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The OASIS In 'Ready Player One' Runs On Speed And Storage

Donald DeLine, the producer of Steven Spielberg’s dystopian VR adventure, “Ready Player One” is an old colleague from my days at Disney in the 80s. He asked me to moderate a panel featuring him, screenwriter Zak Penn, Visual Effects Design Supervisor Alex Jaeger and boy genius actor Philip Zaho on Sunday, June 3rd, AT&T Shape Conference on the historic Warner Brothers back lot in Burbank, CA, June 3rd.

On the Warner Bros. Studio backlot AT&T Shape Conference, moderating a panel with RPO Producer Donald DeLine, Screenwriter Zak Penn, actor Philip Zaho, and ILM Visual Effects Art Director Alex Jaeger.

This prompted me to see the movie again something I’ve been meaning to do since I saw the late-night sneak premiere on March 17 at the South by Southwest Festival. The second time through I got to savor the visuals. They are hard to fully comprehend while the drama plays in the foreground. The second time through the movie slowed down enough to I could take it all in. Spielberg at the height of his filmmaking prowess, orchestrating the work of hundreds of visual artists.

Fandom describes the OASIS of the movie this way: OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) is a MMOSG (massively multiplayer online simulation game). It costs only 25 cents to use and operate but in-game vending, teleportation, fuel, and almost everything else costs real-world money.

Sansar’s recreation of Ache’s Garage from Steven Spielberg’s new movie, “Ready Player One”.

Last year, the book inspired me to write The Reality of Virtual Reality in Ready Player One, in which I compared the predicted future VR in the book with what we can do in VR today. I included it as a sidebar in the entertainment chapter of my book. The story hit a sweet spot. Even the author, Ernie Cline, reached out to me. Unfortunately, though fun, most of what I wrote was superficial and misdirected. Hopefully, this will set the record straight.

Consumer VR today is far from an OASIS. It really could be 2045, a mere twenty- seven years from now before a system like this is available. What we lack are real things in the real world to power convincing VR, like unlimited bandwidth with zero latency. If VR and AR are following the pattern of the development of the personal computer, as I contend in my book and frequent lectures, then we are still in the 1980s, a decade or more from the tipping point.

With Philip Zhao, Donald DeLine, Zak Penn, Charlie Fink, and Alex Jaeger on the Warner Lot in Burbank, CA.

There are five areas where the VR experience needs to develop in order to realize the promised land of the movie: (1) contiguous worlds (2) bandwidth, (3) locomotion (4) haptics and (5) standards. In addition, the VR headsets people use to access the OASIS are utlra-high definition, capable of delivering photorealistic worlds so convincing a veteran user could be confused about what is real and what is virtual.

Contiguous worlds would not be apps we download. They would download in real time, in the background. As those with any home VR system can attest, changing from one experience, or universe, to another, is awkward at best. Even within the hundreds of worlds in Sansar and High Fidelity, users must pause to download additional content before proceeding from one world to another.

“Because today’s ruling hardware is mobile devices and PC’s, the dominant software on those machines — locally run apps — have become the sort of heir apparent delivery vessel for VR,” said ARtillry Intelligence Chief Analyst Mike Boland. “But apps aren’t always optimal or “native” to VR creating lots of friction. Web XR could solve some of that, as will faster 5G networks.”

Estimates for when a fully 5G enabled network will arrive vary wildly, from at least two to as many as five years, but when it arrives it will bring with it much better, faster devices optimized to handle the blazing speed promised to be capable of streaming 8K video. VR experiences could be downloaded in real time and movements between apps, or worlds, without pausing for downloads could happen instantly. Even more important will be the ability to support hundreds of players in a simulation without slowing it down.

Ever wonder why everything in VR looks like video game animation and is not photorealistic? Why does everything happen on a spaceship? We don’t have the bandwidth to handle complex images without slowing everything down. Why do avatars jerk around in social media? Latency is a symptom of low bandwidth in VR.

In one of the opening scenes of the movie, Wade Watts, RPO’s hero, fires up his dingy, used future, jury-rigged VR set up in his hideaway. The set up includes rudimentary data gloves, haptics, and an omnidirectional treadmill, allowing for natural locomotion in the virtual worlds of the movie. Higher end gear is available for those that can afford it. The other way people locomote in the virtual world is to simply walk through open spaces wearing their OASIS HMD. We see them using these systems on the streets, in their homes and at work. The HTC Focus, now in the hands of developers around the world, is the first of these world scale devices. However, if you’ve only got a small space, you’re going to need a treadmill. In place of hand controllers, there are data gloves.

Finally, to navigate from world to world we’re going to need a set of standards. When Wade wants to reach his best friend Ache in the OASIS he simply asks the system to locate him. This is because the OASIS is all one place, one piece of software, not silos like Playstation and Oculus.

“Like any emerging market, there’s lots of fragmentation in VR,” said Boland. “It will take a while but that that will eventually follow a typical path towards consolidation, ruled by a few platforms — just like we saw with mobile operating systems. That’s good news and bad for VR, as it consolidates power, but also moves us towards common languages.” As I said in this recent story VR is waiting for its AOL Moment we still don’t know when the value proposition of home VR will become easily apprehensible by masses of consumers.

“The OASIS of Ready Player One goes online in 2025, and the movie takes place in 2045,” Ready Player One screenwriter Zak Penn said when asked to comment on this story. “If that prediction is even a little close to reality, someone is building the OASIS right now. They probably don’t even realize it. Ernie Cline’s fantasy is about to become fact.”

This post was originally featured on Forbes.com on June 6, 2018

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