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A Virtual History: Inside the World of Ready Player One

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Open a page in the novel Ready Player One and you’ll find vivid descriptions of a future filled with pixelated environments, digital connections with real people, and dozens of virtual worlds. An OASIS of innovation even. As the future of virtual reality becomes brighter and more promising, people across the globe wonder just how much more advanced this field will become, but the answer in that question lies in the very start of it all: The 20th Century.

Turning back the clock to the 60’s, we find ourselves in the presence of the accomplished computer engineer Ivan Sutherland, who was drawing up plans for a head-mounted display (HMD) system to see what type of technology would be needed for more directly related user-computer interactions.

While previous concept ideas and half-baked headsets had come into fruition in the past decade, Ivan Sutherland’s Sword of Damocles is considered to be the first functioning virtual reality headset, and its concept was the infrastructure for future innovations.

Transitioning into the 70’s, the military turned its focus to HMD for advanced training, in a fashion akin to Ender’s Game. At first, the best they could do were flight simulations with poor graphics, only usable because of it’s real-time responses; but by 1979, HMDs had provided much more realistic & detailed terrains for pilots to navigate in the virtual world.

While in the earlier years, virtual reality had been something seen only in military training and extensive Harvard research, the mid 90s began to shine for virtual reality.

The first truly commercial release for entertainment-based virtual reality was Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. Unfortunately, it was a financial disaster and sold poorly among the millennial generation.

Eventually, virtual reality began to expand beyond a clunky headset we put on our face. For the first 15 years of the 21st century, virtual reality was seen in home consoles as a necessity, such as the Wii and the Kinect. Larger companies, such as Facebook & Playstation, began to invest in virtual reality while the government expanded its utilities for virtual reality into completely realistic mission training for soldiers and real-down-to-a-point simulations for doctors & engineers.

Today, our generation has become completely adjusted to the prospect of virtual reality. It is no longer a fantasy like in The Matrix, it has become part of our everyday lives, it’s in our phones, game consoles, and workspaces. Advancements in virtual reality continue to become more frequent and effective, and as Rockwall students tear through the pages of Ready Player One, we can only wonder what else is in store for us.

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