Oculus creator: "If you can perfectly simulate reality, why do you need to actually go see people in real life?"

Palmer Luckey says VR needs to incorporate touch-based feedback to further the feeling of immersion and wonders if some day we'll think it's wasteful to actually get on a plane to meet people in the real world.

751 Comments

Virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift must expand beyond visuals and allow for touch-based human-to-human interaction, creator Palmer Luckey said in a new interview from PAX East in Boston, Mass. All of this is in the way of creative a fully immersive experience that makes you feel like you're really in a "virtual reality," Luckey said.

"[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," Luckey said in a group interview captured by Maximum PC. "But for many interactions, it could."

Luckey went on to say that over time, virtual reality technology can become so advanced that you won't be able to tell what is "real" and what is not.

"How do I know you're real," Luckey said to the interviewer. "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 [considered to 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?"

"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?"

The interviewer also asked Luckey about the potential for virtual reality technologies like Oculus Rift to make people feel isolated, staying in their homes instead of going outside. He didn't have much of an answer for this concern, but said people won't care much if virtual reality tech can become so advanced that the line between fantasy and reality is indistinguishable.

"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," Luckey said. "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?"

Many people gather together with friends and family to watch movies or a sports match. If you're all wearing headsets, will that sense of togetherness be lost? Perhaps physically, Luckey said, but again, it won't matter if virtual reality can sell the illusion strong enough, he says.

"Eventually, VR is going to be good enough some day [where it's] as good or close to as good as real life. And if you want to simulate sitting in a room watching a TV, you'll be able to do that," Luckey said. "How good is has to be for someone to accept it, that's a different level for each person. But we'll get there eventually."

Luckey added virtual reality technology is going to lead to the eradication of traditional TV and monitor displays over the next 10-20 years. You'd need hundreds of screens to be able to simulate the experience VR can achieve, Luckey said. Simply put, Luckey believes virtual reality will be cheaper and more useful.

"I think there's almost no way that traditional displays will be around in a couple decades because it just won't be feasible," he said. "Why in the world would you buy a 60" TV that even if it were dirt cheap, for that, it's still going to cost a lot to ship it and make it from raw materials. A VR headset is going to be much better and much cheaper and you can take it anywhere."

Finally, Luckey said virtual reality still has a lot of growing to do to reach its full potential. "It's not where we need it to be to be really mass-market," Luckey said. It is good enough, however, so that people are beginning to understand its potential, he said.

Social networking giant Facebook believes in the future for VR, announcing last month that it had acquired Oculus VR, making of Oculus Rift, in a surprise deal worth around $2 billion.

What do you make of Luckey's comments? Is human-to-human interaction going to become a thing of the past?

Did you enjoy this article?

  • Join the conversation
    There are 751 comments about this story