People’s first response has been “Why would Facebook buy Oculus Rift”? They see the current incarnation of Facebook and think, “What can you possibly do with VR on Facebook? Facebook is just a text interface! Are they just going to make VR Facebook games?” That’s really short term thinking. In order to make really ground breaking technology, you have to think long term.
For example, say that you come up with a really great product idea, but it requires a lot more network bandwidth than is currently available to most consumers. In other words, even if you wanted to build it today, you couldn’t because of the lack of network bandwidth that would be required. A lot of people would just drop the idea right there, or wait until that type of bandwidth comes available.
In research projects, you really can’t be limited by that kind of restriction. You have to project where the technology will eventually be and how fast it will get there. Technology like networking will continue to improve for the foreseeable future. The question is how long it will take for it to catch up with your idea.
With something like VR, people always ask “What kind of program can I use this with? VR office where I can see everyone? Third person shooter?” Those are exactly the wrong questions. Sure, you can make a game. You can make a environment where people run around and build things, like in Minecraft. But you can do those on a regular computer screen too, maybe even with 3D glasses. What’s the point?
The question needs to be, how can I make something so compelling that people will use it exclusively. Something so amazing that they only way to really experience it correctly is with what you’ve built. It’s the difference between Second life and Star Trek’s Holodeck.
And it’s only with long term thinking that something like that can be accomplished.
I’m hoping that whatever Facebook has planned, it takes this long term approach. Build something new and different, something so compelling that people need to use this new tech on it’s own.