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Facebook Oculus VR buy causes rift with developers and tech fans

Analysis Criticism from all corners over Kickstarter sellout
Thu Mar 27 2014, 15:13

SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook unexpectedly announced its purchase of Oculus VR on Tuesday, the outfit that is developing the Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset, for a tidy sum of $2bn, or £1.2bn.

Oculus Rift

Although Oculus VR said it was ecstatic about working with the Facebook team "to deliver the very best virtual reality platform in the world", the same view hasn't been shared across the rest of the internet, with some early backers, video gamers, developers and technology fans alike venting their shock and horror that the Kickstarter-launched Oculus VR startup "sold out" to one of the world's biggest technology companies.

The Oculus Rift project was launched on Kickstarter on 1 August 2012 to revive a technology that attempted to reach the market over a decade previously. Trying to succeed where many had failed, it had a rather modest campaign goal of $250,000. Within 24 hours, Oculus VR had raised $670,000 from 2,750 people, and within three days it had hit $1m.

Two days after Facebook announced its buyout of the firm, the web is still alight with rants from frustrated and disappointed fans who believed it would have become the next big thing in gaming if it hadn't sold out to a social media company. One of the first gaming developers to oppose the news was Markus Persson, otherwise known as Notch, the chap behind Minecraft.

"We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal," he said upon hearing of the buyout. "Facebook creeps me out."

Another rather popular source for the VR outcries was Reddit Technology. Late Wednesday, the top eight most popular topics in the technology category were focusing on the acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook, showing that the news had not come as a welcome surprise.

One Reddit user commented on a post titled 'Oculus's $2bn sale to Facebook sparks fury from Kickstarter funders; crowd-source backers angry Palmer Luckey's sold out to the social media giant', saying they were boycotting Oculus VR because it has been gobbled up by Facebook, referring to it in past tense.

"Oculus was cool. It wasn't going to cure AIDS or solve our energy problems, but it was innovative and represented the realisation of some age-old 90s' technology dreams around things like VR," said user api. "Then it gets gobbled up by a company that represents the antithesis of all that optimism, a company whose business model revolves around banal sh*t and pushing annoying advertisements."

Another user, complex_reduction, added, "The issue is that Oculus have f****d us all by accepting Facebook's (ridiculous) offer."

Though most Reddit users agreed that Oculus made a big mistake in accepting $2bn for its Oculus Rift VR headset, some defended the move. For example, one user said they didn't think the Facebook buyout would change the product much at all.

"I doubt it will require Facebook integration to work with games. Does your mouse, how about your keyboard, your monitor?"

However, like many commenters, the user was rather confused and seemed somewhat worried about how a social media company will use the kit to integrate its services.

"Linking a device like the Oculus to a social media platform in the sense that everyone is insisting doesn't make sense especially when there is going to be competing hardware that doesn't have that requirement at all (Sony/Valve)."

Most readers of The INQUIRER also weren't keen on the news upon hearing it. One reader, Tom, said he was really looking forward to Oculus Rift but now is worried that Facebook will want to turn it into some sort of "strange social media device" instead of concentrating on normal VR uses such as video games and medical and design applications.

"At this point it looks like the growing developer support for the Oculus will start to evaporate now that it's owned by a company with a clear agenda," he said. "Very disappointing, if that happens. I hope I am wrong and they manage to not ruin it."

Another reader, littletime, said that the buyout of Oculus Rift undermines the whole concept of independent funding.

"Bet those 'kickstarters' are kicking themselves," he said. "If I'm going to give my money to a greedy corporation I will pick Sony over Facebook."

Today, The INQUIRER had a demo with Oculus Rift and spoke with Karl Maddix, the director of Masters Of Pie, a creative design studio that is developing software, such as a deep sea diving simulator, for the Oculus Rift. He disagrees with those that denounce the Facebook buyout of Oculus VR.

According to Maddix, the acquisition means that the headset can finally make it big and reach the masses to allow creative development teams such as those at Masters of Pie to benefit, because it will allow them to open their software to many more potential users as well as collaborate with other Oculus Rift developers.

Maddix said he can finally get excited about Oculus Rift as it could really have a positive effect on the education sector.

"We are looking to combine Oculus Rift with a Leap Motion controller so we can combine gesture controls with virtual reality software and make the experience more immersive."

He suggested that school children will be able to learn about molecules in chemistry, for example, by using Oculus Rift to see the particles in front of their eyes, and use gesture control to combine them to see what reaction occurs.

Finally, online urban guide Yelp took the opportunity to inject a little bit of humour into the mostly negative wave of reactions caused by the $2bn acquisition of Oculus VR, launching Yelpulus Rift. µ


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