Oculus Rift Facebook

If you’ve been anywhere near a computer in the past few days, the word “Oculus” has no doubt popped up in your social media feed, possibly because of a forthcoming movie with that title, but more likely because of the tech startup that Facebook just purchased for a cool $2 billion.

But other than something that sounds like a technical term for Google Glass, or maybe a futuristic alternative to LASIK surgery, what exactly is it? Well, here’s what you need to know to stay on technology’s cutting edge:

What is Oculus?

Founded by 21-year-old Palmer Luckey, Oculus is a virtual reality company based in Irvine, Calif. that used Kickstarter funds to produce its first product, the Oculus Rift, in 2012.

What is Oculus Rift?

Luckey’s flagship device, a headset shaped like a pair of goggles, but with a display attached. The interior display produces stereoscopic 3D by projecting two parallel images, one for each eye. But the display’s broad field of view offers users the opportunity to explore a virtual universe, which the device is able to produce via real-time head-tracking technology.

In other words, where you look and move, the Rift will create a three-dimensional world to explore. The device is also available for use with headphones for audio accompaniment, and/or a controller which allows the user to walk or run.

Where and when can I use one?

According to USA Today, developer kits are available to users interested in creating games or other applications for Oculus. But the company has not set a release date for consumer purchase/ use.

Why did Facebook buy Oculus?

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has consistently been on the forefront of new technological innovations, and he has said he sees its potential as a platform for computing, much less video games. In a statement, Zuckerberg said, “Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow.” Zuckerberg also said he hopes to find uses for the technology in the fields of education and communication.

Does Oculus have any competition?

Sony has its own virtual reality prototype called Project Morpheus, and Xbox One manufacturers Microsoft also have expressed interest in VR technology. But other than headsets like Avegant Glyph, a “virtual retina display” that allows users to watch HD video, Oculus currently has limited competition.

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