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The DeanBeat: What Ready Player Two tells us about the metaverse

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I was a fanboy for Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One book and the 2018 Steven Spielberg movie based on it. And so when the sequel novel Ready Player Two came out in December, I was all over it. Critics panned it, and I understand this sequel isn’t as innovative as the first book. But amid the bleak reality of the pandemic, I enjoyed reading how Cline envisioned the evolution of technology and the eventual creation of the metaverse, or the Oasis, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected. It fascinates me to see how technology, games, and science fiction are all intertwined in a creative vortex that generates faster progress in each of these disciplines.

And next week, our own conference about the metaverse (you can sign up here) takes place, inspired by books like Cline’s as well as Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash and William Gibson’s 1984 book Neuromancer, which defined the metaverse-like experience as a “consensual hallucination.”

Roblox CEO Dave Baszucki will speak at our event about his own dreams for the Oasis, which users have imagined inside Roblox in a treasure hunt promotion based on the new book. Millions of players have gone through that. Warner Bros. is in the early stages of making a movie based on Ready Player Two, though it’s not clear if Spielberg will come back for it. It may occur to Cline that, while Hollywood has been stalled by the pandemic, the video game industry is not, and making a Ready Player Two video game would make a lot more sense.

[This story has some book spoilers — Ed.]

The first movie made more than $582 million at the box office. And just last month, Roblox raised more than $520 million at a valuation of $29.5 billion ahead of a public offering, and that means that Baszucki has a pretty good war chest to build a kind of Oasis or metaverse as he wishes. And he has said he wishes to do so.

Above: A scene from Steven Spielberg’s 2018 movie Ready Player One.

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

When Ready Player One debuted in 2011, it was a prescient look at how virtual reality could become pervasive through society as everybody logs into a single online environment, the Oasis, where they live, work, and play. The book inspired people like Palmer Luckey, then a 19-year-old who had been building VR headsets as a hobby. Luckey envisioned how VR could be used in real life, and he went on to create the Oculus Rift. Facebook bought Oculus VR for $3 billion in 2014, and Luckey netted more than $700 million. Before Facebook made the acquisition, Cline visited Oculus and did book signings there. He saw that the conference rooms were named “The Oasis, The Matrix, and The Metaverse.” Facebook has spent billions more taking the Oculus tech to new levels and developing augmented reality glasses. And so, by the time Cline wrote his second book, the VR headsets he predicted were readily available.

In an interview with Baszucki in December, Cline said he was a fan of the Oculus Quest headset and watched films with his friends on an application called Bigscreen, a social VR app. Cline’s daughter is also a fan of Roblox, and she used it to stay in touch with friends during the pandemic, Cline said. Cline’s own enormous success with the books — Ready Player Two debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List after Ready Player One spent more than 100 weeks on that list — has helped him live out his fantasies. He owns multiple DeLoreans, the cars used in Spielberg’s Back to the Future films.

All of this mutual inspiration reminds me of what Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, has told me multiple times: “We’re living in science fiction.” Huang refers to advances such as artificial intelligence, but his own company created a “metaverse for engineers” dubbed the Omniverse. With full physics simulations, engineers can use it to remotely design products together today, as the Omniverse is in beta testing.

While Cline’s books can be criticized as fan service, they provide us with cultural touchstones that gives us a common vision for how our future could unfold. Just as we loved Back to the Future‘s DeLorean time machine, hoverboards, and sneakers that tied their own laces, we now share the hope that something like Roblox or Fortnite will turn into the metaverse. Playing World of Warcraft, Cline was inspired by the fact that people fell in love inside the virtual world, and got married in real life.

In the novels, Cline depicts the Oasis as built by a single entrepreneur, James Halliday, a kind of Willy Wonka mogul, who builds the virtual universe with his friend Ogden Morrow. The Oasis is a walled garden, and Cline said it was built by a company that was “Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon all rolled into one.” This company controls our collective imagination, and the Easter egg hunt that Halliday launches for his would-be successors triggers a race to control the Oasis. The sequel continues this, but with new technologies added.

The vision of ‘Ready Player Two’

Ready Player Two is coming on November 24.

Above: Ready Player Two is coming on November 24.

