Ready Player One
Early reviews are coming in for Ready Player One, and they’re relatively positive. I don’t find this terribly surprising this is Steven Spielberg we’re talking about, adapting a book that millions liked quite a bit, despite what snarky Twitter mobs may say.
But one recent headline about the film caught my eye, a piece from Variety citing an analyst estimate that suggests that Ready Player One could “awaken the sleepy VR market.”
“We believe that the movie will drive sales of VR headsets that require high-performance GPUs [graphics processing units]” from chip-makers Nvidia and AMD, Jefferies equity analyst Mark Lipacis wrote in a research note published Monday. “‘Ready Player One’ has the potential to appeal to an electronics-game savvy audience that is motivated to have a more immersive experience.”
Here are some points of note:
-An ‘electronics-game savvy audience’ is likely already familiar with the current VR offerings, and has either already chosen to accept or reject them. A VR themed movie should have pretty much no sway over this crowd.
-VR’s primary problem is not that people don’t think VR is fun or cool. It’s that it costs a lot of money, and that the tech in its current form is far more cumbersome than what’s featured in a movie like Ready Player One, a world where VR headsets are little more than ski goggles with screens. While wireless VR headsets are finally starting to be made, for the most part right now they’re a jumble of cords and sensors right now that can prove nightmarish to set up and maintain.
-The vision of VR that Ready Player One projects, a shared, totally immersive, limitless world, is not even close to the reality of current VR.
Ready Player One
It’s that last point that I think is the most important here. Ready Player One is a film about a world that has been almost entirely absorbed into VR, mostly to its detriment, and the tech and capabilities are way past anything current VR can do. Not that there aren’t fun VR games now, but the scope of current tech is limited to extremely short, extremely specific experiences, both in the gaming space and otherwise, and even if Mark Zuckerberg has some grand vision of Oculus creating Ready Player One’s OASIS someday, we are light years away from that being a reality.
In truth, if Ready Player One viewers were so inspired to run out and buy a VR system to try and experience a virtual playground like the characters in the film, they would almost certainly be disappointed. It would be like watching The Fast and the Furious and thinking you wanted a supercar, yet the only vehicles on the market are 1991 Geo Metros.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all this to trash those working on VR right now. I think that despite the sluggishness of the industry, that everyone is doing great work within it, and that VR is the future, just one that’s still very far away. The problem is that we are in the early stages, the first two years of the tech even being on the market at all, so it can’t possibly hope to live up to these science-fiction visions we have for it. It’s like being angry that we haven’t colonized our galaxy yet when the process of space exploration is slow, but still impressive with each small step.
I hope Ready Player One is a great movie, but in no way do I believe that it will spark some sudden surge in VR popularity, given the current tech on the market. We may reach the OASIS someday, but it’s a long term goal, not something that’s going to happen overnight.