Palmer Luckey was at PAX East in Boston this weekend. He looked just like all the other 21-year-old college dropouts wandering the halls – except they were all ogling him, and he was the only one loudly predicting the death of traditional TVs in the next couple of decades.
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Genius loves an audience – and MaximumPC only needed to turn on a camera phone before Luckey launched into his vision for VR’s future in the living room.
“Traditional displays are very expensive to manufacture and ship,” he explained. “Not because the technology is high-tech – it’s all commoditised. A large TV is expensive because it’s literally just a lot of plastic and a lot of glass in a big box that has to be shipped across the world, [to] sit on a store shelf until someone buys it.”
Once VR is commoditised in the same way, said Luckey, it’ll require a fraction of the materials – a tiny display, a small amount of plastic, and minimal packaging. It’ll take at least 10 years, but he believes that VR will eventually replace the TV as a consequence.
“I think there’s almost no way that traditional displays will be around in a couple of decades, because it just won’t be feasible,” he said.
“Why in the world would you buy a 60-inch TV that, even if it were dirt cheap for that, it’s still going to cost a lot to ship it and make it from raw materials.
“A VR headset is going to be much better and much cheaper and you can take it anywhere,” he concluded. “Eventually, VR is going to be good enough – someday, as good or as close to real life. If you want to simulate sitting in a room watching a TV, you’ll be able to do that.”
It’s worth noting that Luckey was talking not to Oculus investors, but fellow giddy hardware nerds fascinated by VR’s far off, science-fiction future. That’s why he didn’t mention the immediate problems in the Rift’s future – material shortages, a missing infrastructure, and the ever-present worry of nausea.
But it’s probably less silly a prospect than it seems – Facebook are banking on the Oculus Rift as a platform for “studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face”, after all. Is that the VR future you’re looking forward to?