I Will Never, EVER Buy An Oculus Rift

by James King   |   May 19th, 2014

Roughly six out of seven people in the world don’t use Facebook. Count me in that group of six. I’ve never been a fan of it. When I think of Facebook, I think of a club. Not a social group, like the Boy Scouts, but more of a trendy dance club. Nothing improves the mystique of a place like a velvet rope to keep out the goobers and riff raff. So, in its early days, you had to be a certain “type” of person to get into Facebook. It was the spot for young college kids — probably as self-important a group as there is. It became the place to see and be seen. To be on Facebook was to be on the cutting edge, part of an exclusive club of the movers and shakers of tomorrow.

Word got around and, like every exclusive club, more people wanted in. The quickest way to ruin the appeal of an exclusive club is a liberal door policy, but keeping people out is like leaving money on the table. So, if you’re smart, you open up another club across town with the same name and relax your admission standards a little. Once that club reaches capacity, you do the same thing in a different part of town and so on. Before you know it, not only do you have a town full of clubs you control brimming with people, but you’ve made it almost impossible for anyone else to start a club by controlling both mindshare and location.

That isn’t quite how it played out with Facebook, but the principles are the same. From its modest beginning as a online spot for college kids, it strategically opened up its service to more and more groups until it grew into the juggernaut it is today.

Now, Facebook is arguably the most important platform on the planet. At the root of its service is a data acquisition operation rivaled only by Google and the United States government. It mines the lives of over a billion people to give advertisers the information they need to sell them more products and services. In the process, it has often run roughshod over the privacy of its users. Facebook is a multi-billion dollar corporation built on the main premise of learning as much about your life — including your family, friends, passions, peeves, and habits — as possible. Some would claim the loss of some privacy is an acceptable trade-off for the service it provides. The ability to be effortlessly connected to friends past and present as well as family and anyone else as desired. Maybe so. But, as far as I’m concerned, Facebook is in the business of trading your identity for cold, hard cash.

So, when I found out that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s ironically enigmatic CEO, personally pulled the trigger on buying Oculus, maker of the stunning Rift virtual reality (VR) headset, I was a little upset — if upset means rending your garments and screaming to the heavens for vengeance. WHAT?!?! HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED?!

I was SO looking forward to buying an Oculus Rift.

If you’re a hardcore gamer like I am, you’ve salivated about the potential of virtual reality for a long time. The Rift is the answer to the fevered dreams of many a geek, the holy grail of gaming. It comes with the promise of putting the gamer IN the action rather than in front of it. If your idea of fun is barreling into bystanders, driving at speeds that would make you the object of a multi-state police chase in real life, jumping off of skyscrapers with nary a scratch, and killing enough people even John Woo would get cold sweats, the thought of doing it in virtual worlds makes you warm and tingly all over. Gaming is finally going to the next level.

Then along comes Facebook.

When it bought Oculus, I did what thousands of rabid fanboys all over the world did (very vocally) on social media. I vowed to never, EVER buy an Oculus Rift. C’mon, there is NO way I’d buy a product made by a company whose sole purpose is to sell my identity to advertisers.

Facebook is a monolith, a ridiculously pervasive data collection operation; imagine if it could CREATE the world in which you live? How much could it learn about you by not only understanding your relationships and preferences in the real world, but actually creating worlds in which it PROVIDES those things to you?

However, as with many things that spur self-righteousness, the reality is a lot more nuanced than that.

I’ll give Facebook credit: it is an extremely well-managed company and Mark Zuckerberg is an exceptionally savvy businessman. He looked beyond the world of gaming and realized virtual reality is more than just a gaming peripheral. It has the potential to completely change our interaction models. VR doesn’t just allow us to be in the game, it allows us to be ANYWHERE:

Imagine experiencing the beaches of Bora Bora or admiring the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris;

Imagine raving all night in Ibiza or skiing down the slopes of the Swiss Alps;

Imagine attending a production of Madame Butterfly at La Scala in Milan or Swan Lake at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York;

Imagine soaring above the Serengeti on a safari unlike anything currently possible …

… in your underwear, from the comfort of your couch. Pretty soon you won’t have to imagine; it’s coming to you courtesy of VR.

The future implications of VR technology are profound. Virtual classrooms will bring state-of-the-art educational resources to millions around the world. Combined with robotic and drone technologies, it will not just allow us to experience different environments, but actually interact with them. Drones and robots will become our “avatars”, granting us super hero-like abilities — enhanced strength, speed, and even flight. More importantly, it will restore ability to those limited by disease or illness.

But one of its most exciting prospects goes well beyond that. What if you could “jump into” someone else’s life?

Imagine seeing the experience of a police officer, firefighter, or soldier in real time as if you were actually there. What if you could have jumped into Anderson Cooper’s experience in Iraq during the conflict and personally EXPERIENCED the chaos? Consider what it would be like to see through the eyes of a Formula 1 driver as he blasts down a track at 220 miles per hour. Think of seeing Earth through the eyes of an astronaut on the International Space Station.

Here’s where it gets even more interesting. The technology to best make such scenarios possible is also widely considered one of the most odious new developments in recent memory — Google Glass.

Yes, THAT Google Glass.

Sure, people hate Glass now, but the new paradigms for VR would benefit tremendously when coupled with technology that allows a bird’s eye view. Glass is designed to function as an everyday device and its potential pervasiveness makes a natural complement for VR.

The combination of the Oculus Rift and Google Glass could end up being one of the most important technology combinations in history. For instance, Rift + Glass could completely revolutionize journalism. Instead of most news being offered from the third person perspective, critical events can be experienced in the first person. Instead of just reading the news, we can be inside of it. What happens when people can not only get better information, but also better context and perspective?

What excites me about the Oculus Rift (and Sony’s Project Morpheus) is not just virtual reality, but EXTENDED reality. The ability for VR to extend our every day reality, allowing us to experience people, places, and events anywhere in the world from the comfort of our own homes has amazing potential. I’m anxiously looking forward to the day when virtual reality and extended reality become every day reality.

So, would I ever buy an Oculus Rift?

No. Absolutely not. Not in a million years. I would absolutely, positively NEVER buy one.

Just don’t quote me on that.

James King

James has over fifteen years of personal and professional experience in computing technology in a variety of roles, including system builder, UI/UX designer, product developer, consultant and entrepreneur. Though currently working in another field now, he’s still an avid follower of the industry as well as a passable dad and a pretty good golf coach.
  • facebook scuks

    I have no compunctions about saying I will never buy anything from Facebook including Oculus Rift. There are other companies coming out with VR.

    • HumanRealist

      You didn’t finish the whole article did you, read the last line.

  • N.F.F.

    Who needs Facebook?

  • davebarnes

    Many commenting systems require a Fb account.
    That is why I have a fake one.

  • Brian M. Monroe

    While I do share your concerns Shawn. My take on this is that Facebook will not hold on to Oculus Rift for long. This feels like when eBay purchased Skype. It really was not the right fit for eBay in the same way that I do not see any hardware company being part of FaceBook for long. Facebook is software and a service that is free for the end users to use. If people had to pay to use Facebook they would not be as big or as useful. Also, even if Facebook does hold on to Oculus Rift, they are not the only game in town for Virtual Reality, there is also Sony’s project Morpheus and others I am sure.

    The whole Virtual Reality or Extended Reality market is not a real market yet. Just like The Internet Of Things market. Both I am sure will eventually become competitive and real markets but for now they are mostly 1st generation products that have not hit the mainstream yet. So while the purchase of Oculus Rift by Facebook is not a good thing for privacy concerns they do have deep pockets and can help to fund the technology to the next level. One other possibility is that Facebook is a big company, there is no guarantee that the people who 1st started to work on Oculus Rift will stay with Facebook for the long haul anyways as it is quite possible that Facebook will just sit on the technology and not advance it at all. If they do that I am sure that the people who worked to make Oculus Rift happen will move on to do bigger and better things.

  • Justin

    Wow! You need to take a breather… I know this site is called techPinions but really just because you have a problem with the wearabouts of something millions of people find useful, doesn’t mean its the bane of humanity’s existence. Knowing stuff about people doesn’t kill them; No ones being robbed, no ones at the bottom end of anything bad… Facebook just does what it does and people like that.
    I respect your opinion, in that way, but I’d like to fact check you on Google glass. First of Google glass only has one camera facing forward… That doesn’t provide the rift the 180-something degrees the oculus needs for you to look around, nor does it provide the depth for the 3d effect. Google glass really has nothing to do with any of this so please stop believing so.

    • Kab

      Thanks for speaking up. This is the second time this contributor has written something that does not fit in with Techpinions. Maybe the author should find another forum for his voice.

      • James King

        Really. I recall my previous article being about useful comparisons between various computing form factors. How does that not “fit in with Techpinions”?

        • Kab

          It’s the voice you use. It might work on a different forum, but it doesn’t match up with the other contributors. The topic is fine.

          Also, the way you respond is a little bit concerning.

          • James King

            Please feel free to elaborate re: my voice and my responses. I try to inject some levity and hyperbole to liven it up. Your additional feedback would be appreciated.

          • Kab

            The levity is fine, but do we really need more hyperbole?

            You ended well, but I think the start can use more work.

          • James King

            Fair enough.

          • KevinDaleDavis

            I find this a strange comment. It seems to me most of the contributors are different from each other. Kirk’s mixture of opinion, Apple fanboydom, and the multitude of quotes certainly isn’t like anyone else’s articles. Overall the difference of opinion and style is something that makes Techpinions a good site.

          • Kab

            Kirk’s articles are a matter of style. I do not object to King’s style or opinions. King’s opinion is driven, in this case from the start with a stronger emotional tone and indignation (disgust; if I interpreted it correctly).

            So, no problem with opinions or style.

      • klahanas

        I don’t know about you, but I welcome his voice. What? We should all hold hands and sing kumbaya?

        • Kab

          There’s no problem with his opinions or topic. I just don’t recall the other contributors having to be judgmental to present their argument. The rest is OK.

          • James King

            With the exceptions of John Kirk and Brian Hall, I’m pretty sure that the other writers on Techpinions are analysts by trade. It probably lends to their credibility to be more restrained and analytical. Not being an analyst maybe gives me a bit more leeway to express things in a way that would not be prudent for them.

            As for being judgmental, I think my strong feelings re: Facebook allowed me to juxtupose what I see as the potential of VR more effectively. I’m not the only person who is not a big fan of FB. But in fairness, over a billion people disagree with me. That’s OK too. I’m only advocating for my personal preference, not that others leave FB. That’s a personal choice.

          • art hackett

            I thought your piece was perfectly appropriate and presented interesting points that I could never have bothered thinking about myself as I loathe fb and other data sucking enterprises. Any app or company they suck up, I blow out (Instagram and the rest), so I can easily understand your frustration. Looking forward to a far reaching device like the Rift and having it vaccumed up by a tasteless, evil, clueless (other than maximizing their profit and reach in an antisocial and uninspired way) corporation is very dissapointing. Hopefully, the Rift team will soon be spat out and continue their quest, assuming they won’t be satisfied merely being wealthy. For some reason this feels like an Austin Powers movie where the bumbling geniuses have just been captured by Dr Evil and need to escape or be rescued.

          • James King

            Thanks for the response, much appreciated. My apologies for just reading this, I didn’t get a Disqus notification.

    • James King

      “Wow! You need to take a breather… I know this site is called
      techPinions but really just because you have a problem with the
      wearabouts of something millions of people find useful, doesn’t mean its
      the bane of humanity’s existence.” – Justin

      The site is called Techpinions, not TechFacts. What I wrote was indeed an opinion and you are welcome to disagree.

      “I respect your opinion, in that way, but I’d like to fact check you on
      Google glass. First of Google glass only has one camera facing
      forward…” – Justin

      That’s all it needs.

      “That doesn’t provide the 180-something degrees the oculus needs for you
      to look around, nor does it provide the depth for the 3d effect, so
      unless you like puting on goggles to watch personal videos, you will
      most likely just watch tv.” – Justin

      What makes Oculus effective for extended reality is field of view. Google Glass came to mind because it is designed for pervasiveness unlike specialty cameras such as GoPro, etc. It would be that great to add a camera with a larger field of view. The 3D effect would be provided by reality itself.

      “Google glass really has nothing to do with any of this so please stop believing so.” – Justin

      The point was that I think Google Glass or technology like it would be a good complement for Oculus Rift. I still think so.

