Mark Zuckerberg says that virtual reality will be the most social platform that ever existed. Zuckerberg hosted an in-person Q&A in Rome, Italy Friday when he focused in on virtual reality when asked if Facebook change our lives as much as Pokemon Go. "The real reason I came to Rome was to find some rare Pokemon," Zuckerberg replied. "In all seriousness, I think that virtual reality and augmented reality are going to be the most social platform that has ever existed."
Last year Facebook paid $2 billion for crowd-funded Oculus Rift in order to enter the space running. "Oculus's mission is to enable you to experience the impossible," proclaimed Zuckerberg when announcing this acquisition. "Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences."
Clearly, Zuckerberg sees VR as a huge boon for social but even more for advertising where it is believed to have great potential. According to research by Digi-Capital augmented reality and Virtual Reality are predicted to be a $150 billion industry by 2020. That's why so many companies are focusing on VR and AR including Google.
"This is why advertisers are so interested in VR," said Aaron Luber who is in charge of Google and YouTube partnerships. "Emotion sells products much more than utility and that reality positions Virtual Reality as a game changer in the advertising industry."
Facebook recently bought another small VR startup called Two Big Ears, which helps bring an immersive audio experience into VR and AR. Facebook is calling it the Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation which can be downloaded for free.
"If you think about the history of computing every 10 or 15 years a big new computing platform comes along," Zuckerberg added. "We had desktop computers, then browsers and the internet, now we have mobile phones and each one is better than the one before it, but what we have now is not the end of the line. We are going to get to a point in 5-10 years that we are all using augmented or virtual reality."
Zuckerberg explained how virtual reality makes you feel like you are really there or "present" as he put it. "If you look at a photo or a video on a screen, TV, computer or phone and you are trying to get your mind set in this perspective as if you were there," he said. "You see the photo and you are trying to imagine what it's like to be there. Virtual reality is different, because it's programmed to work exactly the way that your brain does. When you look at it you feel like you are in that place, like you are present and you are trying to convince yourself that you aren't actually there because if you look around what you are seeing feels like the real world."
He sees a future that is vastly improved socially because VR will make the social experience feel like reality. "You can imagine in the future you are going to feel like you are right there with another person who couldn't actually be with you," says Zuckerberg. "I think about my family when I'm not there such as my daughter who is in California right now. I miss her and to really feel like I am there right now would be a really powerful experience that I would want to have."
He noted the differences between virtual reality where you feel completely immersed and augmented reality where you are adding virtual elements onto the world. Zuckerberg predicts that AR will come to mobile phones first "before we get some kind of smart glasses that overlay stuff on the world." He says that we going to see more apps like Pokemon Go and that Facebook itself tested a form of AR with its Masquerade Filter that was test launched at the Olympics in Brazil and in Canada, where people could support their country by putting face paint on.
"I feel there are going to be a bunch of tools like that overlay real things from the world on top of your experience and help you share things that we are going to see soon," says Zuckerberg.