In his short career Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey has won multiple awards from prestigious institutions. Last week he was given another, this time for photography.
No, that doesn’t mean Luckey has been spending his time off in the wilderness snapping pictures of nature. The VR figurehead has actually been given the Progress Medal at this year’s Royal Photographic Society (RPS) awards in the UK. The category looks for “invention, research or publication which has resulted in an important advance in the scientific or technological development of photography or imaging.” It’s a celebrated award, having been issued since 1878.
So what exactly got Palmer the prize?
“Palmer Luckey’s work with virtual reality has advanced the technology and brought it to a popular audience in the way that George Eastman, a previous recipient, did with roll film photography,” RPS Chief Executive, Dr Michael Pritchard, told me over email. “VR is still evolving its scientific application and the opportunities for entertainment hold much potential, so it is particularly exciting that Luckey is still at the start of his career.”
That’s high praise indeed; Eastman founded a little company known as Kodak back in 1888. Obviously we’ve moved well beyond film role since then and RPS has grown to recognize a much broader range of photography, as evidenced by this year’s Progress Medal winner. VR is already having a huge effect on photography, helping to popularize 360 degree images and video, much of which is viewed in headsets like the Oculus Rift or Gear VR.
By extension, Lucky’s work has given rise to the use of 360 degree cameras, consisting of multiple lenses stitching the images they capture together. Some of these devices also shoot in 3D, producing images that truly make you believe you’re somewhere else. Now in 2016 we have Facebook feeds that deliver even more immersive images, YouTube videos that make you feel part of the action, and IMAX cameras that are being given to some of the world’s top filmmakers.
Sadly, Luckey couldn’t be there to collect the award himself; he was too busy hanging out in Japan, screaming his head off with an HTC Vive on.