Will Facebook bring Virtual Reality to the mainstream?

I’ve been wondering for a while whether Virtual Reality is just one of the technologies that is technically amazing but only has niche use cases, and is probably doomed to never become mainstream. The fact that Facebook bought Oculus for $2bn has puzzled me for a while though. Is Zuckerberg planning a virtual reality interface for Facebook? That’s kind of weird and puzzling (I’ll come back to this thought in a minute).

There’s been a lot of movement in this space recently. Possibly the flashiest demos have been Microsoft’s video demos of their Hololens, but according to some sources this is still at least 5 years out before it becomes a real product. Sony’s Project Morpheus was renamed Playstation VR recently, promising to be released for the PS4 ‘some time soon’. Given the ever decreasing lifetimes for current gen consoles, this probably means a lot sooner than Microsoft’s plans, probably within a couple of years at most.

Oculus Rift has been in development for a long time, before recently getting bought by Facebook. Dev kits have been available for some time, and their site says coming Q1 2016. That’s pretty soon (within months at this point).

Now back to Facebook. Yesterday they announced and released a number of ‘360 videos’ that play from your Facebook stream in your browser. As the video plays you can drag it around to look in all directions as it’s playing. It’s pretty cool. However, the ultimate coolness is when you view the video in the Facebook app on your Android phone… the video moves with the gyroscope sensors in the phone. It’s incredible.. you have to see it to believe it, it’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen for a while. So are we now seeing where we’re heading with Virtual Reality and Facebook’s plans for the Oculus Rift? Maybe so. However, I’m not sure I want to wear a headset to browse my feed or even watch casual videos, but the gyroscopic 360 vision on your phone. Wow. Very cool. Let’s see some more, Facebook.