by Kyle Smith via New York Post

Oculus Rift turned out to be an unintentionally ideal name for a gadget dedicated to carving ruptures between people. They also could have called it the “Digital Chasm” or the “Interaction Canyon.”

The virtual-reality headsets, available at 48 Best Buy stores beginning May 7, promise to widen further what is already an alarming, tech-induced gap among couples, friends and families. Smartphones have already whipped up a wasteland of blankness — the real-life equivalent of dead air on the radio.

We’re living in “Um, honey?” time. As in, “Um, honey, how was your day at school?” (No answer. Lots of tapping.)

“Um, honey, have you seen my glasses?” (No answer. “Memes” are being considered.)

“Um, honey? I need your attention, please. Please? We have an infestation of gila monsters. The house is burning down. I’m leaving you for another family.” (No answer. Snapchat being checked.)

The Oculus Rift? It’s basically a smartphone you wrap around your face. Put it on; reality can’t get in. This is the appeal of drugs, too.

As with drugs, easily bored young people are particularly susceptible. Think your kids are hard to connect with now? Wait till they get themselves an Oculus Rift and begin to expend all their attention, instead of just most of it, on the Great Elsewhere. They’ll be off in a world of their own imagining: hiking up Everest. Having a light-saber duel with Kylo Ren. Joining the Kardashian family.

Considering the porn implications of the gadgets, we’re now within half a step of the Orgasmatron, the Woody Allen-invented virtual-reality capsule (from the 1973 film “Sleeper,” which also accurately predicted the resurgence of fatty food and the surprising endurance of the Volkswagen Beetle), which couples short on time would use for a brisk, machine-made sexual experience. What Woody got wrong (in the scene in which Miles Monroe mistakenly enters the Orgasmatron alone) was that tech would assume the existence of couples.

No, tech is turning out to be the great atomizer, wrenching people apart. I well remember the first time (maybe eight years ago) I saw a couple in a restaurant, clearly on a date, yet each of them gazing longingly into a smartphone instead of addressing the facing person. I thought: Here. It. Comes.

Smartphones today are zapping dates, dinners, conversations and spontaneous meetings so everyone can disappear into his own independent iFog. Another filmmaker, Wim Wenders, foresaw this as far back as 1991, in his unappreciated but brilliant film “Until the End of the World.” In a post-apocalyptic climax, a tech gadget that can record your dreams takes the form of a wraparound virtual-reality headset exactly like the Oculus Rift. Users become addicted to their own interiors, and they begin to wander the land in the headsets, blind to one another, in a lonely daze.

Maybe we’re smarter than that. Maybe people will see the Rift forming and take a step back. Maybe Oculus Rift will be the next Google Glass.

Or maybe people will soon be using the gadget to watch videos of “Sleeper” and “Until the End of the World,” thinking: Given those prophecies, why couldn’t we have had our Oculus Rift sooner?

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