Today, the Oculus Rift turns one.
The virtual reality system very well may have been the most important consumer gadget to be released last year, and for all the critiques and praise that have pushed it through 2016, it’s clear we’re still looking at a technology that hasn’t scratched its fullest potential.
For better or worse, Facebook’s Oculus has been the poster boy for VR and will likely continue to be. The Kickstarter-backed company sent ripples through tech communities in 2014 when it was announced that Facebook would be acquiring it for $2 billion. It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing since then, the company has filled Facebook’s year with a disproportionate amount of bad press that will undoubtedly provide a nice background to whichever David Fincher film eventually chronicles the rise of Oculus VR.
Let’s see what’s happened…
- * Rift launch was delayed again and again and then plagued with further launch issues
- * Founder Palmer Luckey was bizarrely caught up in a political scandal and has since vanished from the public eye
- * CEO Brendan Iribe stepped down in midst of significant company reorganization
- * The head of Oculus’s Computer Vision team was arrested in underage sex sting
- * Oculus lost a key lawsuit and was forced to pony up a half-billion dollars to ZeniMax Media
Despite all this trouble, in Facebook’s wake nearly every tech company out there has had to consider its strategy for the new medium moving forward. Headsets and prototypes have been released by companies like Google, Samsung, Sony, HTC, Intel, LG, Qualcomm and others. Startups of Oculus-esque beginnings are no longer the ones holding the keys to where the industry moves, it is the tech giants who control desktop, mobile and the platforms that enable them.
Even in a space with such undefined paths to ubiquity, Facebook is still positioned most effectively to lead. The company has made significant strides in fostering a robust community of VR developers while also selling consumers on its headsets which have managed to become the gold standards in quality.
Facebook made its own significant plays this year outside of its Oculus vehicle. The company’s emphasis on building tools to foster 360-degree video were noticeable and highly present in user news feeds. Meanwhile, the company has begun heavy efforts independently of Oculus to define what social interaction looks like on early virtual reality systems.
Facebook’s nearly two billion monthly active users are the ultimate key as technologies like WebVR mature which will allow desktop and mobile experiences to seamlessly morph into virtual reality moments.
For a massive company that shows surprising agility in its feature updates, Oculus offers the company a distant end game to build towards.