Why is Mark Zuckerberg so interested in virtual reality? The links between social media and immersive headsets aren’t immediately clear, but the Facebook CEO and founder has been investing heavily in the technology. Last March, Facebook bought Oculus VR for a staggering $2bn (£1.3bn), despite the fact it had only launched a single prototype and was therefore yet to notch up any sales.
Oculus was initially conceived as a gaming accessory that would make virtual worlds more immersive, but it seems Facebook has grander ambitions. This week it announced the acquisition of British startup Surreal Vision, whose technology is used to accurately recreate the real world in a virtual setting.
‘At Surreal Vision, we are overhauling state-of-the-art 3D scene reconstruction algorithms to provide a rich, up-to-date model of everything in the environment including people and their interactions with each other,’ its founders said in a statement.
‘We’re developing breakthrough techniques to capture, interpret, manage, analyse, and finally reproject in real-time a model of reality back to the user in a way that feels real, creating a new, mixed reality that brings together the virtual and real worlds.’
The applications of such a technology go way beyond gaming. Imagine using a headset to attend an interactive, 3D business meeting on the other side of the world, in real time. Or visiting relatives that have emigrated to Australia from the comfort of your living room in rainy Slough.
It all sounds a bit like a scary sci-fi film and the ethical and social implications are endless, but it seems that Zuckerberg sees VR as the key to changing the way people interact around the world - which actually fits in with Facebook's strategy rather well.