About two years ago we all started hearing about this thing the Oculus Rift. It was really the greatest looking virtual reality experience since sliced bread, or at least there was the promise that it was going to be. The VR headset invented primarily by Palmer Lucky had a Kickstarter that went bonkers because the thing looked so great. Over the last couple years gamers had been looking and anticipating and salivating and creaming their pants over the Rift until today, when it was announced that Facebook was buying Oculus VR for $2 billion. It’s a lot of money for sure, and even somewhat understandable, but god what a let down.
I really don’t feel like getting into all of the specifics of the deal, the PR friendly response that Lucky gave, or the nauseating statement addressing openness and potential for communication from the mouth of Mark Zuckerberg. I’m not going to talk about how a group of what seemed to be white knights fell so damn far, or how this will likely change the course of VR in a huge way. I won’t mention (except for now) the torrents of devastated- previously loyal supporters who feel betrayed and sold out. I swear I won’t speak on the thousands of people who donated their hard earned money to a crowd-funding campaign promising one thing, only to learn that their support, hopes, and trust are not remotely close in value to $2 billion. And I’m definitely not going to talk about my crushing disappointment in realizing something I was so looking forward to just isn’t going to happen, or at least not in the way that it was promised.
I just want to address what is most frightening to me. Following the Crystal Cove demo, we all learned that head tracking is something that Oculus needed. It kept the users from feeling motion sickness while jacked into the Rift, and frankly, it was genius. The next logical step is to employ the use of eye tracking, who knows how far that technology could take virtual reality. So let’s follow where this is going…
We all know Facebook is in the business of metadata. More simplified, Facebook makes money off knowing shit about you. They know stuff about you based on your pictures, your status posts, your wall posts, etc. And then they sell that information to advertisers who then market to you, because fuck man, they know exactly what you are interested in. It’s hard for me to even imagine what else Facebook does with our information, or what they will do with it in the future.
But imagine if Facebook could tell what you are looking at, not just the content that is on your screen, but legitimately what your eyeballs are focused on. The conscious and unconscious level of information that one can learn about someone just by following their eyes is enormous. And Facebook will (in all likelihood) have that capability in the not to distant future?
I’m sitting here trying to think of what to say next, and I really just don’t know. I honestly cannot think of many things more terrifying that a corporation having access to my mind. I know that sounds very tinfoil-hat if me, but is it really so far out of the realm of possibility now?
I’m sorry this has to be my first real post coming back to TFC. I hope in the future we’ll have some better things to discuss, maybe even something about VR. Here’s looking at you Valve.
Thanks for coming back to The TechfastClub guys, and to any new readers, welcome.
Edit: It occurred to me that this post may sound very reactionary, and to be blunt, it is. These are my concerns, and I very much hope I am wrong about all of it. I hope that the Rift moves forward uninterrupted. I hope that it is cheaper and better than it would have been without the Facebook acquisition as Palmer Lucky is saying. And I hope that Facebook won’t track anything in association with VR and the Rift. I want to be wrong and I very well may be.