Ready Player One promises the thrills of VR on the Big Screen so Tech Trends jumped into the OASIS and immersed ourselves in Spielberg’s latest blockbuster
Well… it’s here, Virtual Reality on the big screen. Yes I know that awful film The Lawnmower Man tried to do it back early 90’s, and we all remember with gritted teeth, the retina shattering bad graphics, dreadful music and of course ham-fisted ‘actor’ Pierce Brosnan, so I was thrilled to be invited by Digital Catapult and PwC to an exclusive preview of Ready Player One at London’s O2 Arena yesterday. The hugely successful book by Ernest Cline from 2011 was crying out to be adapted for the silver screen but how would 3D thrills work in a 2D medium?The hugely successful book by Ernest Cline was crying out to be adapted for the silver screen but how would 3D thrills work in a 2D medium? Click To Tweet
Firstly I will nail my colours to the mast here and proclaim I am a VR/AR & MR enthusiast and have extensively covered this emerging sector. As a geek I’m excited about new immersive content, production processes and HMDs, and as a human (are geeks humans?) about the potential the technology has to change how we relate to each other in digital space and the possibility to improve every aspect of our real lives, from sex to education, entertainment and work.As a geek I’m excited about new immersive content, production processes and HMDs Click To Tweet
From Google Cardboard to Magic Leap, we’re developing some exciting stuff, and despite the concept being around for decades, it has only recently transitioned into our day-to-day lives. It’s essentially understood as a technology that transports us out of the real world and into a digital one. This is broadly correct and conjures up scenes from films such as The Matrix or the aforementioned The Lawnmower Man, in which you plug your body into a network and are sucked into another, digital world where rules such as gravity, size and mass don’t apply (or at least not in the same way).
It has been a long journey of innovation but we now have the technology to totally immerse any person in a fully computer-generated environment, and boy-o-boy is it fun! But bringing an immersive VR story to the old-fashioned 2D cinema screen is more of a challenge that it might seem.It has been a long journey of innovation but we now have the technology to totally immerse any person in a fully computer-generated environment Click To Tweet
While writing about this new leap forward in technology I have tested out pretty much every cutting-edge experience out there and more than most, recognize that this new medium does not translate well into traditional media. It is literally (or virtually?) another dimension from what we are used to and an immersive VR experience is best enjoyed in VR. Trying to show the unique possibilities VR offers in any way other than within VR provides only a pale reflection of what it is and how powerful it can be, however, if anyone could do it justice I hoped Spielberg could.
Steve (as I call him) has a good record of showing us the future of technology and inspiring us with what is just over the horizon and what innovations are on the cusp of realisation. Minority Report showed us the power of the heads-up display and holographic computer interfaces, A.I. showed us a future where robots live amongst us and addressed some of Asimov’s issues around robot-human relations, while Jurassic Park foresaw potential problems with genetic science and cloning.Through his films, Spielberg has promoted advanced and future technologies in the popular consciousness and inspired people around the world to engage with them Click To Tweet
It’s important to note that all these films were adaptations of successful books or short stories but through his films, Spielberg has successfully promoted advanced and future technologies in the popular consciousness and inspired people around the world to engage with tech, even if it is just as consumers. Ready Player One is definitely the most high profile representation of VR that millions of viewers will experience and it might well be their first sight of VR as a real technology but will the film grab the imaginations of people across the globe?
Hosts of our exclusive screening Digital Catapult and PwC invited along a crowd of London’s top VR innovators from the UK’s booming tech scene to launch an Immersive Handbook containing a list of recommendations focusing on legal, IP, privacy, business models and health & welfare issues specific to immersive businesses, both today, and looking to the future.The comment I heard most was it was a too much of a kids film and presented VR as a childish game in the traditional console sense Click To Tweet
This practical guide is following on from previous work by Digital Catapult in supporting the UK’s booming immersive sector, including the launch of volumetric capture facility, DIMENSION, and immersive innovation program, CreativeXR so I was in the right place and kept my ears open and listened in on the crowd’s thoughts on the film. Clearly, the hope in the industry is that Ready Player One will inspire a new generation of consumers and that was certainly the feeling in Screen 5 last night. I admit to being a little concerned that the film might misrepresent the true possibilities of VR and be a little uninspiring, it had its issues for sure but what it lacked in factual detail it made up for in Crash, Bang and Wallop!
Ready Player One is a film about VR and is largely based in VR yet viewers will leave the cinema never having experienced VR once, so how did it do at presenting VR and its complex potential? Well, sat amongst a crowd of industry leaders, engineers and marketers who know all about the technology I heard a few complaints and a lot of praise.
The comment I heard most was it was a too much of a kids film and presented VR as a childish game in the traditional console sense, and yes it did lean very heavily on established forms of gaming to explain the world within OASIS but to be fair this is just taken from the book. Cline does this to make the tech approachable and in fact, it has been the games industry that has pushed VR technology to consumers the hardest so far and I think viewers will get on board quickly with this approach.
My principal disappointment was that it was too heavy on the shooting, punching and driving and didn’t touch on the incredible power VR has to invoke empathy. The central love story was sorely lacking in emotion, when Art3mis explained to a frustrated Parzival that she wasn’t interested in him and why she was on her quest to destroy IOI the filmmakers could have used VR’s empathetic capabilities to put you in another’s shoes, to make you see through someone else’s eyes. Here she could have shown Wade her pain and motivation, visually this could have worked like an immersive flashback where Wade saw what she saw and felt what she felt. I feel this was a missed opportunity to educate the audience that the technology is far more than just a 3D video game, and it was certainly a missed opportunity to develop what was otherwise a rather flat love story.
On the flip side, it demonstrated how VR and the use of avatars can bring together conventionally unlikely groups of characters and build strong connections between people from varied backgrounds and age groups through common goals and shared working. By the end, the in-game friends have bonded in the real world and become the ‘High Five’ despite their gender, sexuality, economic, racial and age differences. This was a clear theme in the film and showed how VR can break down social barriers, freeing users to be who they want to be in the real world by first experimenting and building relashionships in the digital one.
All in all I really enjoyed Ready Player One, it was a rip-roaring ride full of spectacular visual effects and will no doubt encourage a new generation to get hands-on with the technology but it was only a brief and incomplete look at the possibilities VR presents us with, it dipped a toe into what the technology offers. However, it did a great job at structuring a narrative across real and immersive space, which is no mean feat, and you are swept along on the quest to find Haliday’s Easter Egg and defeat Sorrento. Tech Trends recommends you take a look and judge for yourselves. Ready Player One is out in cinemas everywhere now, so grab your popcorn and head over to the OASIS.
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