Facebook May Push Oculus To Consumer Hardware

This week Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stood onstage at F8, the social network's developer conference, and spoke about Oculus VR. Zuckerberg showed how 360-degree spherical video would be making its way to Facebook's main news feed with the help of Oculus VR. This same content would be coming to Oculus Rift some time after it'd hit the main news feed. With the Samsung Gear VR (made in collaboration with Oculus VR), the company would also be showing a "Teleportation Station" to give people a glimpse of their offices from a remote location.

Back in March of 2014 – one year ago – Facebook acquired Oculus VR for a cool $2-billion. Since then, not much appears to have connected the two companies beyond cash. Today that changed.

"We're going to build spherical videos for Oculus too," said Zuckerberg as he explained how 360-degree "spherical" video would be coming to the main Facebook newsfeed.

"We're starting to see traditional video blend with even more immersive content."

Facebook's so-called "Teleportation Station" had our own Chris Davies sitting in a chair at the F8 convention center with a Gear VR headset on looking at live content at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo. For someone who'd just seen the best of the best – room-scale walk-around immersive content from the HTV VIVE – simply looking through a fixed orb of cameras wasn't exactly earth-shattering.

"If anything, that underscores my doubts about the value of 360 VR," said Davies.

"Perhaps if the view had been more interesting – the Grand Canyon, maybe, or the bustling heart of Tokyo – I could've been more engaged, and for longer. Even so, I think you're going to tire relatively quickly, no matter how magical the view."

It may be that this sort of experience – and this sort of reaction – could do just the opposite of forcing Oculus VR's hand into creating a consumer device. It may be that Oculus VR may want to continue developing their more immersive technology including 3D audio and movability – rather than release what they've got prepared with their current hardware in the Rift DK2.

Just this morning, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer made clear that virtual reality gaming was coming to consumers "this year." He went on to suggest that users would be gaming on "something" by Oculus inside 2015.

It's likely he was speaking about the Galaxy Note 5's Gear VR mentioned by John Carmack at GDC 2015, but we shall see!

UPDATE: Schroepfer suggested after the keynote that he "did not announce anything regarding shipping, just said PC hardware [was] available this year can create these experiences."

"In order to keep up with this future," said Zuckerberg, "we need to be able to build tools for people to share all the different types of content they're sharing."

Is sharing the key for Oculus? Maybe if you're speaking about the taxi cab that is the Samsung Gear VR for mobile users, or the bicycle that is non-enhanced mobile headsets like Google Cardboard.

But when it comes to the sports car that is the Oculus Rift, my money's on a headset that'll be released only when Oculus VR has put enough time in – as much time as they deem necessary.