On Tuesday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had to trade in his trademark t-shirt and jeans for a suit and tie. Zuckerberg was in Dallas, Texas to testify about the technology used by his Oculus unit, a startup company Facebook bought in 2014 for $2 billion. Oculus is now owned by Facebook and develops virtual reality systems.
A videogame publisher, ZeniMax Media Inc., brought a civil lawsuit against Oculus in 2014, alleging that Oculus's virtual reality technology, including their Rift headset, is actually ZeniMax's technology, and Oculus used it without ZeniMax's permission.
Zuckerberg's testimony revolved primarily around whether he and the rest of Facebook's team had done their due diligence about Oculus before acquiring them. Zuckerberg claimed that at the time of the sale, Oculus's technology was not fully formed and he was not aware of the lawsuit.
Zuckerberg's testimony was intriguing for two reasons. For one thing, lawsuits involving large tech companies like Facebook are always interesting, because the discovery process before trial allows a regular American to gain some insight into the inner workings of a large company. For a company secluded away in Silicon Valley, it allows people from here in Texas to see Facebook as something more than the website where I can watch Tasty videos or the focus of the movie The Social Network. Second, it provides an insight into where we can expect Facebook to venture next. Since its inception, Facebook has generally focused on bringing people together through social media, be it through Facebook itself or Instagram, which it acquired in 2012. But now, Zuckerberg looks like he is focusing his attention on larger ideas like virtual reality. Instead of documenting reality through pictures on Instagram or posting about them on Facebook, it looks as though Facebook wants to provide us with the potential to substitute true reality for a virtual one.
Zuckerberg's products and services have always been on the cutting edge on society. Facebook allowed us to connect with friends and family around the world and changed how ideas are shared. Instagram transformed how we share ideas from words to pictures. If virtual reality is going to enter the lives of the everyday American, it would not surprise me at all if it came from a company led by Zuckerberg.