Oculus Rift
Courtesy of Oculus

In a sign of the growing importance of virtual reality (VR) for tech companies, both Google and Facebook have tasked seasoned executives to work with their respective VR divisions.

Google’s VP of product management Clay Bavor, who previously was in charge of Google’s apps as well as the company’s Cardboard VR initiative, is now solely working on VR. The move was first reported by Recode Tuesday.

And Facebook has moved Instagram’s director of product to become head of product management at the company’s Oculus VR subsidiary (hat tip to UploadVR). “There are very few companies that have the opportunity to define the future of how we interact with each other and with the world,” Deng wrote on Facebook, adding: “I feel fortunate to be joining such a passionate and talented team dedicated to bringing immersive new experiences in VR to reality.”

The timing of both moves may be a coincidence, but it also goes to show that virtual reality will in part be shaped by an increased competition between a few big players. Both Oculus and Google want to own VR as a platform, which includes running the app store  that users go to in order to download VR apps and experiences.

On the surface, the two companies have very different approaches towards VR. Google’s Cardboard VR viewer is being given away for free by the millions, while Oculus is getting ready to sell its Rift headset for $599.

But Oculus is also aiming for more price-conscious consumers with the $99 Gear VR, which is being manufactured by Samsung, and Facebook has started to make 360-degree videos part of its web video experience. Google hasn’t revealed yet where it aims to take Cardboard, but it’s likely that the company will eventually embrace more full-featured headsets as well which could compete more directly with the Gear VR.

At the same time, Google has started to invest in VR content creation and technologies powering VR capture and production. YouTube for example has started to feature VR content within its app, but that app is notably absent from the Oculus store.

With more resources and man power committed to VR on both sides, we can expect this arms race to continue in the coming months.

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