Mark Zuckerberg embodies VR’s single biggest issue

Chris Burns - Feb 22, 2016, 3:21 pm CST
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Mark Zuckerberg embodies VR’s single biggest issue

It wasn’t what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said this week at the Samsung Galaxy S7 press conference. It was what he didn’t say. It was the photo you’re about to see. It was the future he intends to build with Samsung, with Oculus, and with the eyes and ears of millions of users. Once the following image was released, it was clear: we were part of a new age. Social interaction with a headset on. Maybe not an age you’re going to want to be a part of.

In the video you’re about to see, you’ll experience the parallels between Samsung’s press conference and a classic ad video spot. The audio comes from Apple’s “1984” Macintosh advertisement shown at the 1984 Superbowl, introducing Macintosh. The video (with the exception of the photo near the end) comes from Samsung’s Unpacked 2016: Mobile World Congress 2016.

We’ve spoken about the dangers in showing people wearing virtual reality headsets out in public before. It’s not a pretty sight.

TO BE CLEAR: I do not believe Zuckerberg himself – or his initiatives – are going to make VR fail. Or make VR evil, in any way. I’m only speaking here about the image this press conference portrayed.

Here at a press conference in Barcelona, we’re treated to an almost-comedic parallel between the evils of imagery shown in stories and films like “1984” and “They Live” and the way we look with VR headsets strapped to our faces.

Is this the image we want to be sending to those people hesitant to let themselves be immersed in a virtual reality experience?

Is this the image you want to sent people who aren’t comfortable giving their whole set of senses to a single device?

On the other hand, there’s what Zuckerberg actually said. He presents it all in a nutshell in a Facebook post this week:

“I just joined Samsung to launch their new Galaxy smartphones and talk about the future of virtual reality,” said Zuckerberg.

SEE: Virtual Reality Done Wrong

“I told the story of when I was 11 years old and first learning to program computers, I used to sit in my middle school math class, write code in my notebook and sketch images of a world where you could not only navigate to a 2D website, but transport yourself to a completely different place in reality.”

“I’ve been waiting for it to be possible to create this experience, and today it finally is.”

That’s a fine story. That’s exactly the sort of presentation VR needs to continue to life off the ground. Keep up that angle and we’ve got something magical.

Not scary.

Not ugly to look at.

In a story like that, virtual reality is the future.

Until then, it’s 1984.


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