Well, here are some exciting comments for you following Facebook’s Oculus acquisition. Or scary comments, depending on your outlook.
In a group interview at PAX East this past weekend, Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey expressed his opinion that virtual reality should, and will, simulate not just a visual experience, but also a tactile one. If we can trick our senses into thinking they’re experiencing certain sensations, and combine that with a convincing visual, the overall cogency of VR stands to improve drastically. Luckey explains.
Virtual reality, it can’t just be a visual thing. If VR remains a visual only thing, then certainly we’ll never replace human touch-based interactions. But for many interactions, it could.
How do I know you’re real? You’re just standing there. You could be a hologram. But we’re still having a meaningful interaction. At some point it could even be irresponsible to waste the resources to…why did you need to get on a plane and burn all of that fuel to ship yourself over when you could have just hopped in your VR headset?
Intro-philosophy remark aside, Luckey certainly has a point. Some (perhaps change-fearing) people will always oppose too much time spent in VR, no matter how realistic, out of anxiety over a loss of the beliefs and value systems of the past. This is, of course, somewhat fallacious logic, and if folks eventually can’t tell the difference between VR and “IRL,” then the importance of the distinction begins to blur. The interviewer asked if VR could eventually result in users feeling isolated, to which Luckey replied.
Physically isolated, maybe. But I don’t think socially isolated. If anything, I think VR is one of the most potentially connecting technologies we have out there. I guess you will have to ask yourself, ‘Why do we care if we’re physically isolated if we’re mentally connected?’ If you can perfectly simulate reality, why do you need to actually go see people in real life?
I’m with Luckey on this, but there’s bound to be controversy as VR’s popularity (and realism) slowly grows in the coming decade. “Well what about physical activity, won’t we need that?” detractors will likely point out, to which I’d reply that by the time VR is good enough to induce day long, couch-ridden VR sessions for uses outside of gaming, we’ll be zapping our genetic makeup into submission and controlling our health in previously unimaginable ways anyway. Which, of course, is a different discussion entirely.