Today Facebook purchased Oculus Rift in a deal worth about $2 billion.

Pfft…you’ve never heard of Oculus Rift?

That’s ok…not many people have.

But 2 BILLION DOLLARS? Well that there is a lot of money.

So let’s have a look at Oculus Rift and see why they’re worth so much to Facebook.

Who are Oculus Rift?

Well Oculus Rift specialise in Virtual Reality simulators. Remember when virtual reality was huge in the 90s? Everyone imagined that we would all be playing games and watching TV through virtual reality. Essentially life was going to be like this:

However after everyone marvelled at how amazing it was and how it would change the future they just kind of seemed to forget about it. Essentially nothing about virtual reality appealed to anyone.

Well Oculus Rift didn’t really get the memo and they just sort of kept on chugging on in the hope that eventually people would come back into the VR fold. In fact just a few days ago they, along with Sony, announced their newest wares

Why Is Facebook Interested?

But is all of this worth 2 billion dollars. I mean Oculus just raised 75 million dollars and this is coming just a month after Facebook purchased WhatsApp for 19 billion dollars (so Zuckerberg has some money to throw around it seems) but why would a social networking site be interested in VR gaming?

Well firstly gaming is actually a huge part of Facebook’s platform. Not only are they a huge social layer in regards to logging in and staying connected between platforms (able to play Candy Crush on your iPhone, iPad and on Facebook itself with your scores and friends simply joining you regardless of where you are) but they are also able to act as a game store and deliver games to the consumer with a click of the button.

However, as this TechCrunch article points out, Facebook missed out on the entire mobile gaming ecosystem and had to play second-fiddle to both iOS and Android. As Mark Zuckerberg explains in his post about the multi-billion dollar purchase:

Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate. The Rift is highly anticipated by the gaming community, and there’s a lot of interest from developers in building for this platform.

So we’re all going to be playing games with our Facebook friends no matter where we are and it will all seem so awesome!

But that’s not all

If you go further into Mark’s post you see him talking about the potential of VR and what it can do to help connect the world

After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.

This reminds me of the famous Simpsons episode ‘Marge vs the Monorail’ where discussing what to do with Monty Burns’s money Lisa talks about investing into the school system. In explaining it she imagines a VR system where she and her fellow students simply put on a headset and are transported back to the land of Ghengis Khan. Now we are a long, long way off from that reality but it’s a nice thought. Imagine how much more interesting history, science and English would be if you could interact with the greatest characters in literature or see what inspired the bard to pen his sonnets? Perhaps that’s what we’ll see with the Oculus Rift purchase.

But for now…it’s not much at all. Facebook knows full well that Oculus Rift isn’t ready for consumers and won’t be for several years. Even so it will be decades before they’ve deployed for education or social purposes. But all that being said…what we have seen today is Facebook investing in the future of entertainment, education and social interaction.

Or a waste of 2 billion dollars.