be social besides Facebook. Those options are only going to increase in the coming years, not just from the current incumbents like Twitter or Snapchat, but also from those things that keep users eyeballs on different pages. Facebook, while a social platform, makes a large chunk of its revenue from advertising. This requires that eyeballs stay on its properties. Oculus VR helps Facebook do just that. It’s the next generation gaming platform, where you are immersed in the experience (funny how everything always comes back to the user experience…). It’s not just for first person shooters but it certainly excels in this type of gaming. Imagine you’re a person getting excited about playing the next version of Call of Duty. You normally do this with a set of buddies. You strap on a headset with a microphone and earpiece and stare at a flat screen. Now imagine the same scenario with Oculus VR. You connect with your friends on Facebook and set up a time to play the game. You strap on your Rift headset and you’re no longer looking at a flat screen, you’re inside the environment with all your friends. As you advance in a line you look over to the left to see one of your friends flanking you. You glance behind you to see another buddy covering your six. You are in the game. Lest we forget the advertising, you raid a base and there’s a can of coke on a table that you can reach out and grab to drink, or a Snickers bar in your rucksack.

Let’s imagine what we can do outside of games. Facebook holds events and concerts. What if you could attend an event like you were there in person. The only thing you will be missing is the smell of marijuana and the sticky floor underneath your feet. Oculus VR demonstrated this at the Sundance film festival this year with a short video/movie of Beck covering a Bowie song. Wired reporter Angela Watercutter did a great write up of the experience. She felt like she was on stage. As she turned to look at different parts of the band the sound changed just like it would if she had been there. Imagine sponsoring an event and capturing all those eyeballs.

Facebook is all about people sharing their experiences in status updates and keeping in touch with family and friends. Imagine what happens when Facebook comes out with its own camera/phone. They put special lenses or just multiple lenses in the devices. Maybe they work with the folks from Go Pro to create one you could wear but shoots what’s happening to you in 360 degrees. You then share that in a status update on Facebook and through some automagic process, people can share your experience the way you did. They can look around and see what happens the way you did. It’s not just a fixed frame video or a set of photos; it’s an actual experience.

Not all of these things are possible just yet. They will take some time and a lot of money to get done. All of which Oculus VR has now that they have been acquired by Facebook. They have the deep pockets of a company that doesn’t have to be dependent on someone else, like Apple or Google to gain access to the platform. Facebook now owns it. As opposed to coming into a space already occupied, which Facebook has been trying to do on mobile, first with their Facebook phone and then with their Facebook Home for Android, they now have first mover’s advantage. It’s not hard to understand why Facebook would want Oculus VR if it is the next step in the digital experience revolution. It truly is about the Experience dammit! See Mark Zuckerberg’s post about the acquisition where he talks about “completely new kinds of experiences”.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

9SPL May 27, 2014 at 8:40 am

nice article brain. thanks for the sharing information.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: