Mark Zuckerberg Explains Why He Bought Oculus Rift

By James O Malley on at

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg held a Facebook "town hall" (Q&A to you and me) a few days ago - and in his answers, painted perhaps the most vivid picture yet of what he sees as the future of VR. This is perhaps the most detailed explanation we've received so far as to what motivated him to part with $2bn and buy Oculus Rift, the company that makes arguably the most advanced virtual reality headset so far.

The purchase seemed a little odd at the time - especially as Oculus was rumoured to be the target of many more 'suitable' companies, such as the Sony and Microsoft who both have games consoles to make. In response to a question about the future of Facebook, Zuck explained why VR:

"There are a few important trends in human communication that we hope to improve.

"First, people are gaining the power to share in richer and richer ways. We used to just share in text, and now we post mainly with photos. In the future video will be even more important than photos. After that, immersive experiences like VR will become the norm. And after that, we'll have the power to share our full sensory and emotional experience with people whenever we'd like.

"Second, people are gaining the power to communicate more frequently. We used to have to be with someone in person. Then we had these bulky computers at our desks or that we could carry around. Now we have these incredible devices in our pockets all the time, but we only use them periodically throughout the day. In the future, we'll have AR and other devices that we can wear almost all the time to improve our experience and communication.

"One day, I believe we'll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You'll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too if you'd like. This would be the ultimate communication technology.

"Our lives improve as our communication tools get better in many ways. We can build richer relationships with the people we love and care about. We know about what's going on in the world and can make better decisions in our jobs and lives. We are also more informed and can make better decisions collectively as a society. This increase in the power people have to share is one of the major forces driving the world today."

That's right - he appears to be predicting telepathy too.

The rest of the Q&A made for interesting reading too, as Zuck took a question from Stephen Hawking asking what he believes is the biggest question in science. He responded with "What will enable us to live forever? How do we cure all diseases? How does the brain work? How does learning work and how we can empower humans to learn a million times more?" - and perhaps giving away what his ultimate plan is for Facebook, he added "I'm also curious about whether there is a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about. I bet there is."

And perhaps most curious of all was Zuckerberg's answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger asking "Do the machines win?". "And "no, the machines don't win smile :-)".