Posted by : BC Bass Tuesday, April 15, 2014


SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- For many Americans, April 15 is tax day, the annual deadline for filing state and federal returns. But this April 15, Google overshadowed the stress and dread associated with the date by hosting a one-day sales event for its wearable computer product Google Glass. Despite the steep price of $1,500 per unit, popular models sold out within hours of Tuesday’s launch. The thin virtual-reality device, which resembles eyeglasses, is designed to take the functionality of a smartphone and make it accessible through a display built into empty frames. But by late afternoon, rival developer Facebook announced the surprise sale of its competing virtual reality device Oculus Rift, which it acquired last month. “Google Glass is severely limited -- it projects a tiny version of a stripped down Android OS in one eye,” a Facebook representative said. “Oculus Rift is an immersive, 360-degree Facebook world that eliminates all the privacy concerns Glass has been catching flak for. But it does so much more.”

In addition to checking email and posting photos, Google Glass is capable of showing text messages, maps, pop-up reminders, driving directions and video chats. But the sleek design has been attacked by critics as deceptive. Early adopters, or Explorers, have reported angry confrontations with people who accused them of covertly taking pictures or recording video.

Facebook assured users that Rift cannot be mistaken for eyeglasses or other subtle pieces of apparel. The machine is so bulky and ostentatious that all privacy concerns should be allayed. “With a giant pair of earphones and a seven-inch, one pound faceplate that completely masks the eyes, all connected to a control box about the size of a small briefcase, there’s no way any person will think you’re trying to spy on them surreptitiously,” Facebook said.

Oculus Rift was originally innovated as a consumer-friendly virtual reality gaming device. Its high-definition 3-D display draws players into an uncannily realistic world. Some users confessed to flinching at dangerous moments in the games they were playing, attesting to the credibility of the virtual environment. The goggles, closely resembling a scuba mask, contain a wide field of view, accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to track the position of the user’s head, syncing the visuals of the game with the player’s movements.

Following its $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR, Rift’s manufacturer, Facebook announced a complete redevelopment of the device as the most advanced social networking system in the world -- stiff competition for Google Glass.

“Sure, there will still be games, even though that’s no longer Rift’s main function,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. “When you play, or rather experience, Farmville on the Facebook Rift, you’ll believe you’re really working on a farm. When you spin up Candy Crush Saga, you’ll be convinced those sugary treats are falling right at your head. We’re worried it may be too intense for some of our younger users.”

But the primary purpose of Facebook Rift is to make social media a real sensation, not a digital exchange. And by that, Zuckerberg explained, people will have total control over their situations in this utopian virtual world.

“Social networks exist to make dealing with others more bearable,” he said. “We’re stretching that safe distance between physical and virtual relationships to new extremes. In everyday life, people can suck. Especially when you’re around each other too often, or at times when you’d like them not to suck. But by adding Rift to our company’s portfolio of social technologies, you can at least control how much and how often people suck when you’re dealing with them. You can’t block your boss or mute your mother in the non-virtual world. Existing laws prevent you from poking someone you like. But you certainly can in the realm of the Rift.”

“Virtual relationships are a great start, but we’re taking much bolder steps toward singularity,” Zuckerberg added. “For instance, we’re already working on next generation software applications that will create sensory experiences within the system to facilitate ‘interactive intimacy.’ The best part is when you and your partner have finished being intimate, awkward moments of regret or shame can be avoided. Just shut your eyes to close the application, and it all goes away.”

Some consumer product safety experts have branded Rift a dangerous hazard: “Unlike Google Glass, which does little to obscure or hinder your vision, Rift completely covers your eyes. You literally can’t see anything but the screen. And the headphones block all outside noises.”

Zuckerberg acknowledged those concerns but assured consumers that precautions have already been integrated into the system.

“The Rift has a built-in compass and gyroscope, and both seamlessly interface with our new mapping and street view software,” he told reporters at this afternoon’s briefing. “You don’t need to see or hear, Rift does that for you.”

Using the 3-D mapping software, users will have a full view of their environments with only moderate delays. When looking around, the application will instantly pop up reviews of restaurants, showtimes, relevant ads for businesses nearby and constant prompts to check in. A virtual Mark Zuckerberg also appears on screen as a navigator.

“Rift offers so much more than the natural world,” Zuckerberg exclaimed. “If you pass another Rift user, the system automatically transmits your profile to them and generates a friend request. It posts pictures of everything you’re looking at. You don’t have to lift a finger. Unlike the isolating inner world of Google Glass, Rift truly connects you to society -- a society that you can control so people stop teasing you about your awkward interpersonal skills or pale toes in flip-flops or hoodies or anxiety in front of women.”

2014. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.

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