Now that Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) has completed its $2 billion purchase of Oculus VR, the hardware startup behind the still-unreleased Oculus Rift headset is getting ready to spend big as it launches a hiring spree. The deal closed Monday, with the world’s largest social network forking over $2 billion for the popular Kickstarter-funded virtual reality platform.
Facebook paid $400 million in cash and $1.6 billion in stock for the Oculus Rift, a purchase objected to by early backers and bloggers worried about the social network’s controversies, which include everything from NSA cooperation to poorly worded experimentation on its users. But Facebook has told users that it plans to keep the Oculus Rift focused on gamers, while also incorporating new features for smartphone users, as well as businesses looking to teleconference.
“We’re looking forward to an exciting future together, building the next computing platform and reimagining the way people communicate,” Facebook and Oculus said in a joint statement. The Oculus Rift, which first started shipping to Kickstarter backers in 2012, has been upgraded to a second “alpha,” or experimental version, for software developers called the DK2 (Devkit 2), which costs $350. A full, consumer-ready version is not expected until later this year or early 2015.
The Oculus team, now flush with Facebook funding, is going on a hiring spree, as the company’s Careers page shows. As of this writing, Oculus is hiring for nearly 46 different positions, including everything from Android engineers to 3D animators expected to animate “highly interactive VR experiences that handle telepresence on a whole new level.”
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Oculus is looking for employees at several different locations, from Dallas to Bellevue, Washington, as well as a location near Facebook’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters to the Rift-makers’ own Irvine, California, home base. A number of perks are offered to potential Oculus hires, including “flexible hours, free lunch and dinner, happy hours, team field trips, and free Oculus hardware. We provide competitive salaries and stock options in the company (every employee has ownership), along with full health coverage, dental and vision. We also cover tolls to and from the office if you want to live just a little closer to the beach!”
It all sounds nice, but whether or not the free meals equate to taxable benefits or initiation into a “cult-like” bubble is still up in the air. The one major difference between Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of the Oculus Rift manufacturer and its 2012 acquisition of Instagram for half that amount, is the unfixed future of the VR company’s business. The headset has many interested parties, with everyone from game software companies to accessory makers hoping to get in on the fun, although it has few users – most of whom are software developers, the rest having bought a Rift against Oculus policy on eBay.
Will all the excitement turn into a whole new sector of the video game industry, or flop like a Kinect bundled with the Xbox One? Only time will tell what’s next for the Oculus Rift, but some gamers and gadget lovers already have an important message for Facebook’s latest acquisition: shut up and take my money.