“I’m old school. I like Superman. But there are new super heroes out there in the real world today, people like Palmer Luckey who are creating technology we never thought could exist.”
That’s a humbling remark regardless of whose mouth it comes from. When it comes from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, however, it means just a little more.
Steve Wozniak and Palmer Luckey met on stage at Silicon Valley Comic Con earlier today to talk about their childhood heroes, virtual and augmented reality, and the newly minted Woz’s Law of Robotics.
The overall tone of the argument was one of optimism as both the well-spoken 23-year-old entrepreneur and iconic Apple founder believe that the future of technology is a bright one.
The future of virtual reality
“Even the content Hollywood is creating is built by game engines that have been built for virtual reality. You’re going to see people who work in the game industry start popping up in all new places like education, Hollywood and more,” Luckey said.
“The idea I’m really excited about is telepresence. That’s not something you can get from communication technology in its current form. Virtual reality is going to be better and more convenient than going to a real live meeting at some point.”
Wozniak agreed to most of it. He thinks that video games are what will drive adoption, and that as long as there’s content, he’s a firm believer in VR. After all, Wozniak said, historically games are what drove PCs 30 years ago to become faster and more powerful.
As for the future, however, it’s not room scale VR that Luckey’s concerned about. It’s world scale he’s after.
When asked by Kara Swisher, Executive Editor at Re/Code and moderator of Saturday’s discussion, what exactly “world scale” meant, Luckey answered that the next step for content and hardware creators would be a more immersive, untethered experience that not only matches the real world around us but in many ways improves upon it.
The problem, according to Luckey, is that the technology just isn’t there yet. We’d need more powerful hardware than the current flagship cell phones to get there.
‘Augmented Reality is really far behind virtual reality’
Swisher then changed the subject to augmented reality, something that neither of the two have worked on directly, but saw potential in.
Wozniak’s go-to device was Google Glass, he said, because he hopes that a future device might be able to recognize faces and spit out information like their birthday, their school information or personal history would help him carry on more insightful conversations.
Palmer Luckey didn’t think so.
“Google Glass isn’t augmented reality. It doesn’t know where it is in the world,” Luckey said. “Augmented reality is far behind virtual reality but, in the future, you’ll have devices that do both VR and AR and people will become the new norm. However, as long as we’re tied to other devices that are expensive, adoption is going to be limited.”
Swisher’s suggestion to get the ball rolling? Virtual reality or augmented reality porn.
“Porn users don’t have powerful computers,” Luckey said.
“Porn users, you need to upgrade,” Swisher countered.
“You said it, not me,” said Luckey.
Robots, Woz’s Law and Apple vs. the FBI
The trio talked about the next five years at length – the technology that would drive it forward, who would be the one to do it (Elon Musk was mentioned a few times) and what the world would look like after it was all over.
Naturally, this lead to a discussion of robots taking over the world.
“You have to look to science fiction about some ideas on technology, but most of the time it’s more fiction. In reality, the future of technology is a lot more boring,” Luckey said. “I think when we have perfect AI, it’s going to be a lot more boring than people expect. Sci-fi writers are going to have to keep creating fantasies.”
Surprisingly, Wozniak had a similar thought back when he was first starting Apple, but over the years concluded that perhaps PCs are getting smarter and could develop a culture of their own one day.
“Isaac Asimov introduced his Law of Robotics that said no robot can knowingly hurt a human. I’ve come up with Woz’s Law: No human should ever hurt a machine that feels.”
Hopefully the robot overlords will remember that sentiment on Judgment Day.
Swisher concluded the conversation with recent events. She asked Wozniak to clarify where he stood on the FBI’s recent desire for a backdoor into Apple devices.
Wozniak had come prepared. He said that most people feel that they need to take a side on the debate, that they’re either pro-government or pro-civil liberties. The answer isn’t so cut and dry. “Cybersecurity is one of the greatest threats we face,” Wozniak said. Only by giving the government some control while keeping them out of businesses’ private data, he said, could we be both safe and free from privacy invasion.
Palmer Luckey took a more … patriotic approach to the question. “I love my country. I’m a proud, flag-waving nephew of my Uncle Sam, but I don’t love everything my country does. I think they’re wrong here. It’s an extension of the civil liberties argument we’ve been having for years, and I think they made the wrong hill to make a stand on.”
But the best answer might’ve come from Swisher herself: “If defeating ISIS comes down to unlocking an iPhone, we’re f***ed.”
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