Facebook has made it very clear it’s no longer just a social network. It’s been working hard trying to compete with Google on several fronts: search, nascent technology markets, and post-desktop computing.
Now that the $2 billion Oculus deal is closed, Facebook can beef up its focus on that third part of the Google competition—creating a Glass killer.
Glass is Google’s first foray into ambient computing that’s supposed to prevent users from getting lost in mobile devices or computer screens. The face computer appeals to the tech-obsessed, but Google’s hoping Glass will be as ubiquitous as smartphones in the future.
Facebook’s first step comes in the form of virtual reality built for video games—but video games are not what Facebook wants Oculus for. Now that the $2 billion deal is closed, Facebook is working on another hardware partnership to make virtual reality and face computing a standard beyond the console.
Facebook And Samsung, A Match Made In Mobile
Facebook is partnering with Samsung to create a headset that uses mobile devices, like smartphones or tablets, to create a virtual reality, according to a report from CNET. Currently, Oculus hardware works with computers and game consoles—the idea being you put the goggles on and are transported to another reality, and you feel like part of whatever game you’re playing.
With Oculus software on Samsung mobile devices, the idea of virtual reality can expand even further, and beyond the constraints of the $350 Oculus Rifts.
A Facebook partnership makes sense for Samsung. The South Korean tech company has been moving away from Google’s Android operating system—including ditching Android in its new Gear 2 smartwatches, the other wearable the company is trying to pioneer.
Early screenshots leaked by Samsung industry blog SamMobile, show Samsung’s new Gear VR mobile software that manages what appears to be a Samsung VR headset. Though there’s not much users can do without the actual hardware itself, if the screenshots are correct, this could be a first look at a potential Oculus-powered partnership with Facebook.
The idea of a smartphone-based hardware headset match isn’t entirely new. In fact, at Google I/O earlier this year, the company playfully mocked the VR headset, distributing Cardboard, a puzzle-like product that lets users create their own thrifty head-mounted hardware.
Playing The Long Game
Facebook and Google aren’t focused on the present. They’re both betting big on future technologies that have yet to bear fruit. Everything they do right now is what they expect in the next five to 10 years, virtual reality and computing without mobile or computer screens clearly playing a large part of the way digital consumption is changing.
Drones, VR and robots are more than vanity projects—they’re the technologies we’ll be using to power and consume the Internet.
Competition between the two firms is clearly heating up. What was initially seen as a way for Facebook to buy cool may actually be the company’s way of laying the foundation for a future in which we talk with our friends through face computers.
Lead image by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite.