01 April 2014

TechCrunch: “Facebook Bought Oculus VR To Create The Metaverse”

In one potential future, the identities we project into the metaverse will be fuzzy or even obscured. Here, our avatars will have little or nothing in common with our actual selves in the real world. They will range from pseudonymous constructions to total fantasies, like the socially-awkward straight male who plays the female dark elf seductress when he enters cyberspace.

In another potential future, the avatars we project into the metaverse will much more closely mirror our actual selves. They will look like us, move like us, reflect our personal mannerisms, and so on. When we socialize in this virtual reality, we will be among friends, just from anywhere in the world with high-speed bandwidth, at anytime we choose.

Dan Kaplan

One of the great things about online gaming – and by extension virtual reality – is precisely that it enables people to create new identities, to escape the limited ‘reality’ for virtual spaces full of possibilities, where they can be what outside they could only dream of. But is this something compatible with ’s strict, unique, identity? The latter outcome looks much more likely once Oculus is integrated into Facebook’s social vision. Chatting with friends in a virtual environment, actually interacting with them as if face-to-face, would certainly be awesome and a great improvement over browsing their photo uploads and status updates; but I think this way the technology would miss its potential by far. Hence all the negative reactions to this new acquisition…

Indigestion. My other concern is that Oculus could create internal and external problems for Facebook. Working on VR may pull Facebook’s attention away from other, more pressing competitive threats. To me, the most important near-term challenge to Facebook is the rise of the Asian messaging networks that combine free short messaging with games and other online services. The acquisition of WhatsApp was meant to counter that, but Facebook still has to figure out how it’ll be integrated with the core company. Do Mark Zuckerberg and his management team have enough time and brain juice to figure out how to integrate both WhatsApp and Oculus? Michael Mace
The promise of Oculus was the concept of unity through shared experience – shared escape to virtual worlds that we can explore, as we explore ourselves and each other. In Facebook’s vision of Oculus there is no escape – you won’t be reminded of that of course, but no matter how much fun you have or how deep your experience, you will always be under their eye sliding together down one giant funnel of information. Peter Berkman
My prediction is that Facebook will screw it up with gamers (it's very unlikely given its corporate culture that it would do otherwise), and 5 years from now will look at Oculus as a poor acquisition, while Sony's morpheus project will see a very small niche similar to that the Playstation Move has been. Sony simply does not have the financial ability to take big losses in order to drive market adoption, while Facebook lacks the cultural understanding of gaming to be able to do much other than to poison the well with its ideal early adopters. Piaw Na

What is so powerful about this analogy – that the computer is a bicycle for the mind – is that it elevates the humanity of a desired action, in this case transportation, and inserts the computer as an aid. This is exactly what the iPhone and the smartphones that followed have done for people: instead of a computer being a destination, it’s something that is always with us, ready to call up a map, or a restaurant recommendation, or simply fill time with a flapping bird. To put it another way, mobile is a big deal not because we use computers more, but because a computer is with us in more places.

Envisioning a future in which Oculus’ technology is the dominant platform is diametrically opposed: it’s a reality where humans retreat from day-to-day activities in favor of computers. This idea – a life lived in computers – is something that appeals to the technically predisposed; who among us spends all day in front a glowing screen, and then goes home to do the exact same? I’m sure Zuckerberg is in that boat. But it’s a much smaller boat than many technologists realize.

Ben Thompson

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