Virtual Reality and the F word

People hate Facebook for almost the same reasons they hate the DMV. They’ve become a de-facto license provider for content and contacts with friends and this is even before we get to the privacy issues. After all, you can’t drive to see your folks or drive to a political rally by car without a license. The act ( driving ) and the means ( car ) require special access now that enables said privileges and, to my eye, much the same as commenting on a blog post or seeing your family and friends.

The act ( commenting ) and the means ( site ) require special access as well. The major difference, of course, is that the Department of Motor Vehicles is a government institution and Facebook is a convenience institution. Both have dubious records keeping private records private; one due to incompetence and the other due to profit.

Plenty of sites E.G. Quora and Scribd make Facebook the login provider and, in many cases, the only means to interact such as leaving feedback. So many, in fact that virtually everyone I bump into these days look at their FB account with disdain, yet keep it around for fear of losing contact. Much like the DMV, Facebook is a necessary ( arguable ) evil.

Via @jasonforal

Via @jasonforal

So Oculus VR

Oculus VR created the best and, thus far, only product that takes us closer to the goal of fully immersive VR. Previous efforts have been marginal successes at best and vaporware at worst, however OR was one of the first to not only have the viable product, but a usable development framework that is already seeing applications put into practice. When they signed aboard the legendary developer and sexy beast ( anti-lag and anti-me ) John Carmack of Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D and, more recently Armadillo Aerospace fame aboard, we all thought “now we’re actually getting somewhere with VR!”

If you haven’t been off the tech radar for a while or, like me, are a borderline luddite, you’ve probably come across the product or at least the name of this nifty company. Oculus Rift ( OR ) aims to do for Virtual Reality, what the mobile phone did for communication. To strip it from the pages of speculative fiction and bring about a new age of interaction and experience into the world of gaming and… herein lies the problem.

Oculus was bought by Facebook for $2 Billion, with a b, a capital B and illion boy howdy that’s a lot of money, probably. Now we have a company that aims to reimagine the way we experience reality and a company that has rewired the way we experience experiences. They both touch upon the need for voyeurism and vicarious fancy, of the innocent kind I’m sure, that we all possess to some degree. The problem is what will Facebook, a profile vendor much like Google is an ad space vendor, will do to the experience that OR brings.

Is this the kind of power we want to leave in the hands of a private profile vendor?

That’s a stupid question.

It’s a stupid question because the answer to it is irrelevant no matter what the appropriateness is of a Virtual Reality vendor teaming up with a company known for selling experiences. Or rather the profiles of those having those experiences.

Cannot be unseen

You can close your eyes, but you cannot avert them or look away from the experience completely without taking off the set. We’re far away from contact lenses that will directly project an image into your eyes, but not too far from the fact that OR is capable of creating a full immersive experience that’s pretty much the next best thing until the next leap in technological progress.

Facebook is no longer interested in just your vacation in Hawaii. They’re interested in selling Hawaii to you right at home into your eyes. Not only that, it isn’t a far stretch of an imagination to see a future in which you not only share your profiles via text, but profiles as experiences. Why leave home when you can live with your family without actually getting on that car at all? And with that, I have fulfilled my Philip K. Dick quota for the day.

Facebook’s purchase makes perfect sense in that context and it would have been stupid for Oculus VR, which engages in some of the most expensive research in tech space, to turn down the offer.

Whether we like it or not, we’re living in a world that any product or service that can be imagined, will eventually be created and experienced with varying degrees of success. Whether Oculus VR or some other company will take the last mantle of glory is yet to be seen, but suffice it to say, we’re not too far off from the time when people will look back at our text and emoji based status updates and exclaim, “my, how quaint!” or an equivalent in whatever vernacular exists at the time.

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