It is the first decade of the 20th century. Orville and Wilbur head out to Kitty Hawk and fly over one hundred feet. The flight is filmed that day and the footage is widely distributed. Shortly after, Orville and Wilbur are tragically struck down and die from the flu. Newspapers run the story: "First men to fly, die of flu." and are terrifically proud of their cleverness.
Now, let me ask you: Given that the Kitty Hawk footage had been released to the world, proving that manned, powered flight was possible and with the original inventors dead, would mankind have still flown?
I expect that anyone reading this post would instantly answer: "Yes, of course."
Mankind, has a funny quirk. If we are shown that something can be done, we will expend boundless energy and time towards it.
The same is true today, at the start of the 21st century as we look towards VR; we've seen something. We've seen a glimmer and know now what is possible and are hardwired to keep pushing for it.
Oculus and Facebook have no meaningful significance in the face of this. "The big one" could hit California tomorrow and both companies, personnel and prototypes could be swallowed up by the earth. The work would continue and VR would continue to grow just fine (and Sony stock would rise sharply.)
In my interactions with the VR community, there has been unbridled optimism and enthusiasm, but there has also always been an undercurrent of fear. If I had to describe the average VR enthusiast with one word, it just might be: fearful. Long before today's news, everyone has been terribly afraid of something going "wrong". The fear that VR would not work, that this was going to go the same way as Dactyl Nightmare. It would be "neat" for a little while and then abandoned, or that people simply won't "get it". People were afraid that Sony would come in prematurely and "screw everything up". Fear that a teenager, somewhere, would spend 72 hours curled to a headset, die of thrombosis.
This is the fear that comes from love. When you really love something, you end up spending a lot of time worrying about losing it.
So, of course - today, people are simply losing their minds.
Oculus isn't VR, Oculus is a company has made some initial innovations in the VR space. If they disappear tomorrow, we will still get to where we are going. We can't help ourselves.
VR is a specification, a recipe for tricking the human senses into buying into a virtual space. Valve will likely go down in history as the company that first started mapping out these requirements and for sharing them with the world. These basic requirements don't fall under any one company's ownership - the world as a whole will continue to refine the process and bring new solutions to market.
When Xerox invented the mouse, it was Apple that recognized it for what it was and commercialized it. It should be noted that neither of these companies ultimately controlled or dictated how we interact with our PCs today or how mice evolved. Mouse input was an idea, a clever new way to interact with a computer something bigger than any one company to monopolize or control. VR headsets will quickly transition to the role of a peripheral device similar to mice. They will soon reach a level where they all basically work pretty well and then they will start to need to differentiate themselves with gimmicks and racing stripes.
I listened to the Rev-VR-Podcast last night during and it contains a great quote:
"Don't think in terms of how Facebook will chance Oculus; think about how Oculus will change Facebook."
Take heart. I have a feeling this could be right on the money.
If anyone wants to say hi, I can been reached on Twitter at @ID_R_McGregor, or you link to me in Google+ if you happen to be one of the 300 million remarkably quiet people using the service.