Do you remember when The Lawnmower Man was released? This was my first look at virtual reality and the impact it can have on humankind. The entertainment industry has been releasing movies like this for years. They literally invent the future on the big screen. Think about:
- Teleporting in Star Trek
- Cryogenic sleeping from the Aliens series
- Ludicrous speed from Spaceballs (okay, maybe not this one)
Hollywood has laid out a path towards the future of what we could invent. I’m not sure that light speed and teleporting will ever become a reality given the law of physics. Either way we have to continue innovating.
After The Lawnmower Man was released in 1992 we didn’t see significant up-tick in virtual reality technology. It was too soon given technology had to catch-up with the expectations. That said, I recently read Ready Player One (see my book review here) and came away with the view that everything in that book is now possible with today’s VR technology. Whilst it may initially be slower and of less quality, the bare bones of an “Oasis” like virtual reality world can now be built. It would require hardware for the user, a networked capability for the multi-user virtual world and software to build the VR engine (i.e. create the world). We have done some of this before, think about Minecraft (i.e. sandbox gameplay).
Is Virtual Reality Real and Ready?
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to test out virtual reality technology in the flesh (excuse the pun). It was called “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire” which was designed/built by The Void and hosted at Westfield Shopping Centre in London. Four of you team up and go on a ~15 minute adventure discovering the secret that the Empire has planned. I wore a headset with goggles, a chest pack and a gun. We walked around a pre-built maze in the physical world (which we couldn’t see) however the VR world transformed it into something you could only see in the movies! Firing at Darth Vader and having him blocking each shot with his light sabre was quite stressful! Suffice to say It was an unreal experience! (but too short)
The story Ready Player One is set in 2045 and the virtual reality technology described in that world is phenomenal. At that rate we are going virtual reality technology AND virtual worlds not too dissimilar to the Oasis will be a reality (again excuse the pun) within 10 years. Imagine the possibilities: education to anyone anywhere, an evolved work environment and reduced commutes and emissions just to name a few. There will also be some negatives which we will learn on the way. I for one cannot wait!