Oculus Rift

Facebook's purchase of Oculus VR, creators of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, was reported earlier this week

Credit: By Sergey Galyonkin on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Facebook plans to "create a new immersive platform for the way in which we share and enjoy content" following its acquisition of Oculus VR, the start-up behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

The social network revealed on Tuesday it had bought Oculus VR for $2bn (£1.2bn). Speaking at the FT Digital Media conference in London, Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook's vice president, EMEA, said the company was excited about Oculus VR because gaming is "a big part" of the business.

"What [Oculus Rift] allows developers to do is to really 'get inside' and create whole new worlds for people to enjoy gaming on," she added.

In the shorter term, one of the ways Facebook might make use of virtual reality headsets is to enable people to watch a football match or music concert in their home while enjoying the experience as though they are actually where the event is happening.

But in the medium to longer-term, Mendelsohn said, virtual reality gaming would become a much bigger focus for the company.

"Really the only thing that's going to limit us here is our imagination," she added.

Part of the driving force behind the acquisition was Mark Zuckerberg's mission to "connect everyone on the planet," she said.

According to Mendelsohn, 1.2 billion people are now connected through Facebook and "coming back each month".

And though she admitted Facebook had "made a mistake" by initially building on desktop instead of mobile, she said the company now very much saw itself as mobile-first.

"None of the engineers [are] allowed to go into Mark Zuckerberg's office and show him new product development unless it [is] coding mobile-first," she explained.

Facebook's acquisition of the messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion (£11.4 billion) earlier this year is another example of its desire to get a strong-hold on the mobile market, as well as its mission to connect people.

"WhatsApp now has around 450 million users, and they're putting on users at the rate of a million people a day," said Mendelsohn.

"If you look around all the ways of connecting people, on less than one hand are the things that can connect over a billion people. And we think WhatsApp will be one of those."

And WhatsApp is key to Facebook's strategy for targeting growth in places where it is more difficult for people to get access to technology and the internet.

"What's particularly interesting to us about WhatsApp is the fact that a lot of that growth is coming from emerging markets," Mendelsohn said.

"So that's what we're putting the bet on."

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