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MIT Technology Review

Oculus Founder Says He’s Focused on Time, Money Spent on VR Content

With its first consumer headset, Oculus’s Palmer Luckey will be watching how much people use it and how much they spend on content for it.

February 10, 2016

To gauge the success of virtual reality over the next year, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey will keep an eye not just on how much money people spend on the technology, but also on how much time they spend using it.

“If a year from now we can have the people who buy into VR using their headsets every day, every week, coming back to it regularly, that’s what makes VR a huge success,” Luckey said Wednesday at the Unity Summit virtual reality conference in Los Angeles.

Oculus, which is owned by Facebook, is one of several companies hoping to soon bring virtual reality to the mainstream by releasing headsets to consumers. The company is set to start shipping its first consumer virtual-reality headset, Rift, in late March; the device will cost $599, though it will also require a powerful PC to run it (those start at around $1,000, if purchased separately).

Palmer Luckey

Luckey, who wore a pale blue Hawaiian shirt and black pants, also spoke about the kinds of interactions he thinks will be made for virtual reality. The medium is often imagined as a way to make games and other kinds of experiences feel much more immersive than they do on a flat screen, but at first it will be mostly reliant on hand-held controllers familiar to those who’ve played console video games. He said that while many people are still thinking about replicating reality in virtual reality, we’ll eventually see developers move beyond “the human interfaces of today” to come up with new “super human interactions.” He mentioned pinching and zooming on a smartphone as one such interaction that emerged on mobile devices and wasn’t possible in physical reality.

Though Luckey is now widely considered to be a leader in the nascent virtual-reality market, he noted that when he finally got up the courage to show some people one of his early Oculus prototypes a number of years ago, they weren’t impressed: “They said, ‘Palmer, this is shit.’”