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Oculus is Zuckerberg's big bet on the future

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees Oculus as part of his plans to "connect" more people throughout the world.

VR is perhaps Zuckerberg's biggest iron in the fire.
James Martin/CNET

Mark Zuckerberg's long-term bets are beginning to stack up. There's the internet-beaming drone, Aquila; the internet-for-the-developing world, Free Basics; and then there's virtual reality.

When Facebook bought Oculus two years ago for $2 billion, many tech observers did a double-take, surprised at what seemed an unusual pairing. Facebook until that point focused on apps and websites to connect its now-nearly 1.7 billion users through photos, video chat and text messages.

But to get to the rest of the people on the planet, Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, said he needs to do something more dramatic than merely putting out a more sharable photo app.

"If you want to help get all 7 billion people connected and make a step function in the fidelity of how people can share and consume content, you need to make significant investments in some of these longer-term things where you actually don't know what the time horizon is," he said in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

The "step function" Zuckerberg is referring to is something like the Rift headset, which Oculus designed. It's a visor of sorts that goes over your eyes -- inside are sensors and screens that are placed so close to you that your brain can be tricked into believing the computer-generated images it's showing are real.

Zuckerberg has said he's willing to invest a lot of money over a long period of time to make VR work because, he believes, it's the next big step in how we use computers. And it has the potential to change the world as much as the smartphone has.

"I don't know who said this first, but it's not hard to predict what the world will be like in 20 years," he said. "The hard thing is actually predicting or figuring out how to get there."