You must have heard about Steven Spielberg’s "Ready Player One", the film that was supposed to “stimulate interest to virtual reality in masses.” Did the film reach the goal? Let’s find out.
The film, based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel, depicts a beautiful virtual environment called Oasis, a surreal world where the laws of physics (and logic) don’t work. Oasis is a game created by a weird yet very talented game designer. Every human being can choose an avatar for Oasis and upgrade it to an incredible level making it stronger, faster, richer, and more skillful. But you have to understand one thing: "Ready Player One" is a family movie targeted at kids, young moms as well as old grannies. It’s a bit simplistic, in other words. It’s the film about virtual reality that was supposed to provide viewers with entertainment, not with food for their brain.
But this movie still has the thing: "Ready Player One" speaks about virtual reality in the language most of us understand easily, it basically explains what virtual reality is using terms we all know. You have an HMD (head-mounted display), you put it on, and voila - you are inside a virtual world! This is the level of VR we all were dreaming about. Weren’t we?
But I've talked to our VR team to find out that Virtual Reality you see in "Ready Player One" is not similar to Virtual Reality we can experience today even with the best VR devices. It is different in many important ways starting from VR devices and ending with virtual reality applications.
ACCESSIBLE VR DEVICES
The virtual world in "Ready Player One" is easy to reach: if you have an HMD - you have everything you need. It’s not that difficult to dive into virtual reality: no need to adjust anything or connect your device to some powerful PC.
We also have high-end HMDs but it takes some time and efforts to attune them to work perfectly well. Unless you use a wireless device, you will need to spend more time than the main hero of "Ready Player One" to get inside.
Besides, what is the most powerful HMD today?
That, of course, depends on the purpose. The best HMD for gaming will be different from the best device for therapy (if you need an insight on HMDs applications, it’s here). But all in all, today HTC Vive Pro is the best solution for VR in terms of resolution, field of view, and latency. It doesn’t require powerful PC to send you on a beautiful journey. What came as a surprise to me is that you can send and receive messages with the help of modern HMDs easily here and now. Just like they do it in a movie.
Apart from HMD, in "Ready Player One", they use omnidirectional treadmills to provide users with the permanent sense of movement in 360 degrees. Omnidirectional treadmills are quite popular among VR users - they guarantee full freedom of movement. And they are available not only in "Ready Player One" but in some virtual reality arcades today. But omnidirectional treadmills are not about gaming and entertainment, they are created for training first of all.
This is how US Army uses treadmills for training today - to improve soldiers’ muscle memory in critical situations. So are we far away from absolute like-in-a-movie immersion?
Unfortunately, high prices for VR devices are one of the most serious obstacles for making VR mainstream. I am not even speaking of omnidirectional treadmills. The cheapest VR goggles, Google carboard, costs $15 but it’s not worth even this money.
HTC Vive Pro costs around $800 today. That is why during the last quarter of 2017, the top three VR HMDs were: Sony PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift, of course. Sony sold 490,000 PlayStation VR headsets, Oculus shipped 210,000 HMDs, and HTC sold 160,000 Vive units. The information regarding previous quarters is still unavailable.
It’s a positive tendency without any doubt, but it's still far from mainstream VR. Yet this level of sales signifies that the interest to HMDs is slowly rising.
HAPTICS. MOTION CAPTURE AND SYNCHRONIZATION OF MOVEMENTS
The synchronization of heroes’ movements in “"Ready Player One" is absolutely incredible. People in VR suits and gloves can jump, dance, fight in VR and all the movements are perfectly synchronized with their avatars.
Haptics is still not perfect today: even the best haptic suit, like Teslasuit that was introduced at the latest CES, is far from absolution we see in "Ready Player One."
Teslasuit haptic feedback system uses “Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and Electrical Muscle Stimulation” to provide users with, as they promise it, rich and absolute feedback. Motion capture technology with 11 sensors ensures a low-level latency and high-resolution output data. More than that, there is a temperature control.
So how far are from full perfect haptic feedback?
Some experts in haptics for VR say that we are not that far. Jake Rubin, founder and CEO of HaptX says that the future depicted in the movie “isn’t 30 years in the future. I’m not even sure it’s 10 years in the future.”
SYNCHRONIZATION WITH OTHER PLAYERS
Synchronization with other players in "Ready Player One" is immaculate: all the VR players find themselves in the same environment capable of interacting effortlessly. This effect is provided with the help of excellent level of bandwidth and powerful servers. What is more, the number of VR users is astonishing: millions, billions of people from different parts of the world can interact with each other with a perfect level of synchronization.
