Google / Oculus
With the release this year of Google’s augmented-reality device, Glass, and Facebook’s recent acquisition of virtual-reality technology company Oculus VR, we’re now officially entering the Viewfinder Age.
Superficially, Glass and Oculus appear to be cut from the same cloth. Glass ($1,500; glass.google.com) is a wearable computer that rests on your ears, with a small optical display in the right corner of your field of vision. The Oculus Rift (price undetermined; oculusvr.com), expected to go on sale before 2016, is also worn on your head, with an LED display across your eyes that is fed any manner of virtual experiences. Both change the way we see. Glass will help you find a new restaurant; Oculus will manufacture the restaurant from digital bricks.
But ultimately these devices have entirely different purposes, naturally driven by the commercial interests of their makers. By giving you an incentive to explore the physical world in a new way, Google wants to deliver users new information in the real world, what cyberpunk novels call “meatspace.” It sits neatly with the company’s other real-life projects, like planning to launch its own satellites and purchasing robotics manufacturers. Facebook, on the other hand, presumably wants to collect information by creating its own virtual world for you to explore. Facebook doesn’t care if you ever leave the home it has constructed.
Think about it this way: Google wants the world through your eyes and Facebook wants you through its world’s eyes. It’s all about where you place the lens.