Palmer Luckey, the inventor of the Oculus Rift, took to the Web Summit stage on Tuesday to talk all things virtual reality and made a pretty bold claim: that virtual reality devices will become more popular than smartphones.
Sporting a look that can only be described as 'Honolulu casual', Luckey told the Dublin audience, "I believe VR is going to be more ubiquitous than the smartphone.
"Eventually, augmented reality and virtual reality technologies are going to converge and combine into the same sets of hardware," he explained. "If they end up in hardware that we wear all the time, or at least carry around with us, there's no reason to expect that it can't supplant everything we already do with smartphones, plus add a load of other applications.
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Luckey did admit, though, that his claim had an element of bias to it and stated he was talking long-term. "This is someday," he said. "Maybe not even in the next 10 years. Smartphones have a long run left.
"However, I'd be very surprised if, 50 years from now, we're all still carrying around little slabs in our pocket when instead we can just project virtual information into our environment, however and whenever we want.
When questioned on the future of virtual reality – about the technological advances needed to take it to the next step and the use case scenarios that would lead to mainstream adoption – Luckey claimed than an open-mind to VR is required.
"It's almost certainly going to be mainstream at some point," he stated. "It's a matter of time, quality and cost. There's a misconception over the last few years that virtual reality is a gaming platform
"Anything that can be done in the real world can be done a lot more safely and a lot more cost effectively in virtual reality," he added – specifically referring to medical and first response uses.
"Classrooms are broken," he claimed. "Kids don't learn best by reading books. There's clearly value in real world experiences and actually going to do things. Like being able to visit historical locations that don't even exist anymore
"Virtual reality has the potential to help people learn in much more real ways – to see things and understand things in a way you would never get from watching a video or reading a book.
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When quizzed on concerns about Facebook's takeover of Oculus – of which there's been a lot of negative reaction – and his relationship with Mark Zuckerberg, Luckey was keen to stress it's happy families and he's not just another Facebook employee.
"Mark's not necessarily, directly, serving as my boss in the traditional way that most people would think about it," he said.
"We had a very similar vision on the future of virtual reality. They weren't coming in to impose their will on us. It wasn't about an acquisition at all, it was about ways we could work on virtual reality and it became increasingly clear that they wanted to do a lot of the things we wanted to do. We're both on the same page."
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Luckey concluded with a statement that, in the near future, the virtual and the real world would combine in a life-changing way.
"Virtual worlds will increase in significance and importance, especially as augmented and virtual realities combine and converge," he explained.
"Digital worlds and physical worlds will co-exist and are able to share things back and forth between them. I think it's going to change the way we look at what's real and what isn't."
Do you agree with the Oculus boss? Are we on the verge of a mainstream VR revolution? Let us know using the comments box below.
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