Imagine Sitting Courtside At Every Game. Virtual Reality Is Coming…Soon
17-year-old Palmer Luckey spent some time in his parents garage one year, fiddling around with something that would eventually be sold for $2 billion. Whether intentionally or not, the young tech genius was orchestrating what is promising to be the next major chapter in consumer-tech news: virtual reality or, more specifically, the Oculus Rift headset. Now 22, Luckey is at the helm of a burgeoning advancement in all encompassing, three-dimensional technology that caught the eye of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose own personal excitement about his recent purchase of Oculus Rift might be enough to bring the product into homes across the world.
In Vanity Fair‘s October issue, journalist Max Chafkin details Oculus Rift’s emergence into conversations about feasibly graspable forms of consumer tech-tech that is available to purchase in stores and digital outlets. As of today, its existence is only a real thing in very tight circles, like the Silicon Valley elite of which Zuckerberg is a prominent member. In his comprehensive article, “Why Facebook’s $2 Billion Bet on Oculus Rift Might One Day Connect Everyone on Earth,” Chafkin provides readers with a history lesson into Zuckerberg’s work at Facebook, particularly in the realm of “what’s next.” As his success at the social-media behemoth becomes yesterday’s news in today’s world of ever-changing tech advancements, his mind turned to what he could bring to the table in the future, and that is where Oculus Rift comes in. “What comes after the smartphone?,” Chafkin asks. “Zuckerberg believed that the answer was headsets that provide ‘immersive 3-D experiences’—movies and television, naturally, but also games, lectures, and business meetings. But it doesn’t stop there. “These headsets would eventually scan our brains, then transmit our thoughts to our friends the way we share baby pictures on Facebook today,” he writes.
For many, that concept reads straight out of a dystopian film about the eventual demise of the human race at the hands of robots. For others, it’s a scintillating idea that, whether society accepts or not, is steadily moving into the realm of real life. “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—just by putting on goggles in your home,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. “Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones.”
With the recent advancements made in driver-less cars, smart clothes, and other forms of consumer technology, the implementation of a household virtual reality system is perhaps not so difficult to grasp on a conceptual level, but its potential effects on communication and interpersonal relationships are yet to be examined thoroughly. Even worse, some claim the technology might actually cause brain damage. “Some research suggests that both television and the Internet may hamper brain development, and it seems reasonable to think that a more intense, more immediate communications technology would be even worse,” writes Max Chafkin.
Watching a movie at home with the headset doesn’t seem far off, but what about the brain scanning capabilities Zuckerberg mentions? Is that taking the technology too far?