Oculus' new research program aims to make students into VR wizards

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Oculus' new research program aims to make students into VR wizards

Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe is excited about the future of virtual reality (naturally), but the company can't make VR a global phenomenon all by itself. It's doing more than just tapping into Facebook's resources, though -- Iribe said at TechCrunch Disrupt NY that the company just put together a research group (which includes newly installed head scientist Michael Abrash) to get more folks thinking about (and hopefully adding to) our virtual reality future. How? By playing extra-nice with schools and students, for one thing.

Iribe says the group is hiring top-tier engineers who will "start engaging with universities and working with students to build virtual reality technology -- to inspire and expand that ecosystem." That's right: If Oculus Rifts aren't already a mainstay of your local college's hackathons, they probably will be soon. If the company's lucky, all those fresh viewpoints should help stretch the limits of what people can experience with devices like the Rift, and that's absolutely crucial to virtual reality's survival. After all, it's easy to dismiss VR as another flash in the pan notion, a passing fad that'll peter out after a few frenzied years. Building up a broad spectrum of uses makes VR even harder for naysayers to ignore -- hell, we're already starting to see that diversification in action.

The Oculus Rift struck a chord with a generation of folks clamoring for something seriously game-changing, but Mark Zuckerberg's angle is clear: He looks at the Rift and sees a communication tool. Iribe's more than happy to embrace both audiences, and there's no telling where this train is going to stop.

"We don't have any idea how disruptive [it's] going to be, but giving virtual vision to the world is going to be a very powerful concept," he said.

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