Ready Player One & A Glimpse Of Virtual Reality’s Future

Published Feb 10, 2018

By Elliot Koss

No spoilers.

It’s easy to say that Ready Player One is one of my favorite books. Not since Ender’s Game has a sci-fi book made me feel so completely immersed in a new world, on the edge of my seat until the climatic conclusion. The world that author Ernest Cline brings to life with his extraordinary vision for how virtual reality could be ingrained in our lives is mesmerizing. And he did this in 2011 before virtual reality had reached even the fringe of the mainstream like the past couple years (more on the cool VR bits later). Ready Player One will be powering innovation in virtual reality and eTech Rentals for years to come. I’m not alone in this opinion.

Oculus, the cutting-edge virtual reality hardware and software maker acquired by Facebook for $2 Billion in 2014, gives Ready Player One out to employees on their first day. It’s worth noting that Facebook, and by extension Oculus, seems to be the perfect company to bring the Oasis to life considering the Oasis is pretty much the ultimate social network with unlimited ways to monetize the experience.

The book even captured the imagination of iconic filmmaker Steven Spielberg who is directing the movie (which comes out March 29), though as he admits, he thought someone younger would direct it. That’s laughable when you hear Ernest Cline gush about growing up on a steady diet of Spielberg’s movies and drawing at least some of the inspiration for the book from his movies. Watch the funny July 2017 Comic Con panel to hear how they brought the book to life and see their conversation.

This trailer in particular (there are several) does a great job framing the story without giving away spoilers to the untrained eye. There are plenty of easter eggs hidden throughout the trailer (in keeping with a core part of the book) that you can learn about with a quick YouTube search. If you prefer to skip the trailer, below’s a synopsis.

Ready Player one takes place in 2045 where the world’s economic imbalance has created a dystopia that offers little for most people. However, there is a refuge from this reality. The Oasis. A virtual reality universe that was created by James Halliday, a Steve Jobs-like innovator. When Halliday dies, a video he pre-recorded is released informing the world that he has hidden an egg in the Oasis, and whoever finds it will not only inherit his vast fortune (about $500 Billion) but also ownership of the Oasis itself. It’s the ultimate treasure hunt.

The part about Ready Player One that truly elevates it to cult status is the interweaving of pop-culture from the 80s and 90s – the era when James Halliday came of age and his own inspiration for much of the coolest tech he created. I was cracking up through most of the book, thinking back to my own childhood and teen years when I was quoting the same movies and playing the same video games at my best friend’s house in smalltown Temple, Texas.

But the part I’m truly blown away by is the virtual reality future that Ernest Cline describes.

The main character (Wade Watts) is a 17-year old teenager who is still in high school, but he doesn’t go to a normal high school that you may be imaging. It’s not some big building with 50, 500, or 5,000 classmates – and he’s not home schooled. Instead, every morning he straps into his VR headset and goes to class in the Oasis. His avatar interacts at school using his own voice, and audio filters prevent him from cursing out loud in the classroom.

Think about all of the teasing and bullying that he or others could avoid in this environment. Yes, losing the physical element would change the high school experience (at least in America), but you’d also avoid the distractions from unruly classmates. On the flip side, the discipline to actually go to class for 7 hours and not just browse the web in the middle of every class may be unrealistic. Afterall, being in VR that long may not even be healthy either (at least with today’s hardware). With that said, virtual reality opens up so many opportunities: From international and multicultural classrooms to earning a college degree solely in VR.

It doesn’t stop there.

Haptic feedback clothing (and gloves) can give you the physical sensation of ‘being there’. You could pick things up, open car doors, and feel when you get shot in a game, potentially adjusting the sensation to either dull or enhance the experience. Advanced rigs and equipment could allow you to walk and do everything you would in real life and translate that into action in VR. Audio would make what you’re seeing more real, which exists today, while machines that emit smells to match your environment would indulge even more of your senses.

The applications of this sort of technology is going to change how we live and work in the future. VR won’t just be a tool to help with training or one-off needs like going to individual websites. Virtual reality has the possibility to introduce a paradigm shift in the way humans go about their day, whether on Earth, Mars, or elsewhere in the Galaxy.

The most advanced VR technology today (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive) is beginning to scratch the surface of these possibilities. Haptic feedback gloves and clothing already exist. You can sit in a pod to ‘feel’ a roller coaster in VR. You can even pick things up and open doors.

But we’re a long way from where we’re headed. The hardware and software (especially the infrastructure) that will be required to bring VR to the mainstream is still being developed. Today, there are an assortment of cool experiences that you can try. While serious gamers may get their money’s worth for buying a VR rig, we at eTech Rentals feel like the tech isn’t there for the non-tech-obsessed to use VR regularly. Yet. With Oculus Go and Magic Leap on the horizon, that may change, but our best guess is three to five years before the technology catches up to being must-have, which is why we’re focused on offering short-term rentals as we build our expertise and services suite to assist businesses maximize their productivity using virtual reality. If you’re interested in glimpsing the possibilities of VR and/or the productivity enhancements it could offer, shoot us an email or give us a call. Our goal is to introduce VR to everyone at an affordable price ($25/day is the high end for our Samsung Gear VR rig).

For now, we’ll have to settle for reading and watching movies about the future while we diligently work to build it. As far as reading and watching goes, Ready Player One is at the top of its class, and with the Spielberg film coming to screens in less than 2 months, I’m eagerly waiting to be first in line. I can’t wait to see how the sci-fi inspired future continues to unfold.