Take a good look at that image. Done? Now look at it again. Come August 17th, this edition of Time Magazine will be released and permanently alter the mainstream perception of virtual reality. That isn’t a good thing, unless you hate the Oculus Rift, in which case I’m glad somebody is getting enjoyment out of this.
That front cover is a lot of things. Aside from being an odd conversation piece in the dentist’s office and something I desperately want framed and hanging in my room, it’s an image on or even below par with most stock photos. It’s also a gross misrepresentation of VR sets like the Oculus Rift and the potential they carry. It’s hard to say how much editorializing this cover went through, or how much input Palmer Luckey had, but the end result is…well, you can see the end result right there. Not really appropriate for such an important new tech, but maybe they were going for the “fun and whimsical” angle, which they missed by several miles.
Then again, this isn’t Time’s first cover which features a poorly staged barefoot tech dude with a virtual reality headset that ends up grossly misrepresenting the actual product. So maybe there’s a precedent for it. Maybe “barefoot tech mogul” is a new popular stereotype in American culture that I’m not aware of. A snippet of the article even goes out of the way to mention how Luckey’s “feet are black because he doesn’t like wearing shoes.” Jeez. Is there some weird Dan Schneider stuff happening at Time that I’m not aware of?
Uncomfortable foot jokes aside, this cover does more damage to the Oculus Rift and the concept of virtual reality as a whole than any naysayer could hope to achieve. It isn’t total garbage, but it comes across as visually inert and weirdly blithe. A large portion of Time readers probably don’t know much about modern VR or the Oculus, so do we really want their first impression to be…this? It’s great that Time has devoted a feature to Palmer Luckey and his creation, especially at such a critical cusp in its development, but the execution could be much better.
On the flip side, I can’t wait for the memes to come out of this cover. I took the liberty of making a couple myself:
The Creation of VR.
With this one, I could probably get a job at Time. Hey-o!