What a difference a year makes.
In August 2012, 19-year-old Palmer Luckey launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset for 3D video games. Luckey wanted to raise $250,000 for the project. Instead, he raised more than $2.4 million, and today, Wired reports, Oculus VR, an Irvine, California-based company has just closed a $75 million round led by the esteemed venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. The funding will help Oculus ramp up production for a 2014 release to the general public.
It was never Luckey's intention to build a gaming device for a wide audience. As he told Eurogamer this summer, "My plan was to do a Kickstarter for about 100 of these things--basically, to get money to buy all of the components required on a slightly larger scale and then send these out to people as kits so they could assemble them themselves using my instructions so they could have the same thing as I had. I figured it would be a really cool thing to have a couple of VR nerds toying around with."
It might have stayed that way had programmer John Carmack not discovered the headset. Carmack is a legend in the video game industry, and after he demoed the Rift at the E3 gaming conference last year, the product took off. In August, Carmack joined the company as chief technology officer.
As Chris Dixon, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz told Wired, "I think I've seen five or six computer demos in my life that made me think the world was about to change: Apple II, Netscape, Google, iPhone... then Oculus. It was that kind of amazing."
Of course, as Oculus grows, it may face some stiff competition. Just this week, CNET reported that Apple secured a patent on a similar product: goggles that enable people to play video games and watch movies and TV shows. This won't be an easy market for either company to penetrate. The virtual reality market has been loaded with false promises of the "next big thing" for years. Still, as giants like Apple and Google increasingly invest in this type of technology, it looks like a booming market in virtual reality could finally become actual reality.