When Time magazine profiled Palmer Luckey, the inventor of the virtual reality device Oculus Rift, it set out to describe a technology that could "revolutionize the way we live, play, and learn." They sought to distinguish Luckey as a nerd who is "not like other Silicon Valley nerds." But the cover, which shows Luckey standing in the pose of a stunned praying mantis wearing one of his virtual reality devices Photoshopped onto a bright beach, has inspired parodies that suggest that virtual reality is the worst thing it could be: uncool.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has called virtual reality "the next big thing after video." Facebook purchased Oculus last year as part of its plans to bring immersive 3D experiences to more than just video games. "Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game," he wrote, "studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face -- just by putting on goggles in your home."
The question is whether VR will catch on with the broader public. One of the reasons Google Glass failed, some surmise, is that people simply don't like to wear their technology. It's too conspicuous, too put-on, too...well, dorky. Some are already saying that Palmer Luckey's PR fail on the cover of Time is what the "shower" moment was for Google Glass, where the device suddenly became "a toy...a joke." The moment the cover was posted online, the Internet's Photoshop geniuses went to work:
On the one hand, the cover got people talking about virtual reality. On the other, it's difficult to picture Oculus bouncing back from this. The public has spoken. Virtual reality is kind of ridiculous.