• Recently, news of Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of virtual reality gaming company Oculus VR has sent waves of negativity through the online gaming community. Many have felt that the deal signifies the end of the company’s innovation for players, and the start of a new focus on more corporate ventures. The deal has even resulted in the loss of title opportunities for the technology, with Minecraft creator Markus Persson saying: “We were in talks about maybe bringing a version to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out.”

    Amidst the uncertainty of Oculus’ future and the concerns over privacy that come with the Facebook acquisition, others are remaining more positive over the move. Oculus CTO and id software co-founder John Carmack has come out in support of the Facebook/Oculus partnership. He stated that although the technology has the potential to allow PC players to step out on the battlefields of WoW or visit Royal Vegas and other online casinos from the comfort of their own homes, virtual reality has far more important implications.

    “There is a case to be made for being like Valve, and trying to build a new VR ecosystem like Steam from the ground up. This is probably what most of the passionate fans wanted to see,” he said. “The difference is that, for years, the industry thought Valve was nuts, and they had the field to themselves. Valve deserves all their success for having the vision and perseverance to see it through to the current state.

    “VR won’t be like that. The experience is too obviously powerful, and it makes converts on contact. The fairly rapid involvement of the Titans is inevitable, and the real questions were how deeply to partner, and with who.”

    Carmack added: “Honestly, I wasn’t expecting Facebook (or this soon). I have zero personal background with them, and I could think of other companies that would have more obvious synergies. However, I do have reasons to believe that they get the Big Picture as I see it, and will be a powerful force towards making it happen. You don’t make a commitment like they just did on a whim.”

    As part of the acquisition, which is expected to close in the second quarter of this year, Oculus will continue to operate independently from Facebook. The company is likely to remain focused on the gaming market, but the visions and financial backing from Mark Zuckerberg’s major social network company means that the technology could benefit everything from communications, to education and even health.

    James Crowson, who developed the Games of Thrones based VR experience The Wall and is studying a Master’s Thesis at New York University on the use of virtual reality in health, mirrored Carmack’s sentiments. “[Oculus Rift] has been marketed as a tool for gaming, but there’s clearly far more important uses for it, treatment being one of them,” he said.

    “I’m sure that it’s going to play an important part in the bridge between technology and health, for example, using exposure therapy to treat people with phobias such as acrophobia. Mark Zuckerberg has already identified uses for the Oculus other than gaming, for education purposes as well as health, so it’s clearly on the radar for them.”

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