You’ve probably seen the picture: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walking down the aisle with a huge satisfied smile on his face as a sea of seated people wearing Samsung Gear VRheadsets are completely unaware of his appearance.
Many felt the photo was disturbingly Orwellian and a dark sign of what’s to come if we let virtual reality become mainstream and isolate us from reality with addictive experiences that we won’t be able to resist.
In a new interview with the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag Zuckerberg denied “enjoying” the fact that he was seemingly commanding this so-called “VR army” and went on to set the facts straight.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Zuckerberg told Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Axel Springer, parent company of the paper. “The exact opposite is the case. What was going inside the headsets was a video of children playing soccer in some faraway place. You could look around and you could see the kids playing soccer around you and it was a shared experience with everyone in that place that would have been impossible [to] experience otherwise.”
humans are fundamentally social
humans are fundamentally social.”
“You could probably go all the way back to the first books,” Zuckerberg added. “I bet people said ‘why should you read when you could talk to other people?’ The point of reading is that you get to deeply immerse yourself in a person’s perspective. Right? Same thing with newspapers or phones or TVs. Soon it will be VR, I bet.”
Virtual reality headsets like the company’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive are launching this year, but it could be many years before they are socially accepted and become as common as smartphones. Zuckerberg said he doesn’t know how long it’ll take to build out VR’s ecosystem but is guessing it’ll take at least 10 years, the same amount of time it took for BlackBerry to reach a billion smartphone units.
The Facebook CEO also took a minute to address his thoughts on free-floating holograms, like the ones from Star Wars. He thinks we’ll “eventually get there” but there are some serious challenges that need to be solved before we will get there, including but not limited to the optical science, scaling and cost of creating and deploying holograms.
“The vision eventually is to have normal-looking glasses that can either give you a fully immersive experience or that can just display information as you are walking around your day,”
“The vision eventually is to have normal-looking glasses that can either give you a fully immersive experience or that can just display information as you are walking around your day,”Zuckerberg said. Sounds like Google Glass, if you ask us. “Yes, there are people who are making progress on a number of questions but I still think there are some fundamental issues of optical science that need to get resolved.”
And, of course, Zuckerberg also touched upon artificial intelligence and how he’s also not concerned about them going all Terminator on us.
“I think that the default is that all the machines that we build serve humans so unless we really mess something up I think it should stay that way,” Zuckerberg said. “Just because you can build a machine that is better than a person at something doesn’t mean that it is going to have the ability to learn new domains or connect different types of information or context to do superhuman things. This is critically important to appreciate.”
The lengthy Zuckeberg interview is worth a read if you’ve got the time. There’s a whole lot more on Zuckerberg’s thoughts on VR and artificial intelligence.