Facebook acquires Oculus Rift VR headset firm for $2bn

By Peter Gothard
25 Mar 2014 View Comments
oculus-rift

Facebook has announced it is acquiring Oculus VR, maker of the Rift virtual reality headset, for $2bn in cash and stock.

In a posting on his site tonight, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained that he is "excited" to be acquiring the company, which he describes as "the leader in virtual technology".

Further reading

While the Oculus Rift, which renders 3D virtual worlds inside a proprietary piece of helmet hardware, has until now been identified largely with gaming, Zuckerberg obviously has bigger plans for the technology.

"Our mission is to make the world more open and connected," said Zuckerberg. "For the past few years, this has mostly meant building mobile apps that help you share with the people you care about."

But while Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook still has "a lot more to do on mobile", he sees Oculus as an enabler to start letting the social network "start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences".

Such a leap is clearly a tempting proposition for Facebook, which, as Zuckerberg hints in his post, is still having trouble monetising mobile since the company's public stock offering in mid-2012.

Perhaps Zuckerberg believes he can get the jump on an aspect of the impending wearables craze, which has now seen Google strike a deal with Ray-Ban maker Luxottica.

"After games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences," continued Zuckerberg.

"Imagine enjoying a courtside 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."

Describing virtual reality as "once the dream of science fiction", Zuckerberg explained how Facebook intends now to join with "developers and partners across the industry" to build "many more" experiences for users to interact with in the hope of making VR a commercial possibility.

Zuckerberg's $2bn isn't just going on Oculus' virtual reality headset technology, either. Its staff includes some true luminaries of the videogames graphics industry.

Defecting from id Software - the company he helped found in 1991 - in late 2013 was John Carmack, who took up the mantle of CTO at Oculus.

Carmack is credited with the creation of a number of hugely successful videogame software engines - including those used in the Doom and Quake series - and licensed for many other videogames products over the years.

Meanwhile, games company Valve - which owns and operates the Steam games distribution platform, as well as creating the successful Half-Life series - lost its lead virtual reality engineer to Oculus earlier this month. Atman Binstock is now chief architect at Oculus.

Oculus, which was formed in 2012 by young entrepreneur Palmer Luckey and videogames middleware firm Scaleform founders Brendan Iribe and Michael Antonov, largely came into existence simply to help launch a Kickstarter for the Rift headset.

While the creators asked for only $250,000, the crowdfunding exercise earned $2,437,429 altogether. Other investments raised the figure to $91m in total.

"We are excited to work with Mark and the Facebook team to deliver the very best virtual reality platform in the world," said Iribe, who is CEO of Oculus.

"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."

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