Facebook closes Oculus deal

The social-networking giant's $2 billion deal for the virtual reality startup is done. Now the hard part begins.

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Facebook and Oculus VR say they have officially finished their $2 billion deal, placing the world's largest social-networking company squarely in the consumer electronics industry.

In a joint statement Monday, the two companies said they look forward to working together "building the next computing platform and reimagining the way people communicate."

Oculus, which makes a virtual-reality headset called the "Rift," has been at the center of a seeming sea change in the video game industry as companies large and small have begun developing new applications for the device. Neither Oculus nor Facebook has committed to a launch date for the device.

The startup, founded by Palmer Luckey and headed by Brendan Iribe, initially launched as a Kickstarter project shipping prototypes to developers in 2012. The company has been steadily updating its prototypes with new features such as higher-resolution images and better sensors to interpret user's movements.

When Facebook purchased Oculus, the social-networking giant's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said he saw opportunity beyond video games to communications, medicine, and education. "Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction," he wrote in a blog post. "But the Internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones."

Currently, most of the attention is on video games. And there, Oculus isn't alone.

Sony in March unveiled its own "Project Morpheus" virtual-reality headset, designed for the PlayStation 4 video game console. The company revealed it has been working on this technology for years, and wants to start inviting developers to make apps for its device. A week later, Facebook said it had agreed to buy Oculus for $2 billion.

Other companies have been developing virtual-reality headsets as well, including smartphone giant Samsung and gaming devices maker Razer, people familiar with the matter have said.

Oculus, for its part, has been growing in size, hiring big names from game companies like Valve, Electronic Arts, and others. The company has also fought a nagging lawsuit from ZeniMax Media, former employer of its CTO John Carmack.

The increasing financial burden had raised eyes at Facebook, which hasn't produced consumer hardware before. Still, Oculus has said, it plans to sell its devices as close to cost as possible, and break even as a business.

The company has also been quietly working on motion controls which would allow users to interact with games through body and hand movements.

Oculus has also announced plans for a developer conference in September, during which it said attendees will have an opportunity to "learn about upcoming Oculus technology."

About the author

Ian Sherr is a senior writer for CNET focused on social media and video game companies. He has previously written for The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the Agence France-Presse. He's a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, though he knows what real weather feels like too.

 

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