In the aftermath of Facebook’s recent acquisition of Oculus VR, the question of what effect the social media giant would have on this primarily game-related company has become a common one. While data mining has been the obvious conclusion for many, a possible product of the partnership could very well end up being a massively multiplayer online world unlike anything gamers have seen before.
In many ways, this would both quell and substantiate many of the fears that have developed since the hardware’s acquisition. Before that, the Oculus Rift had established its presence primarily within the gaming industry but with the introduction of Facebook into the mix, many – Minecraft creator Notch included – believe that it could simply be a new way to collect information for the tech giant. In fact, what better way to collect information than to introduce an MMO experience on a truly massive scale?
Speaking at recent tech conference TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2014, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe expressed his interest in a project such as this. Rather than simply following the lead and scope of existing MMOs though, he muses about an online experience that could support one billion users simultaneously. While this may seem unrealistic, it may not actually be entirely unreasonable to shoot so high with the power and user-base of Facebook behind it.
Of course in its current state, Iribe admits that a project of this scale would require “a bigger network than exists in the world today.” This is not surprising, but the acquisition of Facebook is an incredibly strong start in moving towards this lofty goal. Since it’s not expected that the true benefits of the Facebook/Oculus VR partnership will come to light until at least next year, the teams still have quite a bit of time to think through the possibilities of a project such as this.
First though, Iribe feels that the company needs to reach a point where the technology makes inter-personal interactions feel truly “real.” Not only is this an overarching goal for Oculus but in the context of an MMO, it would be an essential component for establishing player immersion. As such, the company will still remain steadfast in their commitment to gaming but will also be keeping other potential avenues and uses open as they proceed.
One such potential avenue is that of militaristic implementation. The Norwegian army has begun using the Oculus Rift in hopes of eliminating the restrictive field-of-view for armored vehicles. By placing cameras on each side of the vehicle and giving the driver a Rift with specially-developed software, the vehicle is rendered essentially invisible as the driver is able to look around the vehicle by turning their head and get an unobstructed view of their surroundings.
Combining this with the Rift’s ability to transport the user to places they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to physically go, it’s clear that there is a seemingly endless amount of potential for the technology’s implementation. From games like EVE: Valkyrie to accessibility for those with disabilities, if Oculus can effectively get their tech onto shelves and into homes, this could represent one of the biggest shifts in the gaming industry in years.
Do you think Oculus VR has what it takes to bring their tech into the mainstream? What implementation of the tech are you most excited to see come to fruition?
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ThatRyanB.