Virtual reality takes us to faraway places without ever having to go anywhere, but what does that mean for real-world interactions? Is it worth losing physical connection with people, even when it may be inconvenient?
According to Palmer Luckey, the wunderkind who invented Oculus Rift, there's nothing wrong with that little black headset becoming the conduit through which humans connect.
"I grew up using the internet and social media and I think VR is going to be in the same position," he says in an interview with The Telegraph. "But if it cuts down on real-life interactions, that's not necessarily a bad thing."
If that gives you pause, Luckey has a fairly reasonable explanation. Like Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, which bought Oculus for $2 billion in 2014, Luckey sees VR's applications extending beyond gaming, bringing people in different settings together without having to be in the same place.
"If they say it's anti-social I absolutely disagree," Luckey says. "If I want to talk to our office in Japan, or China or London, I can fly there and burn hundreds of dollars of jet fuel, or I can do it in virtual reality."
Overcoming physical barriers to connect people, no matter where they are, is a virtue of VR Luckey has touted before.
He told us earlier this year: "You'll see people using [VR] for business, basically replacing business travel, being able to put people from all over the world in the same room without burning jet fuel, without sticking them in different time zones. That's going to be a big deal."
So for anyone worried VR will suck us into a digital vortex that cuts us off from the people around us - just as our smartphone screens have arguably done - Luckey seems confident virtual reality will actually bring us closer together.
VR hasn't penetrated the mainstream yet, so whether that happens remains to be seen. But Facebook and Oculus are in it for the long haul, and neither has gone too far off course yet.
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