The Oculus Quest launched on May 21, 2019. Nine days later I was at Augmented World Expo doing interviews and preparing a main stage talk about The Ethical & Moral Dilemmas of Mixed Reality.
I ran into Enter VR Podcast host Cris Miranda, who was extremely excited about his experience of the Quest and the potential for stand alone VR. My reaction was tempered by my concerns around privacy and Facebook’s future plans for how biometric data was going to be integrated into their business model of surveillance capitalism. I recorded a conversation and dialectic with Miranda exploring a complicated set of tradeoffs between the amazing benefits and concerning risks of Facebook’s VR products and underlying business strategy.
Flash forward to yesterday when Facebook made the controversial announcement that all future Oculus VR users & headsets would be required to use a Facebook account, Oculus accounts will be phased out by January 2023, and Facebook Technologies (formerly Oculus VR, LLC) is being completely folded into Facebook, Inc. There has been a lot of deep concerns around what
this means in terms of how much of our activities in VR are going to be tracked and surveilled.
Miranda explained to me last year how he saw the stand-alone form factor of the Quest as an absolute game changer as it’s the best of class from any other VR stand-alone headsets on the market. The Quest really does have the potential to catalyze wider and broader adoption within the larger XR industry, and it feels like it’s a mature enough and affordable platform for him to be able to unabashedly evangelize to his friends and family.
My hesitations around the future of the Quest stem largely on whether or not these affordable prices are being subsidized on a longer-range plan to feed everything thing we ever say, do, or look at in VR into a giant surveillance capitalism machine. While I share much of the same enthusiasm for the potential of the Quest and stand-alone VR generally, the lack of transparency and accountability of what will be recorded and how it will be used gives me more pause.
Miranda and I debate these tradeoffs and discuss some of the larger concerns that I have around Facebook’s future plans, which seemed to erupt yesterday as a part of the overall skepticism, lack of trust, and backlash that Facebook faced yesterday with their announcement to consolidate the Oculus accounts into Facebook accounts and how “Facebook will manage all decisions around use, processing, retention and sharing of your data.”
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST
Here’s a thread tracking the reactions to Facebook’s announcement yesterday:
— Kent Bye VoicesOfVR (@kentbye) August 19, 2020
This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.
Facebook is going to start requiring a Facebook account in order to use their VR headsets. They're sunsetting separate Oculus accounts in 2023, & new users will have to use their Facebook account starting in October 2020.
— Kent Bye VoicesOfVR (@kentbye) August 18, 2020