Oculus VR Inc. has a plan for making virtual reality mainstream: Replicate Google Inc.'s success with Android.
Facebook Inc. agreed in March to acquire Oculus for about $2 billion, betting that headsets simulating reality would be the future of computing and communication. In order to make that happen, Oculus will seek out partners to help make hardware, according to Chief Executive Officer Brendan Iribe.
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Expansion will be modeled on Android, the mobile software that Google makes freely available to Samsung Electronics Co., HTC Corp. and other smartphone manufacturers, Iribe said. The strategy fueled the spread of Android and made it the world's most widely used software for smartphones, with an 81 percent share in the latest quarter, according to IDC, surpassing Apple Inc.'s iOS for iPhones.
"If we do want to get a billion people on virtual reality, which is our goal, we're not going to sell 1 billion pairs of glasses ourselves," Iribe said in an interview at Oculus's headquarters in Irvine, California. "We are openly talking to any kind of partner that wants to jump into VR, and there's a lot of interest right now."
Oculus currently only has a prototype of its virtual- reality headset available for developers, and hasn't set a date for rolling out the product to consumers. Partnering with others may help Oculus expand. While Facebook has experience manufacturing its own computer servers and storage, the social networking service hasn't made and sold consumer hardware to broad audiences.
Oculus probably won't form partnerships until it first releases a consumer version of its Oculus Rift headset, a ski- goggles-like device that lets people immerse themselves in virtual games or experience new locations.
"We need to get it right before we engage and work with other people," Iribe said.
Oculus has had initial conversations with some potential hardware partners, including Sony Corp., which has been working on its own virtual reality technology called Project Morpheus. The two companies have already demonstrated their products to each other, Iribe said.
"We showed their key executives our prototypes, and we said if you want to work with us, we are happy to engage deeply and be friends in this industry," Iribe said. "It hasn't gone anywhere past that, but they did show up and opened up to us and in turn we opened up to them."
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, said in March that he was buying Oculus to help usher in the next era of computing, betting that people will eventually use virtual reality to experience everything from conference calls to sporting events. The acquisition will close soon, and all Oculus employees have received their offer letters from Facebook, Iribe said.