Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes that virtual reality platforms such as Oculus Rift (which Facebook owns) are the next smartphones.
“We’re working on VR because I think it’s the next major computing and communication platform after phones,” he told the audience visiting his Facebook page for one of his regular Q&A sessions. “In the future we’ll probably still carry phones in our pockets, but I think we’ll also have glasses on our faces.”
Zuckerberg also believes that applications for VR will go beyond gaming, and that the headsets will ultimately “give us the ability to share our experiences with those we love in completely immersive and new ways that aren’t possible today.”
Those statements raise a conundrum for any developers who’re interested in VR as a category, but have no idea (yet) how to engage with it. It’s hard enough to build conventional apps that work smoothly while providing a high degree of utility to the user; developers plunging into VR will have to adjust for new concepts such as the “yaw drift problem” and magnetic field sensing. Learning to deal with these issues will take time—and time is something that developers often don’t like to spend unless they know there’s a benefit to it.
Developers are also waiting to see if Oculus (and its coming rivals, including a headset built by HTC) is good for more than just games. While anyone can envision some limited use cases for business (immersive tutorials and meetings, for example), it’s impossible to tell what a “killer app” might look like for the productivity side of the VR equation.
Zuckerberg also talked a bit about Facebook’s work in artificial intelligence. “We’re working on A.I. because we think more intelligent services will be much more useful for you to use,” he said. “For example, if we had computers that could understand the meaning of the posts in News Feed and show you more things you’re interested in, that would be pretty amazing.”
He believes (at least publicly) that platforms capable of that sort of understanding are at least a decade off. In the A.I. category, Facebook competes against Google and other tech giants attempting to make their systems more intelligent; whichever firm “wins” may develop an edge in useful services.