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Ready Player One – How close are we? (Part One)

By June 2, 2017 Food for thought

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is already a cyberpunk pop culture phenomena and it's only going to get bigger with Spielberg's movie adaptation releasing in 2018. I've read the book several times and took another turn with it a few weeks ago. Reading about Parzival's lesson plan in school struck me quite strongly. In our work at the Idaho Virtual Reality Council, we often visit schools to introduce VR to students and teacher's alike. I realized that I could essentially copy Parzival's class activities, hand them to a present day teacher and explain that this was possible for them to teach to their students. Today. That got me thinking a bit. How much of Ready Player One's virtual experiences could someone actually replicate with today's technology and available products. Anybody out there want to take a crack at it? <author sheepishly raises hand>

*Page number references based on the unabridged eBook version

Level 1 (Chapters 1-16)

Visor and Haptic Gloves
RP1 Concept
"As soon as I was old enough to wear a visor and a pair of haptic gloves" (page 15)
Current Availability
That's a solid yes right off the bat as long as your definition of visor is flexible. HTC Vive, Playstation VROculus, Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream and all the other current or upcoming HMD manufacturers have been doing a great job driving the technology. Haptics development is also going strong and there are a ton of companies jumping into that ballgame. AxonVR is putting together some great full body haptics that really pushes the boundary on how we can experience virtual reality. You can even add smell to the immersion level with Olorama's scent generators.

OASIS AVATAR
RP1 Concept
"My mom helped me create my first OASIS avatar." (page 15)
Current Availability
Plenty of VR apps allow you to create an avatar. Morph3D has an extensive avatar customization offering but, more importantly, is working to provide a platform that allows users to have a persistent avatar across multiple interactive products. This is more in line with what Ready Player One describes as the functionality for OASIS avatars.

Sesame Street VR
RP1 Concept
"I spent a big chunk of my childhood hanging out in a virtual reality simulation of Sesame Street, singing songs with friendly Muppets and playing interactive games that taught me how to walk, talk, add, subtract, read, write and share." (page 15)
Current Availability
Not yet which is too bad. Sesame Street is a great children's education brand and they are prototyping products to extend it to new technologies.

The World's Largest Public Library
RP1 Concept
"It didn’t take me long to discover that the OASIS was also the world’s biggest public library, where even a penniless kid like me had access to every book every written, every song ever recorded and every movie, television show, video game and piece of artwork ever created." (page 15)
Current Availability
We're getting close! Check out Chimera Reader and configure your own cozy and private VR study to read books in. It might still take a while to have access to every piece of media ever created though. In the mean time, leverage access to over 30 million titles in Google Books to get some quality reading time.....in VR.

Going to school in VR
RP1 Concept
“My avatar materialized in front of my locker on the second floor of my high school…” (page 27)
Current Availability
This may not be as far away as you think. In 2016, Japanese students attended the opening ceremony for their school from 800 miles away. With the ever increasing availability of VR enabled courses, the first VR university or high school is probably just around the corner. Immersive Education's Engage is a very cool product that gives a teacher special presentation tools and allows for up to 30 people to participate in the virtual classroom.

Real Time Emotions
RP1 Concept
"Todd13 scowled and his face actually turned red- a sign that he hadn’t bothered to turn off his account’s real-time emotion feature…" (page 29)
Current Availability
Yes, there are currently products in production that will capture your facial movement and translate it to an avatar. There are several companies in this race. Emteq's sensor reads electrica muscle activity while companies such as Veeso depend on an addition camera facing down from the HMD.

VR Web Browsing
RP1 Concept
"I tapped another icon, and a large two-dimensional Web browser window appeared, suspending in space directly in front of me." (page 32)
Current Availability
Yes. It is available within the OS of the major players (Vive, Oculus, etc) and there are quite a few third-party applications that provide this.

