Facebook’s Oculus Rift to acquire VR startup Pebbles Interfaces to expand the social network’s reach into virtual reality
When Geektime interviewed virtual reality startup Pebbles Interfaces in May, the company hinted that they were in talks with a big company that was about to launch a virtual reality platform.
“We are working closely with strategic partners” Pebbles’ Renana Perlovitch told Geektime in May, but declined to name the partner. “We hope our solution will be out there next year,” she said tantalizingly.
At the time, this reporter speculated that Pebbles was about to partner with Microsoft, given that they were a special guest at the Microsoft NEXT Conference.
But perhaps I overlooked a very obvious hint, because in the foreground of the video, you can see a man using Oculus Rift goggles. Ocuslus Rift, in case you didn’t know, was acquired by Facebook in March 2014 for a cool $2 billion. At the time, Mark Zuckerberg told reporters that it had acquired the company because “strategically we want to start building the next major computing platform that will come after mobile.”
Now, Geektime has learned, Facebook’s Oculus Rift will acquire Pebbles Interface for $60 million, according to the Wall Street Journal and the Marker, in an obvious move to keep the cutting-edge technology from Facebook’s competitors.
Why Pebbles is so special
The Christmas season of 2015 will be the breakout moment for virtual reality. That’s when much-buzzed VR systems like Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Sony’s Project Morpheus and Microsoft’s Hololens are set to reach store shelves.
But virtual reality enthusiasts say the experience is much more real and immersive when you can see and use your hands, rather than using buttons or joysticks to operate your avatar.
Pebbles Interfaces describes itself as “an immersive sensing solution for virtual reality and augmented reality.”
When you put on the goggles, Pebbles allows you to see your hands, feet, face, even your fingers with the curvatures and skin wrinkles so it actually feels like you’re in a virtual world and can interact with the objects.
Pebbles is better than other VR products, Perlovitch told Geektime, because it is ultra-high resolution, tracks your hands whatever they do (your hands don’t suddenly disappear), has a very small sensor that can be embedded inside any system, and requires low computational power and power consumption.
Pebbles Interfaces has received a total of $11.5 from investors including Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Giza Venture Capital, SanDisk, iNetworks and Xiaomi, China’s answer to Apple.