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Will virtual reality really replace human interaction?


Editorial: Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey made some broad statements regarding the future of VR, but is the tech really going to take over the world? GameSpot's editors sound-off.

The future of virtual reality has never seemed brighter. The pioneering Oculus VR company was bought for $2 billion by Facebook last month, and Sony is even getting into the game with their Project Morpheus. But is the tech just a fad, or does it really have a chance of going mainstream this time?

Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey voiced some strong opinions about VR's future at PAX East this month stating, "If you can perfectly simulate reality, why do you need to actually go see people in real life?" and, "I think there's almost no way that traditional displays will be around in a couple decades because it just won't be feasible." Admittedly, he has a vested interest in the Oculus doing well, but how realistic are his claims? GameSpot's editors share their thoughts below.

Eddie Makuch - Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?

"If you can perfectly simulate reality, why do you need to actually go see people in real life?" When I first read this quote from 21-year-old Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey I was deeply disturbed. It's a comment that challenges everything you think you know. What he's really asking is: What if everything you think you know is a lie or at least a half truth? If the reality in which we think we live right now can be perfectly simulated, then is it a "real" reality at all? Or is it just a Matrix-like projection? What does it mean to be real anyway? These are big questions that I'm not sure Luckey ever intended to drum up, but here we are all the same.

I place significant value in seeing and interacting with people face-to-face. I also enjoy spending time outdoors, feeling the wind on my skin or the touch of water on my feet. These are experiences that I deem to be "real." But if Luckey is right, if virtual reality technology can progress to a point where what I deem to be "real" and what headsets like Oculus Rift can project becomes indistinguishable, then he's truly onto an idea that could shake the world. There is a deeper and more profound philosophical discussion to be had here, but I am not in any way equipped to engage in that.

Assuming VR headsets cost $200 each, that's a pretty significant premium if I want to have some friends over to watch a game or a movie in VR.

The grand promise of virtual reality headsets is that when you put them on, your brain is fully tricked into believing it's somewhere else. I have tried out virtual reality technology and the current iteration does not come anywhere close to meeting this lofty goal. It could some day, and the resources from Facebook will no doubt help, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Luckey's job is to sell you on the idea of virtual reality, and while I see the potential, the immediate results have left much to be desired.

Regarding Luckey's claim about virtual reality technology like Oculus Rift replacing traditional displays over the next 10-20 years, I don't think that's going to happen unless VR headsets become very inexpensive. Right now, I can pay $300 for a 32" 1080p HD TV that I can enjoy with a group of friends in the living room. Assuming VR headsets cost $200 each, that's a pretty significant premium if I want to have some friends over to watch a game or a movie in VR. Not to mention I need a place to store all of those headsets! Of course, if VR gathers steam, and with Facebook behind it, it seems likely that it will, then price will come down over time. Still, I generally do not like the idea of putting something on my head to watch what I can already see without assistance.

Kevin VanOrd - A future no one wants

Whenever I express my misgivings about Oculus Rift to its greatest advocates, I'm always told how I have to use it to really understand its potential. It's true that my time with the Oculus Rift has been limited, but my doubts have never been based on the quality of the Oculus experience. Instead, my doubts has been practical ones based on the way I consume games and other visual media like television and films. Specifically, I don't always want to be fully immersed.

There are those times, of course, in which I want to exist in a fully simulated reality. I think we all share in those moments; otherwise, why would concepts like Star Trek's holodeck capture our collective imagination? But much of my game playing and TV watching is done casually. I grab a few rounds of Titanfall while dinner is cooking, I watch reruns while cleaning the living room, I reach over and pet the cat while exploring Tamriel in The Elder Scrolls Online. Yes, I would greatly appreciate being able to play a survival horror game while fully immersed in its setting; yes, I would love to watch Game of Thrones without any distraction. But most of the time, I don't want to attach something to my head that demands my attention for every moment it's strapped there.

I don't want intensity to be the defining factor of every game I play and show I watch.

There's an innate intensity to using the Oculus Rift that makes it well-suited to a very specific circumstance. But I don't want intensity to be the defining factor of every game I play and show I watch. And I surely don't want that kind of intensity to characterize the time I spend watching television with friends, when I would rather engage directly with them.

