If you’re a child of the 80’s who was into video games, comics, pop culture or played dungeons and dragons you would really enjoy Ready Player One (if you can manage to overlook the massive cheese factor). [Here’s an interesting article on author Ernest Cline that came out just a few days ago, mentions RPO and other upcoming projects by Cline]. It’s one of my more recent fun reads (and already purchased by Warner Bros to perhaps one day make a movie out of it) that I haven’t yet purchased but have already read twice. The general premise is a dystopian and poverty filled society where a virtual reality (VR) world called “The Oasis” allows most people to escape their poor and miserable existence. Instead of public schools, children are given virtual reality equipment (visor, haptic-tactile suit and gloves that provide feedback stimulation) to go to class in a VR setting. People choose their avatar, how they look, and like many MMOG’s, you can upgrade your appearance, clothes, equipment and transportation using real life money.
As I expected to see, the building blocks for such a future are already underway, though are likely in their infancy as of 2014. We’re already becoming a zombie culture engrossed in our liquid screen displays and it’s really only the next step to strap on a pair of VR goggles and totally unplug from the real world. Why put in the effort to work out and be sexy in real life if your avatar has a six pack and looks like a movie star while having a SwordOfDestruction+10?
Sony’s so-called “Project Morpheus” (more than a little ironic that the Matrix character advocating for unplugging from the matrix is invoked in the opposite – plugging into a virtual reality world) and Oculus Rift are both moving to release. My money is on Sony based on the muscle, but wouldn’t be surprised to see upstarts gobbled up in this battle if they have ideas worth taking. And I am curious to see who else gets in the game or are doing secret research as we speak (I’m looking at you Microsoft and Apple).
How far are we away from A Ready Player One world? Before the interconnection of VR, MMOG’s and a virtual economy and world(s) roll into one, as an escape to being impoverished or bored in our current existence? 20 years? 30-max?
Take this excerpts from FutureTimeline.net
Full immersion virtual reality
Computers are now sufficiently advanced and miniaturised that billions of them can be implanted within the brain. Advances in neuroscience, in parallel with these and other developments, have led to a new form of simulation known as full immersion virtual reality. By the end of this decade, it has been successfully demonstrated in a human volunteer.*
Though still in its early stages, and yet to become fully mainstream, this technology provides astounding realism and detail. Users now have the option of actually “being” in a game environment and experiencing its graphics, audio and other effects (e.g. tactile feedback) in a manner that is largely indistinguishable from the real world.
This breakthrough has been achieved through exponential trends in computing over the previous decades – including a billionfold improvement in processing power and price performance, combined with a 100,000-fold shrinkage of components and circuitry.*
Full immersion VR isn’t just limited to games. With such huge creative scope, it can be used for a whole range of applications: from business to education, training, healthcare, engineering, design, media and entertainment.
Tourism is revolutionised, since people no longer have to travel great distances or spend large amounts of money to explore the sights and sounds of another location – they can simply go online. For this reason, a number of travel firms go bust in the 2040s, or else drastically alter their business models to account for this new medium.
Maybe it’s time to go away from my index investments and get a horse in this race while it’s just beginning. If the book RPO is any indication of how big it could get, it could be worth a kazillion billion dollars for the buy-and-hold investor if the SHTF doesn’t come to pass (and I say that about half tongue-in-cheek and half-serious).
We are the Borg. you will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
EDIT: The week after writing this post, Facebook acquired Oculus. Read my follow-up post here.