Mark Zuckerberg has been innovating new spaces for the virtual world since his first few weeks at Harvard University, so it’s hardly surprising that he is the brains behind this new journey with Oculus; derived for the Latin word meaning ‘eye’, Oculus is a technology that specialises in virtual reality and was bought by Facebook for 2 billion dollars in 2014. Zuckerberg, a philanthropist true to his word, wants to make the product as accessible as possible, with his core aim to enable the public to “experience the impossible”.
What is a surprise, however, is just how potent this new virtual reality is.
So how does it work? – The user pops on the futuristic looking headset, and they’re ready to go. Initially with the sole purpose of developing virtual gaming, Zuckerberg is trying to steer the future of the product towards becoming a more social technology, with augmented reality the next aim of the product. This movement was exemplified by Zuckerberg in a recent talk he gave on the software; he was able to impose his wife from FaceTime, directly into his living room. He could see his living room, but with an external, virtual, yet living element, imposed onto his vision of reality. There is also a Touch handset, allowing users to virtually control items with their hands, in this example a virtual selfie stick, in other more game orientated examples, war weaponry.
With Zuckerberg already suggesting people will be able to enjoy “a court side seat of a game” or have a consultation with a doctor face to face yet be thousands of miles away, this is clearly only the beginning of what has the potential to be a world-changing venture, and we can only imagine what the future holds for this space.
What is so exciting is this idea of experiencing the untouchable. Does this space, in ontological terms, exist? Well, if its impacts have anything to do with it then it certainly does. It is literally creating a new dimension for human experience. As mentioned, the technology is no longer limited to gamers; users can make a Skype call from any part of the world, and with the Oculus goggles, experience the call as if they are all standing/sitting on Mars. Every individual can connect to experience this same space. One can even move around, create facial expressions and hold eye-contact. Through these, perhaps not completely identical, avatars of yourself, users can experience an entirely different reality to the one they are physically in, with the opportunities described as endless.
The entrepreneur and technological prodigy proclaimed he wanted to “unlock new worlds for all of us”, and aims for the software to be used by “billions of people”. A clear liberalist ambition for the software, moving it away from its currently capitalist foundations, Oculus will be a product that aims to be fully integrative in as many areas of society, with a $10 million fund already accumulated for education alone. Of course, it is a wonderful idea to think that anyone, anywhere can experience anything, but the pragmatics aren’t so welcoming of such huge dreams. How will the project be funded to truly access the inaccessible; how will such an expensive project be truly liberal in who it reaches, when already basic technology is limited?
Albeit a difficult and long road until Zuckerberg can even begin to achieve these huge ambitions, it would be wrong to criticise him before he truly begins. For as he concluded quite well, “Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones.”