Make no mistake: the technology is neat, but Luckey's personal vision of the future is a surreal tragicomedy that reminds me of the vast spaceship the heroic robot visits in the second half of Wall-E, where the residents speed along in their hoverchairs, using displays to speak to people seated within arm's length. Even if I did believe that Luckey's bizarre goal to physically separate us in favor of virtual interaction was feasible--which I absolutely do not--I still wouldn't want that kind of future. I'm hardly a technophobe, but I'm disturbed by a man that would outright state that he wants his product not just to enhance reality, but to replace it.

Peter Brown - Relax, it's not a dystopian daydream

Palmer Luckey is never short of thoughts on the potential for virtual reality, which isn't surprising given that he's made it his life's work, so to speak. Just last week, he claimed that once VR matures to its full potential, it may someday be capable of supplanting human interaction. A statement like that raises red flags for a lot of people, and they begin to draw comparisons to mad men from dystopian films and comic books as evidence of Luckey's folly.

To them I say: "Relax, please." By Luckey's own admission, the fully realized VR that he's talking about may never come to pass, and he's not suggesting that VR is better than real life. Luckey is plainly stating that if VR were to mature to the point that it can provide an experience that was indistinguishable from reality, we would have to ask ourselves why we value one experience over the other. The answer to that question is different for every person, and my personal belief is that VR, as it is today and as it could be in the future, isn't inherently evil, so there's no reason that we shouldn't pursue it.

Nobody is forcing VR on us, and delving into full immersion will be a choice.

We don't live in a fictional world like The Matrix where a falsified reality is imposed upon the human race against its will. Nobody is forcing VR on us. Delving into full immersion will be a choice, and I am absolutely interested in experimenting with the technology if it ever comes to pass.

During the same interview, Luckey asserts his belief that head-mounted displays like the Rift will replace traditional displays, potentially in 10 years. In this case, I think he's blindly ignoring the benefits of the way we currently consume media. I completely agree with some of his points, specifically that TVs are more expensive to produce and ship, and that there are applications and scenarios where a HMD will make more practical sense, but when it comes to consuming media in a group setting, traditional displays make the most sense. Do I expect there to be local, VR multiplayer games down the road? Yes, because I've already played some, but I seriously doubt that their existence, along with the associated cost of manufacturing and shipping displays, will lead to a complete HMD takeover.

Justin Haywald - Time keeps on slipping into the future

When Luckey says that in 10-20 years VR could supplant traditional screens, everyone imagines people sitting at home with these massive, expensive Oculus sets attached to their heads. That's a ridiculous future, and of course it's not going to happen.

But that's not the future Luckey is positing. In 20 years, or even in 10 years, the technology that we use to create those experiences will be smaller, better, and cheaper, and it'll probably also be almost unrecognizable. When you compare the massive cell phones from the '80s to the svelte mobile computers we use now, you can get a sense for this technology has the potential to change and adapt to everyday use.

And maybe it's not ideal, but what if you could get an Oculus for free? As a trade-off, maybe you have to link it to your Facebook account and you'll see targeted ads when you use that service. That raises completely separate arguments about privacy and how we share content with the public, but the point is there are solutions for getting this kind of tech into everyone's hands.

Maybe a VR future isn't the wonderful utopia we might imagine, but it's not as impossible as we might think.

You've read our thoughts, but what do you think about the future of VR? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Kevin-V

    Kevin VanOrd

    Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.
    184 Comments  RefreshSorted By 

    VR can be the next big thing if you know how to. Along with great vision, there's a certain company that could lead it to tremendous success. I feel like offering suggestion to this particular company free of charge, but don't know if they're interested.


    People are disregarurding this but the truth of the matter is millions upon millions of us do so already... Facebook is a virtual reality simulation of a conversation/having friends... Yet we passivley accept this as a reality.. Same with online gaming.. Most of us chose to communicate with people via head-set or lose ourselves in worlds such as 'World Of Warcraft', but does that make the experience all the more real or fake? No.. Just depends which way you look at it.. Real is whatever we perceive real to be.. We may question this now, but maybe 20 years down the line it may become the norm.. Maybe we can visit places we always wanted to go, but virtually... It will be a more practical and cheaper solution to do so, but that doesn't make the experience any less real?... It just depends on how well you can simulate it, for us to believe in this reality... Sorry for the extensive comment, but I'm literally writing a University paper on the matter and thought "Why not?"


