‘Some parents still think VR will ruin their kid’s brain’, admits Facebook

As US sales slow, Facebook still needs to change negative public perceptions around VR technology, according to its director of media partnerships for EMEA Patrick Walker.

Facebook is still battling negative perceptions around virtual reality (VR) technology, according to its director of media partnerships for EMEA Patrick Walker.

Speaking at the Radio Festival today (26 September), Walker explained the social media giant is facing several perception challenges, particularly around parents.

“With any new technology, whether it was print or radio, you always have prominent people criticising it when it first launches,” said Walker.

“Now it’s VR, where people are saying ‘this new technology is going to ruin my kid’s brain’. We will always experience this, but it’s all about not hiding from [criticism] and to keep developing and working across the industry to find solutions.”

Last week, Facebook-owned VR company Oculus Rift finally launched its £549 Rift headset in the UK. While there aren’t any official UK sales figures available yet, retailers are expecting demand to be high, with Amazon only selling one headset per person.

However, sales across the Atlantic look to be underwhelming. According to the major PC gamer hub Steam, just 0.18% of its users own an HTC Vive and only 0.10% have an Oculus Rift.

More worryingly, HTC Vive sales grew by only 0.3% in July and were completely flat in August. Meanwhile, Oculus Rift sales grew by the same amount in July and just 0.1% in August.

Facebook acquired Oculus for $2bn (£1.5bn) in 2014, with Mark Zuckerberg claiming at the time that virtual reality would become “the future of social communication”.

The rise of Facebook Live

Over recent months, Facebook has put a big emphasis on live video, through its Facebook Live platform.

When asked today (26 September) whether the brand is keen to start its own broadcast offering, Walker said Facebook is simply a ‘facilitator’.

“We are a tech company. We facilitate better connectivity, insight, information and tools. We have been successful in some ways but we still have work to do,” he added.

“We want to help connect more people with ideas by allowing those who work in [radio and broadcast] choose the things they want to share and then we can protect that.”

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