A man tries out a Oculus Rift virtual reality headset at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year / AP

 

When virtual reality company Oculus Rift was bought by Facebook for $2 billion in March many tech pundits suggested the move had all the makings of a sci-fi dystopia.

These comparisons may have been tongue in cheek but it seems they weren’t far off the mark, with Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe saying the company has ambitions to create a massive game world populated by as many as one billion users.

“This is going to be an MMO where we want to put a billion people in VR,” Iribe was reported as saying by The Verge at a tech conference in New York. An MMO refers to a massively multiplayer online game - a genre that includes titles such as World of Warcraft.

Although Iribe’s comments can't be taken completely at face value they do confirm that the company’s ambitions go beyond gaming – the sector where Rift first gained popularity and funded its initial development via Kickstarter.

It’s been suggested that instead of using the Rift as a gaming device, the headset could become the next platform for the internet, supplanting smartphones and tablets in the same way that these mobile devices have been edging out the traditional web browser in recent years.

“Do you want to build a platform that has a billion users on it, or only 10, 20, or 50 million?” asked Iribe, who said that a billion-person MMO would “take a bigger network than exists in the world today” but that Facebook’s 1.2 billion users would be a good start.

The Oculus Rift has been hailed by users as the most useable and convincing demonstration of virtual reality to date, and has reignited interest in the area with both Microsoft and Sony engaged in their own research in the area.

However, Iribe’s comments have also sparked anger online, with many of the original backers of the Oculus Rift campaign already annoyed that despite donating more than $2 million to the company they won’t be seeing a penny of Rift’s new $2 billion acquisition.

As one commenter wrote on The Verge: "This is exactly what I didn’t want Oculus to be focusing on when FB bought them. Looks like I’ll be supporting their competitors now."

Read more: Four reasons why everyone should calm down about Facebook's purchase of Oculus Rift

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