    << LINK REMOVED >>

    Because, even with the matrix, their bodies still needed real world sustenance. Um-kay, Lucy.


    CEO Palmer Luckey is a moron.


    Can you eat pixels? What happens when the server goes down? You do have to pay your electricity bill, correct? Potential doesn't guarantee success.


    << LINK REMOVED >> How do you know you are eating chicken, and not pixels? :) Sorry. When I read your comment, I thought of first The Matrix then Inception.


    << LINK REMOVED >>

    Because, even with the matrix, their bodies still needed real world sustenance. Um-kay, Lucy.


    << LINK REMOVED >> I suppose you are right, but I've wondered ever since the third movie, more so after I watched Inception, whether Zion exists in the "real world." I am not saying the Wachowski brothers made the movies ambiguous; it's only my own musings.


    I don't need VR for digital interaction to replace human interaction; the only things I buy in person are groceries. Just last week my friend had his first video job interview. And what soldier serving abroad wouldn't want to take a stroll with his/her spouse or see the kids, if only in a simulated environment?

    The last one doesn't count as "replacing" human interaction, does it? Would such tech encourage more people to accept jobs that take them away from family?

    When I read the article's title, my first reaction was "no sex, no way." Boorish, yes, but to the point. Then I read the editorials and started to think in several other directions at once, and none of it metaphysical or philosophical!

    Thank you for a great article.


    One word: Bullshit


    We are already on our way there. Why not finish off the job? It really is disturbing to see how many people are oblivious to everything around them, and smartphones and the like have only made it worse. Though I guess there was plenty of human on human interaction at my parent's place on Easter. Then again, I was the youngest one there and I'm in my 30s.


    To put it short, no.


    Everyone who has watched sword art online is all thinking the same fucking thing


    VR substituting for everyday reality is hundreds of years into the future far beyond any of our lifetimes. VR is the natural evolution to the internet in the sense that everyone will be interconnected in a virtual way. Person, places, and things that take time to get to today could be gotten to instantly in VR and that will literally revolutionize man completely.

    I think what people fear is a scenario were people become so extremely addicted that they eventually become unable to tell the difference between it and everyday reality. The majority spending most of their time hooked up to some computer with feeding tubes,etc while the actual body rots away due to the lack of exercise etc. We are already at the beginnings of this. When I was a kid I spend most of my time outside. Today's kids spend most their time inside on the internet, gaming, cellphone, etc. and so VR could potentially magnify that 100 times. Leaving the actual outside world a ghost town. So one would be right to have that concern.

    So with VR comes great possibilities and along with it introduces potential moral problems but not in our lifetimes.


    In our dreams we can walk, run, and interact with the environment without moving a muscle in real life. In our dreams that environment feels just as real as the actual. From that one can imagine far into the distanced future scientist developing some sort of device to tap directly into that part of the brain feeding specific organize information directly. Therefore simulating VR in a much more advanced way. Forget about these primitive bulky VR face sets that we have today. Those things are so laughable right now. Probably making VR just another fad today but still no less remaining the future of tomorrow.


    The problem VR will face is the same problem that current camera devices, like Kinect and PS Eye face today. You can't actually move around in digital world because that would require the same physical movement in the real world. Strapping a helmet to your head won't change that because in order to 'trick' your mind into moving, you'd have to actually be moving in the reality. It will actually be worse than Kinect because now you'll be blind. People would be tripping all over things and walking into walls, lol. So basically we'll get another round of what I call 'static movement' experiences. Basically, you stay in one place, maybe taking a step or two in any direction while flailing your limbs all over, except now your wearing a blinding helmet and are completely unaware of your actual surroundings.


    Palmer Luckey's comments are just stupid. So in the future, we are to sit at home and never actually go anywhere or do anything, because our minds are being tricked into thinking we're actually some place else? Our health would go down the tubes and our bodies would deteriorate. Sounds a lot like that Bruce Willis movie, Surrogates, to me.

    As far as the near future, I like to do so many other things while the TV is on, whether just a watching a movie or playing games. One of my favorite pastimes is to make a few drinks and eat a snack while I game. How the heck are you supposed to do that with a piece of plastic and metal over my face?! This sounds like a very nitch product at the moment and the cost of ownership certainly doesn't favor group play.

