Well, this is... unexpected. I'm still not sure what prompted ol' Zuck to sign off on this, but Facebook has entered into an agreement to purchase Oculus VR—the famed virtual-reality firm that snatched up John Carmack as its CTO. The acquisition is valued at $2 billion, four fifths of which involves Facebook stock changing hands. (The remaining $400 million is cash.)
Apparently, the impetus for the deal is virtual reality's potential for social and communications apps. No, I'm not kidding. Here it is, verbatim from the press release:
While the applications for virtual reality technology beyond gaming are in their nascent stages, several industries are already experimenting with the technology, and Facebook plans to extend Oculus' existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas. Given these broad potential applications, virtual reality technology is a strong candidate to emerge as the next social and communications platform.
Facebook founder, CEO, and part-time goat slaughterer Mark Zuckerberg goes into a little more detail on his own Facebook page, where he mercifully reveals that Oculus' gaming efforts won't be canned. "Oculus already has big plans here that won't be changing and we hope to accelerate," he writes. "We're going to focus on helping Oculus build out their product and develop partnerships to support more games. Oculus will continue operating independently within Facebook to achieve this."
Beyond games, Zuckerberg adds that Oculus will become a platform for "many other experiences." For example, he explains, "Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face -- just by putting on goggles in your home."
I don't really see how strapping on an expensive VR headset would help me study harder, or how it would aid with a remote diagnosis. Maybe Zuckerberg is hoping to recreate the experience of waiting in an empty consultation room with your pants off. Hmm. Ah well, I'm not the visionary whiz kid with a $28.5 billion net worth. What do I know?
Facebook plans to complete its acquisition of Oculus VR next quarter. Once the transaction closes, Oculus will continue operating out of its existing Irvine, California headquarters.