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Issue Date: Vol. 54, No. 4, April 2014, Posted On: 4/3/2014

Oculus VR, Its $2 billion Payday And The New Virtual Reality Trend

Hank Schlesinger
TAGS: amusement business, video game trends, Oculus VR, virtual reality, Facebook, Palmer Luckey, videogame, Shuhei Yoshida, SCE Worldwide Studios, Project Morpheus, arcade game technology

IRVINE, CA – Oculus VR, the virtual reality darling investment of crowd funders on Kickstarter and experienced venture capitalists, has been sold to Facebook for $2 billion. The deal reportedly includes some $400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of Facebook common stock (valued around $1.6 billion). Not bad for a 21-year-old college drop-out aptly named Palmer Luckey, who founded the company in summer 2012. Luckey's Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is said to create a new standard for VR technology.

Since the announcement of the purchase on March 25, Internet pundits have been in a frenzy of speculation and rumor mongering about just what Facebook intends to do with the pricy new purchase of a videogame manufacturer.

"By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life," Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post about the Oculus acquisition. "Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online but entire experiences and adventures." Very soon you may be able to unfriend someone to their face.

The somewhat noncommittal posting side-steps the general trend toward a new generation of advanced virtual reality headsets currently under development in labs. Sony Computer Entertainment, for instance, recently rolled out its Project Morpheus, a virtual reality system for the PlayStation4.

"At SCE we view innovation as an opportunity to build on our mission to push the boundaries of play," said Shuhei Yoshida, president of SCE Worldwide Studios. "Project Morpheus is the latest example of innovation from SCE, and we're looking forward to its continued development and the games that will be created as development kits get into the hands of content creators."

The system, according to Sony, features sensors built into the lightweight head-mount unit and PlayStation camera accurately tracks head orientation and movement so as the player's head rotates, the image of the virtual world rotates naturally and intuitively in real-time.

The player can also use a PlayStationMove Motion Controller as an object, such as a sword, and Morpheus will reproduce the player's hands and sword inside the game. The system also includes 3D audio technology that immerses the player in the audio environment, with sounds, such as footsteps climbing up stairs below them, or engine noises of helicopters flying overhead. Sounds that players hear change in real time depending on their head orientation.

Another contender in the VR arena is Google. After the much-hyped introduction of its augmented reality Google Glass, the company is seen as a serious entry in the VR realm as new iterations of Glass are brought to market. Similarly, rumors have been circulating about Apple's entrance into VR. A patent filed as early as 2008 shows an active interest in virtual reality.

Whether this VR trend will make it into coin-op remains to be seen. Oculus has reportedly released thousands of its headsets to game developers, though there has been no word as to how many are in coin-op. Sony, for its part, seems to be counting on its user base of more than 6 million PlayStation4 consoles to drive sales.

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