  • andcore

    And so you have the Fb share button right under your piece.
    I don’t use Fb anymore, but I’m not afraid about “privacy issues”.
    I really don’t know why I should.
    I’ve absolutely no problem if they use the informations they have collected on me, (and the ones from google) to recreate a virtual reality world for me and for the people I know (for free).
    Obviusly VR won’t be just this (hopefully).

    • James King

      That’s cool. I didn’t intend this to be a judgement piece on people who actually use and like FB. My feelings about it are strong but just mine. Over a billion people don’t agree with me :)

      • art hackett

        Maybe the other six billion do…or they also have better things to do.

  • GJ Shady

    What’s really funny about this is that you’re going to let Facebook deprive you of the most incredible piece of technology that we’re likely to see for the next thirty years or more. Your loss brother, the fact is nobody cares about the sad guy sulking in the corner while the world spins on. But by all means you go ahead and chew that nose right off your face :)

    • James King

      There’s still Project Morpheus for guys like me. But I think you may have missed the point of the article. It’s easy to judge something until you are faced with the reality of it.

  • HumanRealist

    Great article, i must admit i have personally become a virtual reality nut/enthusiast/borderline extremist in the last few years, i’m so fascinated by the endless possibilities it will offer that i feel compelled to argue with anyone who cant yet see its potential…so when i read the title of this article i had to read the whole article just so i could shoot you down. However i thought you explained your opinion fantastically and honestly i agree with every part of it.

    I deleted my facebook account recently, and started a twitter account where i post cool things i find about virtual reality, i think you’ll like what i post :) @Exit4Reality

    • James King

      Thanks. I’ll look you up.

  • zouave

    and how many out of 6 owns a pc? lool Just so you know I am no fan of fb and rarely use it myself but.. your starting sentence just got me.

    Let me know if I am mistaken.

    • James King

      Slightly more than 1 in 6 literally. Yes, there are SLIGHTLY more PCs than FB members. But, to be fair, PCs aren’t free either.

  • zouave

    btw up to you if you want to buy an Oculus or not :) I would like people who are more open minded to join the VR community,

    • James King

      There’s always Sony’s Project Morpheus for me :)

  • Billy Jackson

    Google glass and oculus rift are two separate approaches.. they are not even remotely the same beyond the fact both use your eyes. Google Glass gives you Augmented Reality.. popup and overlays with information on the things you select or are looking at or interacting with while retaining your vision of the real world.

    Oculus Rift is Virtual Reality. a complete and separate world you can experience that has nothing to do with the world your sitting in as you can not see the real world. instead of looking at a monitor that you can see your office / gameplay space in .. you have a screen that encompasses your entire vision letting you see nothing but the world in which your playing giving you a sense of presence or being there that Google glass can not do.. these are 2 very fundamental differences between two products.

    as for facebook buying oculus rift.. Oculus rift was always a story about small company makes big and gets bought out .. it was always going this way. the moment the big boys Microsoft, Sony.. found out that the technology was legitimate and attainable it put the nail in the coffin for oculus rift as they did not have the billions needed to compete with the powerhouses that we have now. Project Morpheus forced that deal.

    Oculus does not have the manufacturing, engineering, sales or just plain budget that Sony has with its games division. getting into bed with a deep wallet backer was the only option they had of competing. at first like you Facebook let me scratching my head as i expected Microsoft, Nintendo or even Sony to be the ones to grab up oculus (hell even Amazon) .. but then i got to looking at it.. and Facebook makes even more sense as the future of oculus wont just be games but the social experience that comes with it.

    VR Cinema, VR Meetings, VR Sports, Concerts, Olympic Events.. anything that you can experiance from the first person view or just watching from a few feet away will be attainable via vr.. with 4k+ resolutions withing the next few years and a good set of 3d headphones .. its gonna be just like being there..

    • Billy Jackson

      let me also state for the record. most of the things we see in real life are owned by other companies.
      here is a list of companies owned by Disney.. yet a lot have no Disney theme to them at all and are left to run themselves as profitable organizations for Disney.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assets_owned_by_Disney#Motion_pictures

      Philip Morris a Tobacco company owns Kraft foods.. i have yet to find nicotine in my macaroni and cheese.. :)

      List of 10 companies that own most of the food we buy.

      http://i.imgur.com/pnMMj.jpg

      Just because something is bought out does not mean it can not be its own successful product.

