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From Garage Dreams to Global Reality: The Odyssey of Oculus and Its Virtual Ventures

In the sprawling suburbs of Long Beach, California, a 17-year-old Palmer Luckey tinkered with the earliest prototype of what would later become a tech sensation: the Oculus Rift VR headset. The year was 2009. By 2012, Oculus VR was born, not just as a game-changer for gamers but as the harbinger of the futuristic concept of a metaverse.

Luckey wasn’t just another teen with a hobby. His initial ventures into the world of VR were financed through the good old hustle—fixing iPhones, tending grounds, and repairing computers. But when video game legend John Carmack stumbled upon the Oculus prototype and poured lavish praise on it, the real journey began.

Fast forward to April 2012, and a Kickstarter campaign was afoot, with an ambitious goal of $250,000. The response? A whopping $2.5 million in backing. The investment world began to take note, and by December 2013, Oculus had secured a remarkable $91 million from big-name players such as Spark Capital, Matrix Partners, and Andreessen Horowitz.

But it was Mark Zuckerberg’s vision that set the tone for Oculus’s future. Purchased by Facebook (which later metamorphosed into Meta) for a cool $2 billion in 2014, Oculus transitioned from a gaming-centric pursuit to the cornerstone of Zuckerberg’s metaverse dream. His vision was to transform VR from mere gaming to a holistic, immersive experience—from attending games courtside to global classrooms and even virtual medical consultations.

Meta’s subsequent years saw aggressive investments into the metaverse—$36 billion, to be precise. However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The Reality Labs division, responsible for sculpting the metaverse, reported a loss of $13.7 billion last year. Zuckerberg’s resolution? A strategic shift in execution, while still championing the VR cause.

However, in this techie chess game, Meta isn’t the only player. Apple, with its mixed-reality Vision Pro headset, is preparing to throw down the gauntlet. Though priced at a jaw-dropping $3,400, contrasting with Meta’s more accessible range of $300 to $1,000, the competition is heating up.

Two figures central to Oculus’s story have expressed reservations. Carmack, who had been the backbone of Meta’s VR innovations, exited in December 2022, voicing his concerns about the company’s VR and AR progress. Meanwhile, Luckey, who departed Facebook in 2016, has been openly critical of the metaverse but has lauded Apple’s Vision Pro.

His next venture post-Oculus? Anduril Industries, targeting defense technology enhancements, recently valued at an impressive $8 billion.

In the end, Oculus’s tale is a testament to the relentless evolution of technology. From a garage in Long Beach to shaping the discourse around virtual reality, its journey has been nothing short of phenomenal. And as VR continues to reshape our digital lives, the narrative is far from over.