Analysis: WhatsApp, Instagram and Oculus are all wholly-owned Facebook acquisitions. But only the virtual reality pioneer is getting a rebranding push from its parent company.
This past week, the embattled co-founder of Oculus VR didn’t attend his own annual developer conference. While Luckey languished in disgrace, a different well-known tech genius took the stage, gave the big demos and helped us imagined the future: his boss, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg dominated the first half of the Oculus event last Thursday, showing in great detail exactly how virtual reality devices — those goggles that put you in a Matrix-like computer-generated world — will be used to augment social interaction and communication on the Facebook platform. Forget your web browser or phone app: soon you’ll be able to see 3D versions of your Facebook friends, synced and gesturing to you in real-time while you “meet” together on a pixelated beach. Or the surface of Mars. Or an exact recreation of Hogwarts. (You get the idea.)
And outside the keynote, practically every single instance of the “Oculus” name — on every demo station, every banner and even the front marquee of the San Jose Convention Center — had the words “from Facebook” emblazoned right after it in big, bold letters.
To some attendees, it looked like Facebook was taking over.
“Is it going to be the Facebook Rift next year? I don’t know,” said Keith Kaisershot, a VR developer attending the conference.
If you haven’t been following the saga of Oculus, “taking over” might sound like a strange way to describe the company’s relationship status. Facebook already owns Oculus, after all; it paid $2 billion for the company in 2014. But Facebook’s moves at the show could signal a new, more corporate direction for the biggest name in VR. (While rivals Sony and Valve also share the high-end market, Oculus jump-started the current wave of interest and investment in VR.)
When Facebook originally purchased Oculus, it promised the pioneering VR firm could stay independent — to the point it could even keep its own separate headquarters in Irvine, California, almost 400 miles south of Facebook’s home base in the Bay Area.
The biggest show of faith from Facebook might have been keeping Palmer Luckey front and center. Luckey, whose boy genius backstory helped propel the Rift’s original Kickstarter campaign to success has been the outspoken public face of Oculus since day one.