Jonathan Feng using the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset at E3 in California in June last year

Facebook buys virtual reality headset maker Oculus

Facebook has agreed a $2bn deal to buy virtual reality headset maker Oculus as it gambles on the future of computing.

Oculus, based in Irvine, California, makes the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that covers a user's eyes and creates an immersive world that reacts to turning your head or moving back and forth.

The headsets have received a lot of attention from video game developers, but have yet to be released for consumers, but Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the device’s potential goes further than gaming and could be a new way for people to communicate, learn or be entertained.

"This is a long-term bet on the future of computing," said Zuckerberg. "I believe Oculus can be one of the platforms of the future."

Potential applications for the technology could be enjoying a courtside seat at a basketball game, studying in a classroom, consulting a doctor face to face or shopping in a virtual store, according to Zuckerberg, and the technology also has social applications.

"Imagine sharing not just moments with friends online, but entire experiences and adventures," he said.

The deal is Facebook's second big acquisition in as many months after it announced that it would pay $19bin for mobile messaging start-up WhatsApp, a deal that has yet to close.

"I don't think you should expect us to make multiple multi-billion dollar acquisitions within a couple of months frequently," Zuckerberg said.

But he called Oculus a "unique" company with a major lead on rivals in technology, engineering talent and developer interest. Sony unveiled its own prototype virtual reality headset at a game-developers conference in San Francisco last week.

Zuckerberg said virtual reality technology was a computing platform unto itself, comparing it to personal computers, which revolutionised the world in the 1970s and 80s, and mobile phones.

He said Facebook intended to let Oculus continue with its road map of development, but help out with recruiting, marketing, infrastructure and opening doors to new partnerships.

And Zuckerberg said he intended not to make a profit on hardware but instead make the product affordable and ubiquitous so Facebook can look at generating revenue from services, software, advertising, virtual goods or other areas.

Further information

Oculus Rift headset teardown

Oculus Rift lets rugby fans train with England team


Oculus Rift infographic

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