As surprises go, Facebook’s announcement last night that it’s buying a virtual reality (VR) startup called Oculus Rift takes some beating. The company has been making waves in the games industry with its VR headset and software development kit for games developers in recent months, with more than 75,000 developers having ordered the kit. Now it’s owned by Facebook, which has big ambitions for its new toy. “Facebook plans to extend Oculus’ existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas,” explained Facebook last night. “Given these broad potential applications, virtual reality technology is a strong candidate to emerge as the next social and communications platform.” Music industry folk with memories of the hype around virtual world Second Life a few years ago may raise an eyebrow at the thought. Also interesting: Oculus Rift started life by raising $2.4m on Kickstarter in 2012, making this the biggest exit for a crowdfunded hardware startup – albeit one that has since raised $91m from traditional VC backers.

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