The Oculus Headset Is Much Heavier Now
“Palmer Luckey’s Trump Fund Has Been a Kick in the Teeth for VR” reads the September 23 headline in The Verge. Indeed, the credibility of the emerging virtual reality industry has suffered a significant blow as a result of the Daily Beast investigative report finding that the inventor of the much-hyped Oculus headset has been secretly funding a hate group called Nimble America. This group has provided financing for so-called “shitposting,” as well as a variety of Internet memes that mocked Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
For better or (at this point) for worse, no single person’s name is more aligned with this next-big-thing technology than Luckey. His massively funded Kickstarter campaign re-energized hope in VR after its last unsuccessful run in the 1990s. Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of Oculus in 2014 gave this concept even more legitimacy — as well as lots of cash for this fortunate / not-so-fortunate founder. When the mainstream press started paying more and more attention to VR, it was Luckey’s photo which graced the cover of Time.
The longterm path to redemption for Mr. Oculus is clear. Large doses of humble contrition will help people forget about this Nimble America indiscretion. As will large donations to the appropriate non-profits of his choice. From Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, there’s a clear model for this kind of reputation rehabilitation within the tech industry. But this process of forging and forgetting will take time.
Which opens more of a window for other next-generation technologies to get a strong headstart on VR. At about the same time of the Daily Beast report, Snapchat was announcing a name change — plus their new camcorder sunglasses. Can these $130 Spectacles sunglasses succeed where Google Glass failed? Possibly. Will they be less burdensome to wear than current VR headsets? Absolutely. Moreover, the new Snap product doesn’t carry the baggage now associated with the Oculus device, which will feel much much heavier after this week’s news.