Facebook takes the plunge into Virtual Reality

Facebook’s annual Developer’s Conference F8 kicked off last Tuesday in California, as in previous years the conference was full of interactive demos, announcements and best practices to help developers look ahead.

The event was streamed live and 45 Meet Up’s were held at locations around the world so developers could meet up and view sessions together.

One of the main takeaway’s from the two day event is Facebook’s commitment to Augmented Reality either as a form of communication or entertainment.

This has been on the cards from some time as Facebook acquired Oculus back in 2014 for US$2 billion ($2.8b NZD). Although still very early in the development process with the partnership with Oculus Rift VR, Facebook have been exploring how to mix users reality and even make mundane tasks like doing the dishes entertaining, by bring the virtual world into your kitchen or living room.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg envisions the utilization of Facebook’s camera feature as a key element to getting the technology in users hands “Over time, I think this is going to be a really important technology that changes how we use our phones,".

During the event Facebook launched its virtual world dubbed ‘Facebook Spaces’, designed to allow Oculus Rift owners to interact with other users as customized avatars in Augmented Reality.   

Still the tech is rather new and as we all know, new tech is expensive; Oculus’s VR Headset retails for US$700 ($710 NZD) and on top of that the minimum PC requirements to run the Rift mean users need to invest in a pretty grunty machine.

There are significant hurdles to get over before it gets in users hands, but if history is an indicator, competition in the market can drive prices down and as the hardware is optimized over time, it may be become easier to run, and not require such heavy upfront investment. Facebook’s Director of Engineering Ficus Kirkpatrick seems to think it will be at least another decade before the technology has the chance to be widely used.  

Regardless of whether users can get their hands on the tech, the next issue will be content. Will there be enough varied and interesting content for users to interact with? Is this is chicken and egg situation?

Without a crystal ball it’s hard to predict but if the Facebook Developers Conference is anything to go by Facebook is committed to the future development and integration of AR and the internet of things. It’s hard not to back such a juggernaut in the social space.

One things for sure, the tech space has never been more exciting to be involved in.