Now that Facebook has placed a $2 billion bet on the future of virtual reality, many are left wondering just what an alternative universe might look and feel like on social media.
Last month's acquisition of Oculus, Facebook's second multi-billion-dollar deal in as many months, has likely done more for the perceived value and viability of virtual reality than any moves prior. With Facebook's resources and obvious interest now at the ready for Oculus, the speed of innovation and go-to-market strategies for virtual reality should rise on all fronts.
But why Facebook decided to enter the virtual reality market in such a big way now and what it could possibly be planning is largely unknown. While previous acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp served to solidify Facebook's dominance in social media, its visions for Oculus are even more grandiose.
The company is now playing the long and short game with equal fervor -- a mix of offensive and defensive moves that could keep Facebook growing tomorrow and well beyond a decade from now.
"I think in this play for virtual reality and social media, Facebook is trying to overcome a few things that are becoming a glaring pain point for them," says Mike Templeman, CEO at Foxtail Marketing. Declining engagement and the sense of guilt many feel over their time spent on social media both had a big part in Facebook's decision to buy Oculus, he says.
"I think in this play for virtual reality and social media, Facebook is trying to overcome a few things that are becoming a glaring pain point for them." -- Mike Templeman, Foxtail Marketing
"When people socialized on Facebook there's that stigma of you're not interacting in the real world," Templeman adds. Bringing virtual reality into the picture would boost engagement and remove some of that anti-social stigma almost immediately, says Templeman.
"You would be entering an alternative reality with a social experience," he says. Ultimately, that sense of altered reality could give users a more compelling reason to come back regularly.
Facebook Ready for the 'Platform of Tomorrow'
In describing his reasons for making such a massive bet on a still unproven technology platform, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he believes virtual reality is the foundation for a "new social platform." Now that more than 1 billion people are using Facebook's mobile apps, the company is "focusing on building the next major computing platform that will come after mobile," he told investors during a conference call.
"Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world, consulting with a doctor face to face, or going shopping in a virtual store where you can explore and touch the products you're interested in, just by putting on goggles in your own home," Zuckerberg says.
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