Today there are virtual meeting spaces available to companies who operate offices on different continents. It is possible to have meetings, conferences, meetups in virtual reality spaces uniting people from various parts of the world.
How many people can we synchronize in VR today?
For instance, AltspaceVR, a virtual reality platform, can host around 30 people in one room for today. To increase the number of people in VR spaces and to provide full synchronization it’s necessary to have more powerful servers. And with the international team you will need servers on different continents. For a start. And a better level of bandwidth. Even 1-second delay can disrupt the natural flow of conversation. I am not even speaking about the interaction like dancing or fighting in virtual reality space!
So the verdict is the following: to create fully immersive and immaculately responsive virtual reality as in "Ready Player One", more powerful serveres and better network bandwidth are required. And we can be a bit far from it.
You can’t die in virtual reality. You just return to zero. That’s probably the core difference between real reality and virtual reality that blows your mind. So far this difference is not accessible in any sense. Who knows, maybe it’s even for better.
This whole new virtual world in "Ready Player One" is much much more beautiful than the existing world. The irreal world is limitless, absolutely perfect, so, naturally, it's better than the real world. After all, the nature of reality is imperfection. Look around: the apartment gets dirty no matter how often you clean it, and your hands need washing each time you cook food.
In VR you can "buy" a haircut that will be with you forever, and your make up will never vanish. And the virtual environment around you is so stunningly beautiful and shining that it’s impossible to resist it. All because of 3D graphics. For now, only the best VR games, such as Eve or Subnautica, can boast with this ultimate level of 3D graphics. It’s easy to differentiate between a game in which a 3D modeler has put his heart and the superficial and quick 3D graphics. Even if you are not expert. But there are few games with exc, and the level of 3D graphics is often low if we speak about mainstream games. So far, limitless and beautiful VR world is also not accessible to the majority of VR users, and most of us have to accept the level of Facebook Spaces graphics, if you know what I mean.
So the real world in many cases is much brighter, much more colorful, and saturated compared to the virtual world. So far.
VR in "Ready Player One" is all about gaming and entertainment. Despite the fact that gaming is still the most lucrative VR sector, there are other important VR applications. VR is not only about killing zombies! Today doctors, psychiatrists, linguists, engineers, designers, businessmen embrace VR eagerly. Virtual reality practical applications are diverse and useful. Some of them can surprise you.
Here are the examples of virtual reality applications that you might have neglected:
1. For instance, VR has proved to be an effective as a pain management tool. It looks like VR for pain management can even be a good alternative to opioids considering the incredible level of addiction to opioids. The researchers still can’t explain how exactly VR works in terms of pain management, but one thing is certain: it works. People with chronic pain and burns report a lower level of pain when exposed to VR. Most probably VR distracts the attention of people from painful experiencing with the help of intense visual and auditory stimulation.
2. VR is an excellent tool for employees training and those companies that aim to optimize operations, improve effectiveness and, let’s be honest, save costs, turn to VR. Many companies, such as Walmart, train their employees to deal with critical situations, such as Black Fridays, in VR. And Volkswagen will train 10.000 employees using VR this year because it's more productive and it doesn't disrupt normal operations. Take a look:
3.Virtual reality real estate tours are another popular VR application today. Yes, it’s right, you can preview your future apartment before it’s even built seeing the smallest interior design details. Alternatively, users can look through the hotel room in VR before booking it. To avoid this annoying buyer’s remorse.
4. Languages learning in VR is something you could never dream about until you just read this phrase. Why bother putting on an HMD? Because it’s an excellent way to get into the linguistic environment. Imagine if you are surrounded by native speakers or if all the objects inside VR environment are signed. No way out means that a user is doomed to start speaking.
5. Medical training in virtual reality is what can actually transform medicine from inside. For instance, surgeons are obliged to have an excellent level of imagination to visualize complex 3D objects like human heart pictured on CT. A pair of goggles ( even the cheapest one) is the chance to get more accurate and more valuable information. It is even possible to take VR tours inside a human body.
"Ready Player One" is not a very optimistic movie in some sense, and I am speaking about social transformations of society, not technological. People use VR not to learn, treat, train or improve. They use virtual reality to escape painful reality with the help of games. We aim to create VR applications that could change the world for better that is why we build VR apps to improve learning or create virtual reality tours inside labs.
Yes, the film is stimulating for the masses. But it looks like it’s time to remind people that VR is much more than gaming.11.04.2018, 23:44