Facebook's acquisition of Oculus, the maker of the Oculus Rift VR headset surprised almost everyone, including the gaming company's chief technology officer John Cormack.
The gaming legend has broken his silence on the $2 billion buyout in response to a blog post by Peter Berkman. Carmack said he "wasn't expecting Facebook" and admitted there are companies "with more obvious synergies" than the social network.
Oculus VR, the virtual reality company Facebook purchased for $2 billion Tuesday, has sold about 75,000 of its headsets to game developers, but none to the public. Facebook, on the other hand, has about 1.2 billion users. Depending on how Facebook incorporates Oculus’ technology into their social networking, they could make mainstream an experience that until now has been mostly limited to gaming.
Working out of his parents’ garage, the 20-year-old Palmer Luckey built the Oculus Rift headset out of ski goggles and smartphone and tablet parts, then posted his invention on Kickstarter to raise money for the prototype that he thought would forever change gaming.
How a 19-year-old hacker behind Oculus Rift set out to invent a gaming headset but ended up reviving a dead technology and building a global communications platform, worth $2 billion to Facebook in a surprise deal announced this week
Luckey wasn’t the only person who still cared about virtual reality, but he almost was. There was a small community of true believers, less than a hundred, who hung out on a web forum called MTBS3D to talk about it. (MTBS stands for “meant to be seen.”) Luckey was one of them. John Carmack was another.
Carmack thought VR had potential too, in spite of all the failures, and every few years he would check in on the state of the art to see if it was usable yet. In April 2012, Carmack was tinkering with a VR headset made by Sony, and he posted about it on MTBS3D. Luckey responded. He told Carmack about his own prototype, and Carmack said he’d like to buy one. Luckey was in awe. “You cannot take money from Carmack,” he says. “It would be like if Jesus said, Give me your clothes.” He sent Carmack the prototype, his only working model, for free, via regular mail.