Image Credit: Ballantine

With Ready Player Two, I reveled in the pop culture references. I thought it was cool you could visit a world based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe. The book didn’t dwell on the popular The Lord of the Rings novels. Rather, it focused on The Silmarillion, the prequel to LotR that I liked better. No one envisioned a virtual world as well as Tolkien did, and here it was simply a tiny part of a vast Oasis universe where fans could spend all of their time if they wished. That reminded me of one thing I want the metaverse to be: vast. If the huge world of The Silmarillion could exist on a single planet within the Oasis, which had so many planets within it, the scale of the whole universe would be astounding.

Ready Player One takes place in 2045, just shy of 25 years from now. That’s enough time to imagine much cooler technology than we have today, but nothing totally magical like we see in other science fiction worlds. While physical reality has become apocalyptic, people escape to the Oasis. (This reminds me of our own troubles today.) Ready Player Two happens in the same time frame, but this time Cline introduces a new way of interfacing with the Oasis — a new VR headset with a brain-computer interface dubbed the ONI. This device wires into your brain and your body, making it so that you can’t tell the difference between physical reality and virtual reality. You can feel touch feedback, smell things, taste things, and such. It is the logical destination of the VR technologies that we see today, from haptic touch that lets you feel virtual sex to virtual impersonation of other people so you can really feel like what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Above: A haptic suit enables Wade to feel touch in the Ready Player One trailer.

Image Credit: Ready Player One

Cline envisions streamers providing a service to people, who shared their own .oni files that other people could play. If they went traveling to some great place with forehead-mounted cameras, the followers could play that experience and see what it was like to be another person on a tourism journey. Cline predicted vast improvements in education as a result, as well as an improvement in empathy. You could, for instance, truly understand what it’s like walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. The flip side of this is that your actions in the ONI could always be recorded by someone else observing you, and so mutual surveillance could produce huge invasions of privacy, as you would never know if a streamer was recording you and revealing your actions to millions of followers.

Cline included plenty of warnings about the technology, similar to issues today like video game addiction and obsession, as well as relationship challenges that emerge when one partner is in love with the ONI and another isn’t. If you spend more than a dozen hours in the ONI at once, you can start suffering severe health effects. And so the technology forces you to get out of it if you exceed half a day. Yet these tools could also help people who are missing limbs feel what it’s like to have all of their body parts in VR.

Cline showed how deadly rogue AI could become, particularly if it could control an army of drones. And he gave us a peek into the future of real combat as ONI users operated war machines virtually so that they didn’t have to risk their own bodies as they hurtled into battle while operating drone controls.

Digital immortality

Above: Aech’s Garage in Ready Player One.

Image Credit: Sansar

Perhaps the most intriguing technology that Cline talks about is being able to make a digital copy of a person. The ONI can scan your entire brain and capture all of your memories, experiences, and knowledge. You can take this digital copy and put it into the mind of a virtual character, who lives only in the Oasis. That virtual person would behave the same way as the real person it is based on, but the virtual person’s life would diverge from the real person’s, as time goes on. As such, it can move people into the post-human world, where our minds are freed from our bodies. We could meet a clone based on a certain point in our lives.

This notion of digital immortality and the post-human life is also explored in the plot of the recent video game Cyberpunk 2077, which Cline said he was itching to play on a PC.

This raises the prospect of digital immortality, a concept explored in other science fiction such as Black Mirror‘s mind-blowing San Junipero episode (Season 3, Episode 4 of the Netflix TV show series), as well as Frank Herbert’s Dune series, and Ramez Naam’s Nexus trilogy (I’m going to moderate a talk with Naam and Tim Chang on February 17.) Cline explores the ethics of creepy behavior like capturing someone’s identity without permission and then re-creating some kind of digital plaything, as well as the question of whether AI characters who have someone else’s memories have the same right to exist as people living in the physical universe.

Edward Saatchi, the head of Fable Studio, operates a Virtual Beings Summit that explores topics like bringing back a dead James Dean to act in movies and other uses for artificial people. These kinds of visions raise the kind of moral questions that we’ll have to figure out before we unleash the worlds and peoples who could turn out to be far more real than we could ever imagine.

I look forward to exploring these questions and talking about these technologies next week, at our Into the Metaverse/Driving Game Growth event with many of the players who have been inspired by Cline and are in a position to build some of the technologies that he’s talking about.

