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How a 19-year-old hacker behind Oculus Rift set out to invent a gaming headset but ended up reviving a dead technology and building a global communications platform, worth $2 billion to Facebook in a surprise deal announced this week
To understand why Oculus Rift matters, it helps to know about John Carmack, the programmer who in the early 1990s cracked the problem of how to write a video game that takes place in three-dimensional space. He’s the reason that when you play a state-of-the-art game, you’re running and jumping around in proper space-time, all six axes in play. Like most people who’ve started a revolution, he keeps an eye out for the next one. That’s how he spotted Palmer Luckey and Oculus Rift two years before Mark Zuckerberg.
On March 26, Facebook announced that it was purchasing Oculus VR, the company Luckey started in 2012, in a deal worth $2 billion. The social-networking giant is getting top-flight engineering expertise as well as the technology behind the company’s only product, a virtual-reality headset.
Two billion dollars is a lot to pay for a two-year-old hardware company that has yet to ship a consumer-ready product and whose founder is still only 21. It’s a massive bet on virtual reality, which until very recently was considered a punch line. The Oculus deal makes for a twist ending to one of the weirdest comeback stories in the history of technology.