What the Oculus Rift Acquisition by Facebook Means for 3D Printing

…And the Collaborative Economy as a Whole

The tech world collectively gasped and gossiped yesterday as Facebook announced its purchase of Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset originally launched on Kickstarter, for a cool $2 Billion Dollars. Safe to say that their 21 year old CEO and his team are set for life, but what does this mean for the rest of us?

The tl;dr version:

- Hardware is back
- People powered product > other stuff
- Communities are empowering the future of design meaning innovation is no longer dictated by big brand hegemons
- Shapeways, like Oculus, like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and all other companies contributing to this new collaborative economy, are at the epicenter of this next industrial revolution

There have been rumors of the “Hardware Renaissance” since the birth of crowdfunding, but no moment has perhaps encapsulated it quite like the $2 Billion dollar affirmation Facebook just gave us yesterday. By enabling people to make and fund whatever they want, thanks to crowd funding and technologies like 3D Printing, the creative consumer now has a voice louder than ever. Products like Pebble & Ouya paved the way for Oculus’ campaign on Kickstarter, and similarly awesome hardware innovations like the Misfit Shine on Indiegogo. Just 18 months ago, the young posse of Oculus entrepreneurs raised $2.4 million on Kickstarter, a solid proof of concept & market validation for VR hardware on all accords. Even more recently, Avegant Glyph raised another $1.5 Million for their (IMHO) even cooler headset. No app or software has even come close to touching the bounty of dough hardware projects have raked in on crowdfunding platforms of the last two years. If the proof is in the pudding, the chef prefers hardware to software.

So why now? How is collaborative product development pushing 3D printing forward?

In a time perhaps only those of us in early Gen Y and elder recall, a few hardware hegemons controlled nearly every product we touched. Development on said products took years, and in some cases, even decades. Companies like Xerox, IBM, Apple, HP, and Microsoft made nearly all of our consumer electronics and the software that ran them. In 1998 Microsoft was even accused of monopolizing the market, violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. In 2001 a judge deemed microsoft guilty of being a power monger, but a successful appeal in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals got them off the hook and penalized in a considerably lesser fashion.

People powered products, whether through crowdfunding or 3D printing, make stories like this a thing of the past.. Yes, Facebook now controls a lot of our favorite things. But remember, Facebook is nothing without us. There are other social networks we can run to if they flood us with too many ads, other photo sharing platforms we can post our selfies to if Instagram’s experience is altered drastically, and other VR headsets we can use if they manage to kill Oculus.

In short, we now have OPTIONS. We are shareholders in our physical world. We back what we want, design what we want on Shapeways, and urge others to create what we can’t find elsewhere, all the while collectively empowering the future of product design.

Every time you purchase a product on Shapeways, or Kickstarter, or Indiegogo, you are supporting an independent designer. We’re doing this. Together. And it’s effing awesome.

Don’t be scared, join the revolution and start making today!

*This genuinely is meant to speak to the collaborative economy born from creative communities. Full disclosure, I work for Shapeways*