Dystopia, brought to you by…

*** SPOILER ALERT: This article contains plot information related to the book READY PLAYER ONE If you have not read the book and do not wish your experience spoiled, please return to this link when you’re ready (Player One). ***

My friend Alvin Wang Graylin, China Regional President of HTC Vive, recently authored a thoughtful op-ed piece entitled, “Real world lessons for the VR-First future: An industry insider’s analysis of READY PLAYER ONE”, the English version of which is published on technode.

As Alvin observes, Ernest Cline’s best-selling book, READY PLAYER ONE, is an insightful fictional take on our virtual reality future, and recommended reading for pretty much everyone, irrespective of your current interest (or lack thereof) in VR. READY PLAYER ONE imaginatively portrays the transformative possibilities of virtual reality across every aspect of our lives. The book also vividly illustrates the dystopian consequences that may arise from the neglect of actual reality in the embrace of virtual reality. At its core, READY PLAYER ONE is a cautionary tale of the consequences of immersive escapism in the face of increasing ecological crisis, economic disparity and socio-political disintegration.

I’ve given Alvin plenty of well-intentioned ribbing regarding HTC’s ongoing use of READY PLAYER ONE’s sandblasted mobile home stacks as a backdrop for their presentations on the “VR-first future.” Mobile home stacks are, to put it mildly, a bad ad: suitable for the poster image of VR contrarian / convert(?) Steven Spielberg’s forthcoming READY PLAYER ONE film adaptation, but questionable as consumer enticement for a VR hardware manufacturer. Imagine a surfboard company advertising with a JAWS poster. 😉

If, as maintained in the technode op-ed piece, “READY PLAYER ONE will do for VR what AVATAR did for 3D in general awareness,” the question naturally follows: “Does this awareness make the general public more or less favorably inclined towards VR?” In other words, is this “VR-first future” a future you want to live in? The hero of READY PLAYER ONE provides a succinct answer: “For me, growing up as a human being on the planet Earth in the twenty-first century was a real kick in the teeth.” His explanation doesn’t get any more complimentary from there.

The global energy crisis, wars, social calamities and ecological disasters which characterize daily life in READY PLAYER ONE aren’t caused by VR technology, but they are facilitated and exacerbated by it. Not only does technological saturation deplete the world’s resources, but VR escapism provides an easy alternative to real-world problem-solving: a new “opiate of the masses.”

I came away from READY PLAYER ONE with three thoughts… (full post on AWN)

Dystopia, brought to you by…

Through the looking glass

image

Dad and Mom are awakened by their scented VR sleep wraps: Dad with a simulated mountain sunrise, and Mom on a peaceful meadow. They change into their daywear – lightweight, hybrid reality designer glasses and haptic smart rings. In the kitchen, Mom browses new breakfast recipes in AR, while Dad parses an AR article on the discontinuation of the world’s last remaining smart phone model, the Freedom 2051. Their preschool Daughter flails through an AR storybook while chatting with her digital imaginary friend (which her parents have secretly configured to be visible to everyone in the family).

Dad prepares to take his pudgy teenage Son to school (brick-and-mortar education made mandatory by the “Present and Accounted For” school attendance bill, passed into law after a spike in childhood obesity). Their trip in the family car starts out in… (full post on AWN)

Through the looking glass

Virtual vision

Jim Stoten VR world

London artist Jim Stoten presents his whimsical take on the future of virtual reality and augmented reality.

I would like to show a futuristic street scene, showing people of the future using virtual reality technology in an everyday way.  Some people will be walking alongside their own projected pet dinosaur.  Some will be talking to hologramatic projections of business colleagues or family members on their telephone — eye projectors.  Some will be playing huge interactive video games on screens the size of buildings, with large VR hands.  Some will be watching TV shows as they walk along.

In a world where people already have very different perceptions of shared realities, it will be fascinating (and possibly frightening) to see the consequences of our ability to experience divergent realities at the same time, in the same place.

Virtual vision