There’s always a first time for everything. For VR company Oculus, it’s probably the first time it has been dragged in a high-profile public trial. For Mark Zuckerberg, it’s his first time testifying in a courtroom and one of the extremely rare times you’d see the Facebook CEO out of his now iconic hoodie and jeans attire. Instead, he wears a suit that solemnly declares serious business, because that is exactly the position that game publisher ZeniMax has forced Oculus and Facebook into in its lawsuit over stolen VR technology and intellectual property.
The current courtroom drama started not that long ago, in 2014 in fact, when Facebook publicly revealed its bid to buy Oculus, then just a VR startup. The headlines prompted ZeniMax to also go public and claim that Oculus stole VR technology from the publisher. That supposedly happened through a conversation between Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey and John Carmack of Doom fame and later Oculus, and therefore Facebook, minion. ZeniMax, who acquired game developer id Software in 2009, was Carmack’s former employer.
Of course, Zuckerberg denies any wrongdoing on Facebook’s part. He explains that VR simply feels like a natural extension of the company’s goals in making everything and everyone social. ZeniMax also accuses Facebook of acting in haste to buy Oculus, overlooking the ongoing dispute ZeniMax has levied against the then nascent VR company. To that, Zuckerberg responds that negotiating deals swiftly isn’t unusual in the highly competitive market Facebook plays in.
Almost sarcastically, Zuckerberg later claims that he never even heard of ZeniMax before the Oculus lawsuit. Admittedly, very few outside gaming circles did. Even gamers are probably more familiar with the game development studios that ZeniMax now owns, like id Software and Bethesda, makers of the hit Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises, rather than the game publisher itself. The message between the lines is that ZeniMax is using the opportunity to get some publicity out of VR’s rising prominence.
Virtual reality, along with augmented or mixed reality, is indeed hailed as the next wave of computing. But even Zuckerberg himself admits that it isn’t there yet, at least not for its more social-oriented purposes. While gaining popularity, VR’s widespread adoption has been hampered by prohibitive costs of both the headset and the PC needed to run the experience as well as the lack of substantial content beyond gaming and entertainment.
SOURCE: New York Times