KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Even though the Oculus Rift is only being launched today, it's already being compared to other major tech releases over the past few decades - Apple II, Netscape, even Google. And so I asked Palmer Luckey, the inventor of the Oculus Rift and founder of Oculus VR, whether his product is worthy of such comparisons.
PALMER LUCKEY: I'm a very biased person. So...
LUCKEY: But my honest opinion is that it's actually bigger than any of those things. And that's primarily because virtual reality is potentially the final major computing platform. Those other things were very important. But they were always clearly transitional steps to whatever the next big thing is going to be. With virtual reality - if you have perfect virtual reality eventually, where you're able to simulate everything that a human can experience or imagine experiencing, it's hard to imagine where you from there. Once you have perfect virtual reality, what else are you suppose to perfect?
MCEVERS: There's a book that's - I've read - has almost become required reading at Oculus. It's called "Ready Player One." It's this utopia where everyone basically lives in virtual reality. I mean, the real world is no good anymore. In a way, the book's a celebration of virtual reality. But then later, it's also a warning about the dangers of it. Is that why you think people should read it?
LUCKEY: No, not really. I mean, people ask me about science fiction depictions of virtual reality all the time. And generally, virtual reality is depicted as this kind of dystopian technology. I don't think that's because the authors are necessarily predicting what will actually happen. It's because that's what allows them to tell a good story. A good story needs conflict. And virtual reality is a great hypothetical way to create conflict. I don't think that VR is going to lead to humanity being enslaved in the matrix or letting the world crumble around us. I think it's going to end up being a great technology that brings people closer together, that allows for better communication, that reduces a lot of environmental waste that we're currently doing in the real world. And it's - it's probably not going to be nearly as interesting as depicted in science fiction, as far as the bad things go.
MCEVERS: How many hours a day would you say you spend in virtual reality?
LUCKEY: Depends on the day. Sometimes it's all day but usually no more than a few hours.
MCEVERS: OK. And what's an all-day day like? I mean, what makes you decide to do that - because you're working or because you're experiencing?
LUCKEY: Yeah. Well, the only days that I have time to do that are ones where there is a work reason for me to be in VR all day - so if we're testing games, getting ready for a launch, going through quality assurance on our - all of our systems.
MCEVERS: When you do spend all day in virtual reality, like, what's it like when you're not doing it? You know, is there kind of a - you know, like, shaking your head? Coming back is there an adjustment period?
LUCKEY: I mean, it kind of depends...
LUCKEY: ...On what you're doing.
LUCKEY: The mismatch is not necessarily from the virtual reality hardware itself. It's from the disparity in experience. You know, if you are...
LUCKEY: If you are having a very high adrenaline, high-movement experience in virtual reality and then all of a sudden you're back in your office, that disconnect is - pretty notable. **** Whereas, if you're just using it for virtual-reality, you know, teleconferencing or you're just modeling something, there's really no kind of impact moving back and forth between the real and the virtual world.
LUCKEY: It's a bit like that shock when you're in a movie theatre and you're just watching the movie and you're in the dark. And then you walk outside, and it takes you a few minutes to really...
LUCKEY: ...Reconnect with reality.
MCEVERS: It's like a culture shock, yeah. You know, you talked about how science-fiction writers like to write about how things like virtual reality are bad. And you say that's not necessarily true. It's probably something that will make our lives better. What about things like friendship, love? Is that going to change?
LUCKEY: It's probably going to be changed. But it's going to be difficult to predict how it will change. Like, if you look at existing communication technology changes over the last 10 or 20 years, obviously they've changed the dynamics of human relationships. But I don't think anyone could have predicted how that would happen, you know, when the Internet first came out or when telephones were first invented. It really had to get out into the wild, where people could see it and start using it, before people could make any kind of valid predictions about the impact.
MCEVERS: That's Palmer Luckey. He's the inventor and founder of Oculus VR. Thank you so much.
LUCKEY: Thank you very much.
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