In Mark Zuckerberg’s future, we’ll all hang out in virtual space. The Facebook CEO predicts that in ten years time, virtual reality will be the mainstream, providing an unprecedented level of social networking immersion.
“Virtual reality and augmented reality are going to be the most social platforms that ever existed,” he said.
Zuckerberg talked about the VR future-reality during a town hall Q&A in Rome on Monday answering questions from both the audience and pre-recorded submitted video messages.
Eyebrows were raised when Zuckerberg bought VR startup Oculus in 2014, with Minecraft creator Markus Persson canceling a Rift version when the news broke (though a Rift version did eventually launch this month). Zuckerberg’s description of an evolution in social media goes some way towards explaining why Facebook wanted Oculus, and how the site may look to build VR support later.
The session was part of a wider trip around Italy, where Zuckerberg gave the pope a model drone, met prime minister Matteo Renzi and attended the wedding of Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. Zuckerberg said that he misses his daughter, Maxine, who is currently at home in California. “To feel like I was right there with her would be a really powerful social experience,” he said.
The issue with current social networks is it’s all about looking at 2D images and rebuilding the scene. “You’re trying to pretend, you’re seeing the photo, you’re trying to imagine what it’s like to be there,” Zuckerberg said. That could be why Obama loves VR too — it’s hard to make every family event when you’re the leader of the free world.
Virtual reality is different as it removes that abstraction layer and directly mimics how your imagination would try to craft the scene. “You feel like you’re really there, like you’re present,” he said.
Later in the session, Zuckerberg responded to criticism that Facebook was destroying more traditional forms of interaction, something likely to only get worse with VR. “It’s for making it so you can communicate with people who you otherwise wouldn’t have the time to connect with,” he said. “Nothing replaces face-to-face interaction.”