And for me, as long as we’re stuck in a world with an accursed pandemic and a Zoomverse, that future can’t come soon enough.


Register for GamesBeat’s upcoming event: Driving Game Growth & Into the Metaverse


Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/01/22/the-deanbeat-what-ready-player-two-tells-us-about-the-metaverse/

AR/VR

Step Into the Cavernous C-17 With the RAF’s Latest 360 Video

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It’s been a while since VRFocus featured any 360-degree videos so here’s a new one that looked interesting. Created by the RAF Media Reserves for the RAF Police, it’s a chance to get up close to the RAF’s aircraft and assets for those who love aircraft or want to learn a bit more about the UK’s Royal Air Force.

Image credit: UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021

Recorded using Insta360’s Pro 2 and One R 360 cameras, the immersive experience takes viewers through several scenes starting with the cargo hold of a C-17. From there they can step into other areas only RAF personnel are allowed, like a hanger housing an A400M – with a dramatic viewpoint under the propellers.

As the video was created for the RAF Police, Flight Sergeant Neil ‘Josie’ Wales presents the entire experience, giving viewers a little bit of history alongside the various aspects of the job. These can range from routine criminal inquiries and large investigations to counterintelligence.

“We were acutely aware of the need for an initial ‘wow!’ factor, so we set our first scene in the cavernous empty hold of an RAF C-17 transport aircraft. As RAF reservists, we’d both experienced a sense of awe the first time we walked up the ramp into the belly of one of these beasts,” explains director Squadron Leader Tony Newton in a statement.

Image credit: UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021

“Our vision was to create an experience where the viewer is fully immersed in scenes that they wouldn’t normally have access to – standing directly underneath a landing C-130 Hercules or at the centre of a road traffic incident at night,” says Flight Lieutenant Paul Gale, the team’s director of photography and 360 expert.

In the two videos below you can watch the full 360-degree RAF Police experience and the behind-the-scenes footage. Or grab your Oculus Quest, Rift or Go headset to watch it in VR. For all the latest VR news, keep reading VRFocus.

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Source: https://vrarnews.com/details/step-into-the-cavernous-c-17-with-the-rafs-latest-360-video-6042e96f08a672ad0fbd1976?s=rss

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AR/VR

Step Into the Cavernous C-17 With the RAF’s Latest 360 Video

Avatar

Published

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It’s been a while since VRFocus featured any 360-degree videos so here’s a new one that looked interesting. Created by the RAF Media Reserves for the RAF Police, it’s a chance to get up close to the RAF’s aircraft and assets for those who love aircraft or want to learn a bit more about the UK’s Royal Air Force.

RAF Police
Image credit: UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021

Recorded using Insta360’s Pro 2 and One R 360 cameras, the immersive experience takes viewers through several scenes starting with the cargo hold of a C-17. From there they can step into other areas only RAF personnel are allowed, like a hanger housing an A400M – with a dramatic viewpoint under the propellers.

As the video was created for the RAF Police, Flight Sergeant Neil ‘Josie’ Wales presents the entire experience, giving viewers a little bit of history alongside the various aspects of the job. These can range from routine criminal inquiries and large investigations to counterintelligence.

“We were acutely aware of the need for an initial ‘wow!’ factor, so we set our first scene in the cavernous empty hold of an RAF C-17 transport aircraft. As RAF reservists, we’d both experienced a sense of awe the first time we walked up the ramp into the belly of one of these beasts,” explains director Squadron Leader Tony Newton in a statement.

RAF Police
Image credit: UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021

“Our vision was to create an experience where the viewer is fully immersed in scenes that they wouldn’t normally have access to – standing directly underneath a landing C-130 Hercules or at the centre of a road traffic incident at night,” says Flight Lieutenant Paul Gale, the team’s director of photography and 360 expert.

In the two videos below you can watch the full 360-degree RAF Police experience and the behind-the-scenes footage. Or grab your Oculus Quest, Rift or Go headset to watch it in VR. For all the latest VR news, keep reading VRFocus.

