In a wide-ranging discussion at the TechCrunch Disrupt New York event (May 5th-7th), Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe has spoken about why the company the Facebook acquisition was a good thing, and has described a desire expressed without both companies to make VR a social experience for a billion users, perhaps in the form of a MMO.
The discussion – described as a “fireside chat” with TechCrunch co-editor Matthew Panzarino – is available as a video in a Techcrunch article. It was followed by a backstage interview with TechCrunch’s Josh Constine.
in discussing the attractiveness of the deal for Oculus VR, Iribe indicates that one major consideration was the fact that the company was offered the opportunity to more-or-less continue to operate fairly independently of Facebook, a-la Instagram. Another was that Facebook were prepared to provide Oculus with access to their enormous technical capabilities and services, while offering Oculus the ability to practically cherry-pick which of them they’d like to leverage.
We know with Oculus, with a virtual world, if you’re putting on this pair of glasses and you’re going to be face-to-face communicating with people, you’re gonna be jumping in and out of this new set of virtual worlds, this is gonna be the largest MMO ever made. This is going to be an MMO where we want to put a billion people in VR. And a billion person virtual world MMO is going to require a bigger network than exists today. Why not start with Facebook and their infrastructure, and their team and their talent that they’ve built up?
While this is not a short-term goal – the figure of around ten to twenty years is mentioned when discussing how this will all come about. Iribe also notes that there has to be something of a further upscaling of computing power in order to make it all happen, as well as the technology needing to become less cumbersome and intrusive and more readily acceptable and wearable. He suggests it should look more like a set of sunglasses – a direction several VR companies are already heading in.
Exactly how this billion-user environment will come about and what form it will take is unclear. Towards the end of the video, Iribe wisely points-out that VR is still in its infancy, and that it’s hard to predict precisely where it will lead or the impact it will have. However, it seems from his comments that the “MMO / Metaverse” Oculus VR are considering isn’t a single platform (although they see Facebook’s users and network as a good starting-point, as mentioned), but potentially a range of interconnected worlds / environments.
An interesting aspect of the discussion around the MMO / Metaverse concept is that Iribe in some respects echoes much of the work that is going on at High Fidelity. He mentions that one of the attractions Facebook held for Oculus was that it already operates a complex payment system (worth around $3 billion in revenue), which negates the need for Oculus to have to develop one – a problem High Fidelity is still mulling over. More particularly, at some 12 minutes into the video, he describes the working going on at Valve in terms of development avatars and projects this work into the future where he sees avatars have head tracking capabilities, can mimic facial expressions and carry people into the Uncanny Valley – a path High Fidelity are already walking, and would appear to be a good deal further along.
In the backstage interview with Josh Constine (embedded below), Iribe also talks about issues of trust and identity security, and having the confidence that as you move between apps and environments, you maintain control of what aspects of your identity are exposed. This is another issue which has very much been at the forefront of High Fidelity’s thinking with regards to a metaverse of virtual worlds.
Towards the end of the discussion, Iribe mentions the fact that Oculus VR are now starting to work more closely with the education sector in a drive to expand the whole VR ecosystem.