The Internet-o-sphere is bubbling today with random squeals of glee and horror over Facebook buying Oculus, developer of the experienced-by-developers-and-bloggers-and-other-tech-elites-but-not-yet-mainstream Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
Oculus Rift Development Kit 2
Image credit: Oculus VR
Depending on which tech site you're reading, this is either the best thing ever or a step towards future-proofing the company. At least one gaming endeavor, the folks at Minecraft, are not happy with the acquisition - they backed out of an Oculus-Minecraft venture.
We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.— Markus Persson (@notch) March 25, 2014
While most agree that Facebook buying Oculus isn't so we can all start experiencing Farmville-on-a-headset, or see our News Feed in a virtual world, I think the giddiness over future platforms and a world where everyone is using these things is a bit far-fetched.
Virtual reality in some form or another has been around for about 20+ years (I still remember visiting a virtual reality show in Boston in the mid-'90s that blew me away). In books and movies, it's been around even longer. The last time the Internet got all excited about VR was when we went gaga over Second Life. Remember the "virtual press conferences" and all those companies planning to set up shop inside Second Life? What did we get instead? Animated flying penises. While the virtual world last year celebrated its 10th anniversary, Second Life certainly hasn't taken over the world like everyone thought it would.
So let's take a few steps back before we think that Zuckerberg & Co. are going to be revolutionizing VR with this purchase and somehow creating the holodeck from "Star Trek: The Next Generation". This could be a very long-term play or a hedge against anything that Google (or Apple or Sony) might come out with. Whatever happens in the virtual reality space, it has to be adopted and accepted by people beyond gamers and science-fiction fans wanting to escape their regular lives and live in The Matrix (or Otherland, or the Metaverse).
The good news is that Facebook plans on having Oculus continue to develop their system as a separate division, so maybe we'll eventually see an affordable device that everyone can use to play video games with. All of that other stuff - virtual worlds, new platforms, etc., is still science-fiction-fantasy that gets all of us fanboys all riled up and giddy.
Keith Shaw also rounds up the best in geek video in his ITworld.tv blog. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.