Checkout PrimeXBT
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Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2021/03/step-into-the-cavernous-c-17-with-the-rafs-latest-360-video/

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DJI’s VR goggles let you see the world from your drone’s point of view – Future Blink

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The DJI FPV Combo racing drone gives you a real-time, immersive drone-flying experience thanks to VR googles.  Read more…

More about Mashable Video, Vr Headset, Dji, Fpv, and Dji Drones

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Source: https://vrarnews.com/details/djis-vr-goggles-let-you-see-the-world-from-your-drones-point-of-view-and8211-future-blink-60429dbe15fdffce064bf2b1?s=rss

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Preview: Z-Race – Futuristic Toy Car Racing

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As a kid did you ever grab toy cars or planes and whizz them around the house pretending they were racing? Well, that’s what it kind of feels like playing XOCUS’ new virtual reality (VR) videogame Z-Race – minus the screaming parents – a futuristic racing title that will immediately make you think of WipEout yet offers a very different gameplay experience.

Z-Race immediately stands out thanks to its visual style, the anti-grav vehicles looking awesome thanks to a mixture of F1 and spaceship inspiration. While the tracks tend to be mostly tubular in construction there are moments when they open up, providing stunning views among the clouds or racing through icy, industrialised terrain.

For its Early Access launch on Steam for HTC Vive, Valve Index and Oculus Rift, you’ll be able to pilot 10 vehicles split across three-speed grades, three in grades three and two with four ships in the fastest grade one. Gaining access to the next grade requires upgrading one vehicle to the max, which you can only do by collecting coins on the track or by winning. These are split down into Acceleration, Top Speed and Nitro sections, each with three upgrade slots. So each race is a careful balance between keeping that perfect line or trying to collect those coins.

When it comes to the tracks there are 12 in total, split across Bronze, Silver and Gold cups. Unlike the variety found in the ships, the tracks only have four terrains, so by the time you enter the Gold cup they can feel somewhat repetitive. XOCUS does try to mitigate some of this by increasing the number of obstacles, so not only do you have other opponents flying around you there are red cylinders that will instantly slow you down – they’ll even ricochet if someone in front hits one – and red walls to thread through. In some of the tighter tunnels, it can be quite the challenge trying to feed your way through everything.

To help in these scenarios you have slow-mo and nitro to use, the former can only be used three times per race whilst nitro appears as blue orbs on the track. So far this all sounds like a blistering sci-fi racer – albeit without any weapons – offering face-melting speeds and intense competition.

However, if you’re a fan of VR racing games you’ll know inside the vehicle is where the action is, it’s the only true way of feeling that sense of speed. Z-Racer doesn’t, in fact, as its entirely third-person. There aren’t any actual options because of the control mechanics XOCUS has employed, great for comfort, not so much for speed. As VRFocus alluded to earlier, Z-Racer’s controls are like holding a toy in your hand, the controller becoming the ship. It’s a similar format to Shooty Skies Overdrive, all you need to do is move your hand around the track.

While this may not sit well with racing fans it does mean a generally comfortable experience even with all the undulating track design. It does take a moment to get used to but it provides a different experience to more conventional titles like Radial-G: Proteus.

As for the competitive aspect, Z-Race doesn’t offer your standard multiplayer where you have to wait for other players. Instead, the only mode currently available is Asynchronous Racing, where there are other racers on the track who represent other players times. The benefit of this system is no wait times, just dive straight into a race, and you do get that pseudo-competitive feel even though you know no one else is competing at that moment.

Currently, the content available means you’ll see all Z-Race has to offer in under an hour, going back through each course once you’ve supped up the best ships to gain a prominent leaderboard position. Yet Z-Race is an Early Access title and XOCUS’ plans for more content could radically change the experience. An actual head-to-head mode is planned for Q2 2021 which could really add some much-needed depth to the gameplay. Far more radical is the proposition of a cockpit mode. This idea is being looked at due to player feedback and if implemented would completely alter the control scheme, likely two very different racing modes.

For now, though, Z-Race offers a very average racing experience. It’s enjoyable for that initial hour then begins to wain unless you really want that number one position. There’s plenty of potential to be unlocked as the quality of the graphics and smooth gameplay already set a high, premium bar so hopefully, the studio has plenty of content updates planned. Should that cockpit mode arrive then VRFocus will be revisiting Z-Race.

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Source: https://vrarnews.com/details/preview-z-race-futuristic-toy-car-racing-60429509f46825a805bfb7dc?s=rss

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