Facebook has recently displayed an interest in establishing itself as a technology company rather than just a social media platform, as seen in Mark Zuckerberg’s continued interest in virtual reality.
After purchasing the virtual reality company Oculus in early 2014, it seemed that Zuckerberg’s company would begin to engage in business that transcended its typical social media. Zuckerberg has never been afraid to grow and expand, constantly adding new bells and whistles to his ever-growing social media platform and purchasing smaller sites such as Instagram and WhatsApp. At the Facebook conference F8, the company revealed their extremely ambitious aims for the future. In a display that was clearly attempting to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung, Zuckerberg showed his vision for Facebook moving forward not only as a social media site, but a technology company.
He announced what he calls Facebook Spaces, a concept in which people can get together in virtual reality as a means of socializing. I actually find this to be a fairly good idea. The technology is not quite at the point of rendering completely lifelike humans in a virtual world, but once that point is reached I think something along the lines of Facebook Spaces could be an interesting way of meeting people; it could be a more personal version of Skyping or FaceTiming.
However, some of Zuckerberg’s other interests started to concern me. He expressed interest in ideas like a camera that can capture 360 degrees of video, as well as sharing his vision of a world full of augmented reality glasses by 2020. Ideas such as these would get me excited if not for the fact that Facebook is the company revealing them. Personally I feel that Facebook should stick to social media, and it just isn’t the right place for them to be making hardware instead of software. They should leave the hardware to smaller companies like Oculus, which they own, to create the technology that can be incorporated into their products. Oculus was always primed to be one of the spearheads of virtual reality, as explained in a previous blog of mine, but it was surprising to hear that parent company Facebook desires making hardware of its own. I get the feeling that they are simply entering a market in which they cannot excel.
Yet there was one thing that Zuckerberg said which truly convinced me that Facebook’s reach is far longer than its grasp. Apparently Facebook’s Building 8 unit is working on two projects at the moment: one in which Facebook users can type with their minds through a device that can read brain waves, and another to have human skin hear and detect language. If those sound outrageously ambitious, it is because they are. I do not see Facebook, a company which currently makes most of its money being a social media site, having the technological breakthrough of making a mind-reading computer. While I do have faith in the ability of Mark Zuckerberg to be a pioneer in technology, I feel that this is far too ambitious for any company at the moment, let alone Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg has the right ideas, and usually I am completely on the side of leaps forward in innovation, but he is implementing his ideas at the wrong time with the wrong company. If he truly desires making technology for himself, perhaps he could take a page out of Elon Musk’s book and simply found a new company for that. What Zuckerberg fails to see is that even if futuristic technology like he dreams of can be created, it would have no place in a market full of consumers that are not ready for it. I think that a better course of action would be to wait until other companies like Apple or Oculus develop technology such as augmented reality, then use it for his extremely popular social media site. He already has millions of people hooked on Facebook the way it is. Now is not the time to turn attention away from something that is thriving, and while there certainly may be a time for Facebook to enter Silicon Valley, now is not it.