    In the far future, I can see VR being used for many industries outside of entertainment: training simulations, virtual tours, education, etc.



    striving to reach utopia will only bring hell



    cause then the species would be extinct


    Convensional screens won't be feasible?

    This guy is living in a fucking lala land he created.

    Just look at the image above of the family. Excluding the dog, if the Oculus Rift comes out at $300 the same as the dev kit which Oculus said they are aiming for, that family before you even get to the cost of the console and the remotes they are holding are wearing on their faces $1200 worth of electronics.

    Get fucking real you stupid little boy. If you think any family is going to get rid of the TV they already own to pay for $1200 worth of headset you are mental.

    And there is also the problem that the console would need to render the game to EACH headset. That is four times. The Xbox One can't render its games at 1080p ONCE, let alone four times. The PS4 can't do it more than once either.

    This will NEVER catch on to the mainstream unless it is ridiculously cheap. And I'm talking $500 for four headsets sort of cheap.

    You think Zuckerberg is going to be happy you making a loss on each headset? I don't think so.


    I agree totally with Kevin on this one. That is basically how I feel. I do not want to be 100% immersed in what ever media I am engaging with. I want to be free to do what I wish and not have to be "in the game" to be into the game. The idea that a technology could one day replace different sensations of living is kind of freaky to me and in my opinion it will not lead us to any glorious future. I will admit VR is a cool concept but I look at it like I did motion controls, it will be yet another option that people can enjoy but it should not become the standard.


    If by any chance in a near or far future, humans chose hardware over human interaction, then the world is lost.


    i actually think it WILL AFFECT PHYSICAL human interaction. as of now, games take me away from social situations: i go out less than most ppl around me, i hang out with friends less because i can interact with them online in a game, etc.

    add on all the other ways of communicating and interacting digitally and you have a significant dent in nature's intended form of human interaction.

    we have been moving deeper and deeper beyond what is considered "natural", and why would VR not push us even further? we're close to a point now where the only reason we have any kind of true interaction is school, work, and reproducing.

    people are now being educated online, and more and more people work from home. provide me a fulfilling way to express my sexual desires and reproducing starts to fade from the picture as well. hell, there's already a dude in love with an anime character in a DS game, in love enough to marry it. what if you could bang the fictional characters you interact with daily?

    the idea of this goes so far back its insane. think about the mail.


    << LINK REMOVED >> Thats the perfect future for a "Population Reduction Program". "Less quantity, more quality."


    << LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> queue a Fear Factory riff


    << LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> For a band as kickass as Fear Factory (well okay now it's just Burton and Dino), I'm really at odds with how accurately they've predicted the future.


    The financial cost of this theory. Where Virtual reality becomes advanced enough to compete. With the real world. Can never happen. Trillions of dollars would have to be spent over 100's of years to create a Virtual reality holodeck. A matrix world can never come to pass.

    Powerful VR just will not become widespread enough to have this happen. VR will last about 7-10 yrs if that.


    I've loved computers all my life, but it seems a waste of power to generate what you need to in order to create reality. If you want reality you might was well just walk out the door. There is already a simulator there that is far more complex then anything we can ever create ourselves and it is fueled by power we cannot comprehend. It also doesn't cost you anything to utilize. Usually I play games to have some fun, but part of the fun is that a lot of the things that apply in the real world don't apply in the game.


    The final paragraph n Justin's article made me feel a bit sick.......


    We will end up becoming BLIND if this happens!


    I think the general consensus here is that Luckey has lost his mind. I don't care if the thing runs in 7932719p. We have five senses, and I don't see the OR addressing the other four. In that sense, it has a ways to go to replace reality.

    BUUUUT.... for things like business meetings, why not? The economy is global. Why fly to China or London or San Francisco or Mumbai (and the expense that brings) if you can put on an OR? Is that gaming? No. Does it have to be immersive? No. All it has to do is give more human contact than you get from a conference call.

    Hell, I saw somewhere that IBM has business "meetings" involving employees from far flung parts of the world using Second Life. If that's a decent way to interact with people, why not OR?

    So will it replace reality? No. Will it replace the need to get all your business partners in one conference room? Sure, why not? So maybe he's only a little bit right.


    << LINK REMOVED >> What's wrong with actual reality?! I love being alive and experiencing the real world. Why are we trying to replace it with something artficial that is just trying to duplicate what we already experience everyday?


