Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Ernest Cline's novel "Ready Player One" hit theaters with a roar, topping the Easter weekend box office. The film, set in a futuristic Columbus, Ohio, pits a group of teenage gamers, lead by Parzival (Tie Sheridan) against the evil corporation IOI and their leader Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) in the battle for the Oasis, a virtual reality (VR) space in which almost anything is possible.
With stunning visual effects and a bevy of 80s cultural references, it was easy to lose yourself in all the fun, but the core of the movie was the way in which the dystopian real world blended with the virtual. While not all of technology in the film exists today, "Ready Player One" does a good job of approximating what VR might look like in the not to distant future. Here's what we can do today — and what we think we'll be able to tap into soon.
Fact: Virtual Reality Headsets
VR headsets are easy to find today, and at a range of pricesOculus
Throughout "Ready Player One" players in the To access the Oasis, players in the real world have to don VR headsets that look extremely similar to the Oculus Rift VR rig, complete with handheld controllers. VR gaming has existed for years: Sega was actually designing a virtual reality headset as far back as 1991, before the project ran out of funding. Today, almost anyone can get their hands on a VR headset — even cheap ones that cost as little as $10.
Fact: Facial Recognition
Facial recognition technology is already in consumer products including the iPhone XApple
In the film, the evil corporation IOI not only chases Parzival and his friends in the virtual world, but through the real world as well. Using their army of drones, IOI uses facial recognition technology plus augmented reality (AR) to ferret players out. Parzival is actually known as Wade Watts in the real world. (You can have your avatar assume a new identity.) The cameras on the drones provide background information on Watts, as well as showing detailed diagrams of his vital signs.
Facial recognition technology is fairly common today, and is working its way into consumer products from the iPhone X to home security cameras. While we can't yet point a smartphone at a friend and pull up their vital statistics (thankfully), AR is being used in gaming, such as Lenovo's Jedi Challenges and shopping apps.
Fact: VR and AR advertising
Adverty places advertisements in VR gamesAdverty
After conquering the Oasis, IOS hopes to flood the virtual world with advertisements in order to make obscene amounts of money. Sorrento even jokes that "80 percent of a person's vision can be filled with ads before there's a risk of seizure." While not quite as sinister in real life, advertisers are extremely interested in getting their products marketed in the virtual space. Many video games already have in-game ads, and at least one ad network, Adverty, is programming advertisements in VR now.
Fact: Virtual avatars
You can create a virtual avatars in most virtual and video games today.Warner Bros.
Anyone who has ever played a video game has controlled an avatar in one way or another. In the movie, the avatars that Wade Watts and his friends use, look nothing like they do in the real world. The ability to customize one's character, even in virtual reality, is pretty much the standard in video games today.
Fact: Omnidirectional Treadmills
The Omni is a treadmill that lets you play VR games, and move in any directionVirtuix
While a VR headset is cool on its own, it barely counts as virtual reality if users can't move around in the virtual world. In the film, everyone has a multi-directional treadmill under their feet whenever they choose to play in the Oasis. As it turns out, these exist in real life as well, and are the perfect accessory to go along with any VR headset. The future of virtual reality gaming is now.
Future: Virtual Reality Projection
Hologram calls aren't replacing the smartphone anytime sooniStock
In one scene, Sorrento has a hologram-like Skype call with Parcival. While we do have hologram technology today, we can't beam a full image of someone's avatar into a boardroom and have a conversation. This combination of AR and VR might not be that far away though. Verizon and Korea Telecom debuted a test of a rough hologram service last year — although it's far from "Ready Player One" quality yet.
Future: Virtual money is valued more
While virtual currency is around, they're not valued more than real money — yetiStock
Virtual money in the Oasis is actually more prized than money in the real world. (You can even use the virtual coin to buy real things in the real world.) While we have virtual currency today — Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple are just a few — they're extremely volatile. Plus, there are too many different virtual currencies to make them as strong as the single one in the Oasis.
Future: Visual memory playback
Pulling up an instant memory for our brain works in movies — but not in real life.iStock
Showing videos of human memory is a popular cinematic trope. "Black Mirror" does it. It's a big part of Netflix's "The Discovery." But in reality, we're many years away from being able to project videos of our memories directly from our brains, into an augmented or virtual space. Scientists may have made great leaps in recent years with regard to capturing data from what's inside our heads — but pulling up a record of an exact time and day and sharing it with others is not on the horizon any time soon.
Future: Haptic feedback
Living forever? The idea of uploading our existence into AI is the stuff of fantasy.iStock
In the beginning of the movie, James Halliday, the creator of the Oasis, dies and sets up a string of challenges accessible to every player. Whoever completes them, gains control of the Oasis. Halliday continues to appear throughout the Oasis — with complete control over his actions. When pressed about this, Halliday's virtual avatar just smiles and says that he's dead, before disappearing. The implication is that Halliday uploaded his consciousness into VR before he died, and in that way has gained a sort of immortality. This technology is so far off, that there isn't even speculation of when it could be invented.