While their first consumer “Rift” virtual reality (VR) headsets are now shipping, at the recent San Jose Comic Con, there were hints the company has plans beyond VR. Oculus (owned by Facebook) founder and CEO Palmer Luckey hinted that the company will eventually include augmented reality (AR). Mr. Luckey was on a panel that included Silicon Valley icon Steve Wozniak and was hosted by Re/Code founder and executive editor Kara Swisher. During the hour-long session that also included audience questions, Ms. Swisher dug into the opportunities and problems of virtual reality and augmented reality. Mr. Wozniak’s role was mostly as a tech enthusiast and cheer leader and he was very enthusiastic for virtual and augmented reality.


Ms. Swisher was more skeptical of virtual-reality because she is concerned with the already bad habit of people burying their heads into their smartphone. She thought that VR takes technology self-absorption to another “quantum level of involvement in their devices.” Mr. Luckey countered that people eventually will be wearing devices that will mix overlays and virtual worlds and will allow wearers to seamlessly switch between the two using with the same basic hardware. Ms. Swisher talked enthusiastically about Google GOOGL -0.95% glass as an augmented reality experiment that had potential, but didn’t go well. And Mr. Wozniak agreed it was exciting that we can get the sensors that could provide real-time information while walking around. He specifically would love to have the option of having the camera on Google Glass recognize people and provide him with information of whom the people are, their background, when he met them last, etc., because he suffers from an inability to recognize people’s faces, a condition called Prosopagnosia (also called face blindness). A real-time face recognition AR device would be helpful for Mr. Wozniak and others with the same condition. Mr. Luckey, on the other hand, dismissively called Google Glass merely a heads-up display and not an augmented reality display. This is a classification that Tirias Research agrees with – see our Forbes article.

Games Will Drive VR – For Now

Mr. Luckey believes that it’s the game industry that is on the leading edge of driving the creation of virtual-reality content even if the content isn’t exactly a game-because game engines are adept at creating real time, stereoscopic environments needed for virtual-reality. The content creators are still in the very experimental stage at this point in time and building VR content is non-trivial, as was explored at SXSW AR/VR track. By focusing largely on games initially, VR is going after the existing customer base of high-performance PC gamers who already have the necessary hardware for the Oculus Rift. There will also be some people who will buy new PCs just for VR experience, but that will be a much smaller group. While VR can be used for many different applications beyond gaming including health training, travel, etc., Mr. Luckey was most excited about virtual tele-presence, where “you could have people coexisting in virtual space.” Advanced tele-presence would eliminate the need for travel and could potentially even replace conferences such as Comic Con. Mr. Wozniak was excitement about VR for use in education where students can experience different parts of the world without the expense of traveling.

Mr. Luckey was, of course, the number one cheer leader for VR on stage, but while he did not disagree with Wozniak’s enthusiasm for AR, he did say that AR (and by extension mixed reality) is a more difficult problem to solve. In the short term, most of the hardware and content development will be focus on VR, not AR. A position TIRIAS Research believes is true.

As written in Forbes.com by Kevin Krewell – April 1, 2016