Speaking to IGN recently, founder of Oculus Palmer Luckey has somewhat belatedly responded to James Cameron’s dismissal of virtual reality and in particular the Oculus Rift last year.

It’s normal, expected and healthy to have detractors in a space as new and potentially disruptive as virtual reality. And VR has certainly had its share of vocal critics over the last few years of its current resurgence.

But one person’s comments in particular stung (and disappointed) a little more than most, namely veteran movie director James Cameron. It was disappointing for me personally as Cameron has been a director historically willing and eager to embrace cutting-edge technologies to achieve his creative ends. He’s pushed boundaries on multiple projects, from the arduous underwater filming schedule of The Abyss to the cutting-edge early use of CG in Terminator 2. He was also one of the primary proponents for the adoption of stereoscopic 3D in cinemas, long before even his 3D poster boy movie Avatar was on the horizon.

Here’s what Cameron had to say about VR when asked to comment by The Hollywood Reporter at the back end of last year:

There seems to be a lot of excitement around something that, to me, is a yawn, frankly. The question that always occurred to me is, when is it going to be mature, when is it going to be accepted by the public at large, when are people going to start authoring in VR and what will that be? What will the level of interactivity with the user be other than just ‘I can stand and look around.’ If you want to move through a virtual reality it’s called a video game, it’s been around forever. Oculus Rift is fine, it’s got a good display and that sort of thing

For me, the comments smacked of a director who was now so committed to the long term success of stereo 3D in cinemas, seeing beyond this incremental enhancement to the standard movie experience was just beyond him. Remember, Cameron has no less than 3 new Avatar movies in the works at this time with releases stretching until 2018 with Avatar 4.

Palmer Luckey, interviewed recently by IGN, responded to the comments – predictably rebuffing the director’s statements.

“He is incorrect,” Luckey told IGN. “All you have to do is try virtual reality to understand that it goes beyond anything you can do, even on a 3D television or a 3D movie screen.

“Being surrounded, feeling like you’re actually present in a virtual world, it gives you a much more compelling canvas to tell stories with than having to frame everything into a small rectangle you just watch. I think that speaks for itself.”

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  • kalqlate

    From his statement, it’s clear that Cameron somehow just doesn’t/didn’t get it. Some of his complaints–AT THE TIME–were legitimate. However, in the intervening months since he made those comments, the VR industry, as expected, has moved rapidly to overcome those early shortcomings. I imagine if Cameron were NOW given opportunity to experience the latest iterations of the various VR headsets with hand/body/eye tracking, I’m sure he’d be suitably impressed and immediately start singing a different tune.

  • DeepRifter

    This comment, “What will the level of interactivity with the user be other than just ‘I can stand and look around.’ If you want to move through a virtual reality it’s called a video game, it’s been around forever.” makes me even question if he tried the Oculus Rift. In Avatar you just sit and look straight ahead so not sure of why he is arguing this…yes, in real life you look around. Moving “through” vr is FAR different than what we have been doing in video games ‘forever’. I would love to know what demo he supposedly tried. It’s really a shame as VR could benefit from his involvement.

  • Don Gateley

    The problem here is that Cameron remains right until he is proved wrong and at a real scale that proof remains in the speculative future.

    • kalqlate

      Yeah, everybody who’s ever experienced VR knows that VR “is a yawn” and that “if you want to move through a virtual reality it’s called a video game”. Truer words have never been spoken.

      • kalqlate

        – Sarcasm off –

  • RRudd

    For a century, old school Hollywood has traditionally dismissed anything perceived as a threat to their establishment. I know. For years I worked with the major studios to convince them to employ the then revolutionary new technique of computer generated imagery (CGI). It was a very tough sell. However, Immersion (VR movies) are not a technique, but a phenomenal new medium that is destined to be incredibly disruptive to the motion picture industry. After experiencing true immersion, viewers inevitably and instantly regard movies as outdated and hopelessly pale by comparison. There is simply no going back. Today, James Cameron’s contemptuous comments on VR echoes Charlie Chaplin’s disdain for the coming of sound movies. Hollywood has had a good century long run. But it’s time for a big change. Somebody please tell poor James that Palmer is right.

  • Eric Glasper

    I find it utterly amazing that the man who produced a movie about a person having an “out of body” experience and being able to virtually experience reality through an avatar is dismissing the very technology that makes those same out-of-body experiences possible FOR REAL.

    Movies and television are DONE once VR matures. I am already pretty confident I will never buy another television or computer monitor in my lifetime.

  • K.C. Marsh

    I know this is old but I got here from a more recent article regarding the 20th Century Fox “Alien” experience. One of the things I think that is not being addressed is the form factor. I’d still far rather prefer to watch a blockbuster movie at a nice black box theater than sit for two plus hours with a thing on my face. Also, I don’t think the jury is in about how to make that long exposure healthy without VR Sickness (not for everyone, but certainly for some). And it’s been ruled unhealthy for children under a certain age (so their goes a whole segment of the population, for now at least). Using just the Alien experience as a comparison, it’s like saying “Do you want to go play paint ball or watch a movie?”. One experience has you up on your feet, active and looking around (certainly immersive, no argument there) and the other has you sitting, hopefully very comfortably, perhaps beverage of choice in hand RELAXING. This is why I don’t think it’s a threat to traditional films/tv (sit on your butt experiences). They are just too different. Also, the group dynamic is completely out the window for some time for the average user. There are very early entries into multiuser VR but it’s far from an intimate experience with acceptable/well tracked avatars. I know there are clever minds out there working on that but again, it’s a ways off. I, personally, really look forward to something more like a holodeck then something where I have to strap a screen (or screens) to my face. As far as Cameron goes, he’s been invested in the “ultimate virtual reality”, a Theme Park, for some time which might also color his response. Also, not really mentioned here, is the fact that VR is pretty much a stay at home experience for now until throughput and hygiene issues are worked out really smoothly. Until then I think if you experience VR out of the house it will be these VOID like experience that are for small groups, probably at a premium experience cost. They are probably going to be very fun (assuming they have great tracking and low latency Imaging). Hope I didn’t sound like a detractor. I’m totally not and have tried all the consumer products. I think these mediums live much more side by side than they overlap or compete with each other for now. Could change! Then there’s AR….