    Rift is now a social networking tool and gaming on it will take a back seat to generating profit. VR isn't going to be seemless in our lifetimes.


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

    That is the most anti-social statement I've ever heard in my life.


    << LINK REMOVED >> Not to mention that it's really a stupid one as well. Facepalm was invented for those types of statements.


    << LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> no, it's you guys that are stupid. You cannot think outside the box. Palmer Luckey is right. But only if we can ever achieve that level of immersion


    << LINK REMOVED >> Why? You wouldn't be able to tell the difference between simulation and reality.


    The Oculus guy is just blowing hot air. The notion of a completely perfect VR is still something that is solidly science fiction and will stay that way for our lifetimes. (Although admittedly enough Oculus has a far better chance now that the Facebook behemoth has changed it from an indie pipe dream to a possible reality.) Besides, the nice thing about video games is we get to sit in our comfy chair and have adventures that are completely comfortable without any of the unpleasant realities of the real world. FPSs are great, but obviously no one wants to fully experience having a knife shoved in your face.


    << LINK REMOVED >> so you never wanted to fly a jet over the grand canyon or see the earth from space? because you'll be able to do that in 5 years max


    excited but only a slight game changer. plus i wear glasses , so this is going to suck


    For some reason I am very entertained by the dog with the goggles.


    << LINK REMOVED >> Reminds me of stupid Call Of Duty Ghosts


    Pretty excited to try it.


    Phones have already filled that role, plus you don't look ridiculous when you're using them, at least not that much.


    I've got a two word answer to the question: "Haha NO."


    Thank picture cracks me up. They even put a VR set on the dog.


    Video game players are already generally a solitary, anti-social bunch. How will this do anymore harm? just more stories about a fad trying to be revolutionary and how this will change gaming. lol


    Search >> The Forest trailer 2, on youtube, thats the kind VR games im looking forward to.

    Can`t wait to play games like that in VR with (force feedback) motion controllers, it`s gonna be amazing.

    That`s the future of gaming right there.


    The only way VR is going to replace human interaction is if you are a weeaboo or socially inept. For those people VR will be a dream come true. For everyone else it will just be a fad like 3D TV's.


    It'll never replace it, it'll just add to it, another option like kinect etc.


    I think the headline raises an interesting point. Will VR replace human interaction? Well, I don't know about you, but I'm sure as hell gonna find out. I love the idea of being completely SUCKED into my games. Imagine playing something like Battlefield or World of Warcraft with these awesome looking goggles and just seeing everything in the world respond to your actions. Right in front of your eyes. That is a truly amazing thought.

    As a hardcore gamer I'm especially a fan of awesome RPG games that enable me to create relationships with my crew and/or followers. Those are the stories I remember. Just talking to your awesome digital friends after each mission, picking every single dialogue option because you just NEED all that incredible lore. I love it! It's like crack!

    But imagine that with a VR headset. That sexy green alien won't just be this thing you think about in the final seconds before falling asleep, alone, in your double bed every Sunday night. She'll be right there in front of you!

    Me and my gamer friends are so looking forward to this invention. It will be EPIC WIN as we always say.


    Only if it was matrix-perfect, would virtual reality replace human interaction.


    As far as i'm concerned VR could be fun, but at what price ? I know personnaly I wouldn't pay more than 200$ for oculus as of today.


    << LINK REMOVED >> That much? I wouldn't more than $20 for it but that's just me.


    I think the problem here is that most people act like it has to be either one or other.

    I simply see a future where we still have external displays for general casual use; watching or listening to a TV show in the background while cooking dinner or playing a quick game of Wii Bowling with your sister or whatever, but at the same time I can totally imagine having a VR headset sitting on my table for those times when I want to fully immerse myself in a cinematic viewing of the latest blockbuster movie as though I was actually sitting in a real cinema with a massive screen in front of me (without having to actually go there), or when I want to play a totally immersive fps or horror game or whatever.

    I think there's room for both to peacefully coexist.


    I doubt it, but I wouldn't be surprised either...


    I don't see VR being anything more than an optional peripheral for supported games only. It certainly won't be an overnight success.


    i stay with my xbox one,ps4,ps3,wii u and 3ds


    Texting on smartphones has damn near replaced human interaction. I have walked into restaurants and seen tables of 12 people sitting together, all texting silently.


    << LINK REMOVED >> thats sad