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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Facebook bids on virtual reality

Kevin Crittenden

Facebook has arranged to purchase the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality apparatus that is not yet available to consumers. The three billion dollar deal is a bold bid on a technology that could give people even less reason to socialize in person.

While most people associate virtual reality with gaming, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his ilk foresee a variety of applications for the Rift.

In a post to his timeline, the Zucks waxed poetic about the thrill of this new vision-based platform.

Zuckerberg said, “Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”

Although my mind may be a few imaginative leaps behind the Zuckster, I have some doubt about the benefit of virtual reality to social media.

Call me old fashioned but I like to look people in the eye — not the avatar — when I’m dealing with health problems. Virtual reality is for gaming.

This deal could be a huge loss for the future of gaming as the company will now “operate independently” with Facebook breathing down its neck. It also bodes ugly for the social health of America.

Facebook’s acquisition of the Rift marks a creepy shift towards a world filled with people who mistake digital life for the actual thing.

There’s nothing wrong with building relationships through the internet. But for social movements and societal change real world bodies are needed.

The danger this technology represents resides in its power to replace the experiences it’s attempting to replicate.

Zuckerberg’s post reads, “By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life.”

But do we really need a set of high-tech goggles to feel present?

Meaningful social contact is a matter of actually being present in the world, wherever life is unfolding.

If people buy into using virtual reality to satisfy their social needs, they will be even further disconnected from their immediate environment.

I would like to see the Rift used as an educational tool. But in a culture bent towards entertainment and vapid distraction, time will tell how it’s taken up.

One thing is for sure: strong communities start with real world connections.

Kevin Crittenden can be reached at
[email protected] or @kevlodius on Twitter.

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