In March 2014, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was teaming up with and buying out the virtual reality company Oculus Rift. The idea of using a virtual reality headset to interact with other real people is not too far out in the future anymore.
Oculus Rift manufactures Virtual Reality headsets. Virtual reality has been described by users as ‘mesmerizing’, ‘otherworldly’, and ‘a little unsettling’. The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is a $600 system that looks like a black bar covering your eyes from temple to temple. The headset immerses your entire field of vision, therefore creating a very realistic visual experience. With a virtual reality headset, you’re experiencing the sensation of being in another place, sometimes simulating activities, without leaving your physical location at all.
In 2014, Facebook bought Oculus Rift for $2 billion with the idea that virtual reality could turn social networking into a more multidimensional experience. In Mark Zuckerberg’s 2014 announcement statement on Facebook, he stated “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected.” Zuckerberg wants to meld the virtual reality experience from a gaming-based system to a system that can simulate face-to-face interaction, making people feel like they’re really in the place that they are seeing on their screen. Although Facebook bought out Oculus Rift specifically, they are still planning on working with other brands to produce similar products that
are less expensive in order to reach a wider audience.
“We’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world, or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home,” Zuckerberg also declared.
Oculus Rift’s software installs a full system permissions process called “OVRServer_x64.exe” that is always on and sends data updates to Facebook’s and other third parties’ servers regularly. Many people are concerned that this will create an even greater risk for identity theft, scammers, spies, or hackers.
Some are even concerned that virtual reality headsets are — or could become — a means of state surveillance. For the full virtual reality experience, Oculus headsets require the ability to track and record your movements, what you’re saying, where you’re facing, what you’re looking at, and how you’re interacting with what’s around you.
Advertisers have also been getting in on the use of virtual reality for their profit. Through speculations that the headset has the ability to record what you have in your home, or the fact that the system traces what you look at during your headset immersion, data is being sent to third party advertisers in order to tailor the content and timing of advertisements for you.
As Zuckerberg stated in his announcement, “One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people. Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming and we have a chance to build it together. I can’t wait to start working with the whole team at Oculus to bring this future to the world and to unlock new worlds for all of us.”
Bates, P. (2016). 3 Major Security & Privacy Concerns Over Virtual Reality. Make Use Of. Fitzsimmons, M. (2016).
Madans, H. (2016). Minnesota Senator Investigates Oculus Rift Privacy Practices. Gov Tech. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/products/Minnesota-Senator-Investigates-Oculus-Rift-Privacy-Practices.html.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook announcement of the Oculus Rift buyout. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10101319050523971.
Ulanoff, L. (2016). Facebook’s killer Social VR demo puts the real world on notice. Mashable. Retreived from http://mashable.com/2016/04/13/facebook-social-vr-analysis/#1sl8Aok5POqq.