The Battle for the ‘Virtual World’ Intensifies: Oculus-Facebook or Valve-HTC?

Cometh year-end and you will tread into an all-new virtual world! Thanks to the innovative maneuvers of technology giants, Facebook and Valve who are opening up an awe-inspiring world of 'Virtual Reality'.

'Virtual Reality' was popularized in 1980s by Jaron Lanier, who started a company called VPL Research and began selling headsets. Next, in 1990s, Nintendo came up its own VR headset called 'Virtual Boy', which did not do well. However, in 2012, a device called 'Oculus Rift' took the market by storm. This was a next-generation headset that had a smartphone's screen and it came at a pocket-friendly price of $349.

This caught the attention of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who in March 2014 bought Oculus for $2 billion, becoming the undisputed leaders in the market. They worked under a synergistic arrangement, wherein Oculus was given the independence to operate its own division. At this time, the only competition the combine faced was from Sony, which unveiled a specialized VR device for their PlayStation called 'Project Morpheus'.

However, Facebook-Oculus were in for a surprise!

Smartphone manufacturer, HTC, which had already been quietly investigating VR technology for over a year, found a collaborator in Valve, a video game developer founded in 1996.

Valve-HTC teamed up to create a technology codenamed Lighthouse, that lets players easily move around an entire room, unlike devices made by Sony and Oculus, which use a camera to sense a player's position within a limited space. Thus, the difference between the technologies of the two was Valve's motion controllers and Oculus' button-and-joystick controls.

While Valve initially projected a launch in 2016, HTC pushed the release to late 2015. However, Oculus would not release its new Rift headset until next year.

Whichever company establishes itself as the VR device maker could take control of a potential $7 billion market. The competition between Valve and Facebook could blaze the path for the next wave of gaming and entertainment.