The Basement
RP1 Concept
"Chat Rooms were stand-alone simulations – temporary virtual spaces that avatars could access from anywhere in OASIS….He’d programmed it to look like a large suburban rec room, circa the late 1980’s. Old movie and comic book posters covered the wood-paneled walls. A vintage RCA television stood in the center of the room, hooked up to a Betamax VCR, a LaserDisc player, and several vintage video game consoles. Bookshelves lined the far wall, filled with role-playing game supplements and back issues of Dragon magazine." (page 37)
Current Availability
Yes! There are now personalized private meeting spaces that let's you share media and interactive elements with visitors. SteamVR Home, Facebook Spaces, VRChat, Altspace, and others are all places you can meet up and get your community groove on.

Education- Discovering King Tut's Tomb
RP1 Concept
"Mr. Avenovich loaded a stand-alone simulation so that our class could witness the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by archeologists in Egypt in AD 1922. (The day before, we’d visited the same spot in 1334 BC and had seen Tutankhamen’s empire in all it’s glory.)" (page 47)
Current Availability
Yes! Discovr Egypt is a great Vive application for exploring King Tut's Tomb.

Education- Biology
RP1 Concept
"In my next class, Biology, we traveled through a human heart and watched it pumping from the inside, just like in that old movie Fantastic Voyage." (page 47)
Current Availability
Yes! 3DOrganon is a comprehensive application to explore human anatomy!

Education- Tour the Louvre
RP1 Concept
"In Art class we toured the Louvre while all of our avatars wore silly berets" (page 47)
Current Availability
A half-hearted yes and a bit of no. You Visit has a series of 360 videos that can be accessed and viewed. It's not the immersive experience that's shortly described in Ready Player One. Also, clearly, we can't be in there together all wearing silly berets...

Education- Astronomy
RP1 Concept
"In my Astronomy class we visited each of Jupiter’s moons. We stood on the volcanic surface of Io while our teacher explained how the moon had originally formed….Then she snapped her fingers and we were standing on Europa, discussing the possibility of extraterrestrial life beneath the moon’s ice crust." (page 47)
Current Availability
Yes! There are a few VR apps out there that allow you to explore the cosmos. Stars, available from Viveport, is a very solid offering.

Surreal Real Estate
RP1 Concept
"Any business that wanted to set up shop inside the OASIS had to rent or purchase virtual real estate (which Morrow dubbed Surreal Estate" (page 58)
Current Availability
Actually, this process has begun. Some municipalities have thought about charging a tax on apps that employ geolocation technology to direct app users to specific real world locations. Pokeman GO has driven so much foot traffic to various locations that the owners of the physical space feel justified in charging a fee for their virtual location as well. In-VR is also the first video game convention held entirely in virtual reality. They are charging for several different levels of virtual booth space.

Flicksyncs
RP1 Concept
"Flicksyncs became wildly popular. There turned out to be a whole market for games that allowed people to play a leading role in one of their favorite old movies or TV series." (page 111)
Current Availability
MGM and Interlude have been talking about making an interactive video version of Wargames and giving the "player" options within the experience. This would align closely with Parzival's experience at the First Gate. Also, Flicksync: Knights Who Say Ni provides a similar experience to what is described in Ready Player One, only on a phone. Sadly, this doesn't quite make the cut as yelling "we have the Holy Hand Grenade" while I'm not in VR doesn't really count...

Virtual Real Estate Preview
RP1 Concept
"I spoke with a rental agent in a chat room, and he showed me around a virtual mock-up of my new digs." (page 163)
Current Availability
Yes! There are plenty of apps that allow you to tour a home or apartment via 360 video. IrisVR's Prospect product provides a platform for builders to preview their projects with their clients and prospects.

Level 1 Complete

Well, that wraps up Level 1 of Ready Player One. Feel free to blast away with comments about other VR products out there that fit some of the descriptions of the book. Level's 2 and 3 are next up along with a more extensive analysis of the OASIS as a whole. Stay tuned. Same bat time, same bat channel...

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