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With Oculus Rift, Facebook's plans to build a 'teleporter'

The social-media giant has announced its plans to build virtual-reality technology. What path will Facebook take to get there?

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    Software designer Julian Kantor (l.), who created 'The Recital,' takes a picture of Jonathan Feng using the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to experience his program during E3 in Los Angeles, California in 2013.
    Gus Ruelas/Reuters/Files
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Facebook wants to take you somewhere else.                                 

That’s the thrust of the comments by Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, made at a press event on Tuesday, when he said that the company seeks to “effectively build a teleporter” by the year 2025, using virtual reality.

To that end, in early 2014, Facebook acquired the virtual-reality startup Oculus VR for $2 billion.

Oculus has so far released two versions of its headsets to software developers. The company's technology has so far been used mostly for video games, but has also seen use in other fields like film and architecture.

In a Facebook post shortly after the acquisition, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Oculus connects neatly to Facebook’s stated mission “to make the world more open and connected,” and that Facebook has plans to “make Oculus a platform for many other experiences,” among them connecting friends and family with loved ones and health care professionals with their patients:

After [video] games, we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on goggles in your home.

The Oculus technology will likely present its own opportunities and challenges. Oculus will launch the retail version of its original product, the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset, in early 2016, but Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer acknowledged in an interview with GeekWire that there is still a long way to go before virtual-reality technology is fully up to speed.

“The trick with [virtual reality] is, it’s going to be incredible, but everyone is going to have to be a little patient. I think everyone wants it today, including me, but we have a long roadmap for this,” he said. “It’s going to be amazing, but it’s just going to take a while for the hardware to get out there, and then to work with third-party developers to build all the experiences, because that’s going to be the real long pull.” 

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