Virtual reality is amazing, though, and what if it was scarier? Facebook has just shown its new “reverse VR” technology, and it sure is one thing.
Facebook has introduced a new development of reverse virtual reality, which basically turns a virtual reality headset into the most creepy pair of glasses in history. Since buying Oculus in March 2014, Facebook has quickly become the most dominant player in the consumer virtual reality space. Oculus Quest 2 has sold more units than all previous Oculus headsets combined, Oculus Studios regularly develops star games and applications for the platform and Facebook’s presence is seen everywhere throughout the experience, until the need for a Facebook account to use an Oculus.
As much as virtual reality has matured in recent years, it remains a very isolating experience. Someone puts on their headphones, is immersed in an awesome virtual world, but is completely out of the real environment around them. Oculus headphones have a Passthrough feature that allows users to see their surroundings using the built-in cameras, but they still look like someone with a box tied to their face to the rest.
That’s why Facebook invests in “reverse step RVs”. In a post posted on its Facebook Research blog, the company highlights a concept of VR headsets that shows the user’s eyes through the lenses on the front. In the device concept seen above, Facebook uses 3D display technology (ia a lot of cables) to create facial and eye representations of the person wearing the headphones. It’s not a complete product at this stage of development, but the idea is to continue working on the technology for potential use in future releases, whether it’s a new Oculus Quest down the road or a pair of AR glasses.
The reverse RV is equally orderly and terrifying
On the one hand, the idea of reverse virtual reality is quite exciting. One of the biggest barriers to virtual reality is the uncomfortable social element. By bringing a little humanity to the design, this could lead to more people getting on board. One of Facebook’s initial tests of 2019 saw the company give a 2D display to the exterior of an Oculus Rift S, and the result was considerably less convincing than the more recent concept. If Facebook was able to advance so substantially in just a couple of years, it’s exciting to think about where this technology might be two years from now.
That said, it’s hard to look at the images in this article and not let it slip away. Seeing someone with virtual reality headsets is a fairly common thing these days, but taking a virtual look in front of them makes it a weird nightmare in the valley. That to order looking human-like, but it’s off enough to create a rather haunting image.
Facebook will have to make technology more real and perfect as time goes on, but it also raises an important question: is any of this worth it? It’s an awesome technology, of course, but it also seems like a solution to a problem that didn’t really exist. VR headsets are designed for individual use. RA glasses / headphones often hide someone’s face less than a virtual reality. Reverse RV probably won’t be necessary, but it looks like Facebook intends to make it a reality. As the great Dr. Ian Malcom once said, “Your scientists were so worried about whether they could or not, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
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