TIME Virtual Reality

Mark Zuckerberg Explains That Creepy Virtual Reality Photo

People said it looked like a dystopian sci-fi future

In an interview with German media executive Mathias Döpfner, Mark Zuckerberg explained a photo showing the Facebook CEO walking unnoticed among a swarm of technology reporters using virtual reality (VR) at a conference.

Some observers said the photo was creepy, like a glimpse into a dystopian future where people are cut off from the real world, opting instead to spend their time in VR.

But Zuckerberg says the photo doesn’t tell the whole story. Here are his comments, via Business Insider:

Döpfner: A couple of days ago there was a striking picture of you in Barcelona: You were walking on a stage and no one recognized you because they were all wearing these VR glasses. You were smiling and seemed to enjoy it. Critics are now saying that this example shows that the virtual reality experience is isolating because it is no longer a collective experience. How do you react to these concerns?

Zuckerberg: Nothing could be further from the truth. The exact opposite is the case. What was going inside the headsets was a video of children playing soccer in some faraway place. You could look around and you could see the kids playing soccer around you and it was a shared experience with everyone in that place that would have been impossible experience otherwise. It would have kind of been like going to a movie but a much more personal thing where you are all actually in it.

I think people tend to be worried about every new technology that comes along. Critics worry that if we spend time paying attention to that new kind of media or technology instead of talking to each other that that is somehow isolating. But humans are fundamentally social. So I think in reality, if a technology doesn’t actually help us socially understand each other better, it isn’t going to catch on and succeed.

You could probably go all the way back to the first books. I bet people said ‘why should you read when you could talk to other people?’ The point of reading is that you get to deeply immerse yourself in a person’s perspective. Right? Same thing with newspapers or phones or TVs. Soon it will be VR, I bet.

Facebook in 2014 acquired virtual reality firm Oculus VR in a $2 billion deal.

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