Oculus Facebook: The Zuck got out the chequebook again this week, signing off $2bn for a virtual reality headset called Occulus Rift (for those trying to keep their .com acquisition exchange rate up to date, that’s two Instagrams, but only a 5th of WhatsApp).

Essentially, the Oculus Rift is an IMAX theatre squeezed into giant, blacked out ski-goggles. Particularly popular with gamers, the goggles allow you to immerse yourself fully into a 3D game landscape, where your movements in real-life are mapped to the pile of pixels you’re using to destroy other pixels with.

Wired Magazine reviewed the Oculus not too far back [skip to 1m19 if you don’t want too much geekage. Also, you can play Flappy Bird with the Oculus Rift. Fully immersive anger and frustration. Because there isn’t enough of that in real life already…]

But… why is Facebook buying an immersive, virtual reality headset?

Well, as The Zuck himself posted, they’re going to help Oculus perfect their product and develop partnerships to support more games. So far so good, but that’s all rather pedestrian. It’s not (just) about playing a fully immersive version of Farmville or poking your old friend from school’s newborn baby in virtual reality. In his post, The Zuck goes on to write that he wants Facebook to become an immersive communication platform: “Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life.

The Internet, especially the gaming community went full on Kermit – calling the purchase bad for gaming, bad for virtual reality, bad for Oculus – you get the picture (you can also read the comments on the official Oculus VR site for more ‘do not like’ reaction).

One chap who isn’t surprised about the purchase is social media theorist @nathanjurgenson wasn’t surprised: “Facebook is premised on trying to build a second life, a virtual reality. buying Oculus should be no surprise. Part of digital dualism’s popularity is that most social media tries to make a document double of our lives […]. Trying to make a “copy” of our lives is social media’s massive misunderstanding of their own product, one that just *is* (part of) our lives”.

Why is this happening? The Guardian believes it’s the same reason why kids are leaving Facebook in their droves: Facebook just isn’t cool. Facebook is buying all these cool platforms (WhatsApp, Instagram, Oculus) because they want to be cool by association. Or to at least own a bigger slice of the social media and entertainment pie, so that even if the cool kids leave, The Zuck still gets his cut.

Either way – The Oatmeal called it.

The evolution of Twitter: Meanwhile, Twitter is quietly developing, testing and launching new features. As of this week we can tag people in photos (à la Facebook) and attach up to four photos to a single tweet – all without eating into you 140 character limit and create a mini photo gallery (à la Facebook).

As soon as you select an image, the Twitter app now prompts you to tag the person in the shot. You can add up to 10 people as long as they have a Twitter account (just entering a name won’t cut it). It only works in association with an image, so I’d expect to see more of those popping up in your feed soon. But if they’re anything like this effort from Sainsbury’s Faversham store, I say bring it on.

Then there’s the ability to attach four photos to one tweet, for the price of just the one link. Somewhat clunky when I tried it from my phone (I had to select the first photo, then go back into the photos to select the other three), but simple enough once you get the hang of it. You end up with a mini-gallery that you can click or swipe through.

Other new stuff in the works is the ability to track how many people saw a tweet, making Twitter work without the @ or # symbols and possibly, gasp, changing retweet to share. These changes come on the back of recent incremental improvements/new features like the blue line that connects tweets in a conversation, and the fact that images now appear automatically without having to click on them first.

Twitter purists argue that all of these changes to Twitter are making it more like Facebook, and moving it away from what made Twitter so great in the first place. The usual reaction by Twitter users is usually one of indignation and outrage. While Twitter has in the past been known to listen when the vitriol is too loud, I don’t think they’d be too fussed about the current level of noise.

Because more often than not, we become used to the new features as we adapt and the Twitter community finds interesting ways of using them/new features to get worked up about.

But why is Twitter trying to be like Facebook, ie. uncool?

The recent changes are part of a bigger strategy to make Twitter more accessible to new users that might have been scared off by the limitations of 140 characters, @ signs and hashtags, as well as the sheer volume of information that keeps coming at you.

Bits and bytes

  • A detailed look at how Burberry have seamlessly integrated their customer experience between the on and offline world (no digital dualism here, people), turning a beige trench coat company into a powerhouse fashion brand. Where does great brand-driven customer experience start? Stand for something, chose your target, deliver against your brand promise, make it easy for your employees to bring your brand to life, and innovate tirelessly (HT @PaulBromford)
  • The W Hotels Group now provides wedding parties with a Social Media Wedding Concierge to make sure every moment of your wedding (from the early planning stages) is properly recorded on Twitter (OMG, I do!), Instagram (X-Pro II that bouquet and be quick about it!), Facebook (Gotta change that marital status asap), and Pinterest (how else are your guests supposed to know what colour scheme to match their outfits too?) – all that for just $3,000
  • Zappos provides customers with a personalised shopping recommendation based on their outfit of the day – as shared with Zappos via Instagram an the hashtag #nextootd

Videos of the week

The new ‘Well worth it’ campaign by Volkswagen caught my eye this week. It’s a combination of weird national pride at German cars being so darn good (more of a BMW guy, me, but hey) and this idea that a car is not just a car. Sure, there will be cheaper cars out there that have four wheels, a steering wheel and an engine and will get you from a to b, but will they do it every time? While keeping you and your fellow passengers safe? Well, if safety, reliability and quality is what you want, then you really should fork out a little more because you get what you pay for.

I think it’s a clever series of ads (each one throws in a fact about VW that speaks to their heritage of producing top quality cars at affordable prices: they’ve been doing it for years, they’re rigorously tested, safety comes as standard) despite the men in them come across as hopeless morons…

Thomas Cook’s Danish arm ‘Spies’ launched a cheeky campaign encouraging Danes to ‘Do it for Denmark‘ and boost dwindling birth rates in the country. As it says on the campaign homepage: “Research shows that Danes have 46% more sex on city holidays and since more sex equals the chance of more kids, we are prescribing a romantic city holiday to save Denmark’s future.” All you need to do to win the competition is prove you conceived a child while on holiday. To help you with your booking, there’s even an Ovulation Discount.

Remember that batshit bonkers Chanel No.5 ad where Brad Pitt rattles off some faux-philosophical gibberish? Madonna thought: “I can do that. And then some.” As far as I can tell, it’s a skin cream that gives you nightmares. Or something.

And finally: How can I be happy?