      • James King

        I was already aware of this and I’m not really sure how this relates to your original comment.

        • Billy Jackson

          this is more in point to how people cant stand that Facebook bought oculus.. i just wanted to point out that alot of popular brands that we use everyday are owned by parent companies that they probably know nothing about
          ..

          • James King

            Fair enough. I agree BTW.

    • James King

      “Google glass and oculus rift are two separate approaches.. they are not
      even remotely the same beyond the fact both use your eyes.” – Billy Jackson

      The article was to point out that both can be complementary to one another.

      “Oculus Rift is Virtual Reality. a complete and separate world you can
      experience that has nothing to do with the world your sitting in as you
      can not see the real world.” – Billy Jackson

      The Oculus Rift experience is not confined to virtual worlds:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANSjwWomIJ8

      This is a camera on a drone being viewed through the Rift. Same principle as I discussed in my article.

      Based on the rest of your comment, it seems we pretty much agree.

      • Billy Jackson

        that’s interesting, shows a lot of versatility with the oculus. while i still argue that even though its using a primary video from outside the oculus to shift your vision and perspective to the drone. that is still fundamentally the same as playing a video game and is different enough from Google glass that they would offer a substantial difference in experience..

        google glass you would have a square in your vision showing a screen with video playing in it of what the drone is seeing. even if you turned and it turned with you. you will still be seeing a video in a small square.. where as oculus puts you up in the air with the drone. that fully encompassed vision in 3d is what tricks your mind into being there.. now should google glass go fully encompassed vision and add 3d i think it could accomplish the same thing.

        • James King

          I think you may be misunderstanding. The Glass would be a mobile camera while the Rift would be the viewer. They’d be operating in tandem. Imagine that the camera on the drone is instead a Glass unit.

          • Billy Jackson

            i can see applications for that in security. work. Imagine if you will that along with your alarm system somewhere installed nearby is a drone that the police/security uses when an alarm or power goes off. alarm goes off.. officer launches a silent drone that is on scene before cars are.. while it wont let you catch the perps it will let you take thier pictures and see what direction they are going along with license plate.

            Possibly in exploratory work with dangerous sites and caves… rescue work that uses a heat based camera .. 20-30 drones in a pattern can search an area far faster than a 100 humans..

    • http://twitter.com/LunaticSX Lun Esex

      Google Glass isn’t even Augmented Reality. The tiny screen is intentionally positioned so as to NOT be in your direct line of view, which is what is required for AR.

      Google Glass is more accurately a Head’s Up Display (HUD).

      Also, people I’ve heard from who’ve used Glass say that its major usefulness is for the built-in camera. Apparently notifications popping up on it quickly get annoying or distracting, and the screen is too easily washed out by even a moderate amount of light coming through it (since it’s not opaque like a phone’s screen). So getting things like directions via Glass can be problematic in daylight.

      IMHO, Google Glass is a poor choice for pairing with another person wearing a VR headset. Its battery life is too weak and its camera is too low resolution, narrow field of view, and non-3D. What you’d really need is a purpose-built wearable rig with dual cameras for 3D, and ideally a 360-degree panoramic view (cameras pointed up, with an optical system to compress a 360-degree view into the camera’s frame) so that the viewer wearing the VR headset isn’t limited to just a narrow field of view. 360-degree 3D with only two cameras wouldn’t even work, anyway, since each camera would be blocking part of the other camera’s field of view. You’d need multiple cameras recording simultaneously, with real-time stitching of the images.

  • Dillon

    This is the most ignorant article I have ever read. Do you not relise that oculus vr just obtained a whopping 2 billion dollars to continue development for GAMING and are planning a consumer release early 2015!?

  • Andy

    Hehehhh.. VR is good for new Skypa and Need For Speed. The rest is unnatural and plastic. But it is all acceptable to the fact that I will never ever install facebook drivers on my PC. In other words… I will never ever gave my PC administrative access for this and eny other company in exchange for cheep entertainment. I suppose lots of people do, but like Forest says… Stupies is, stupied does, right?