Virtual reality is all the rage at GDC, but it has some limitations. You’ll notice there’s not a lot of online multiplayer, as that would require a magnitude more of processing power. But never say never, especially when you’re IBM.
Over in Japan, IBM is testing a multiuser VR system built on its cognitive systems and its cloud services. They used the popular anime Sword Art Online instead of Keanu Reeves’ classic action flick, but the concept is the same, really: People are trapped in a virtual simulation and can’t escape, and if you die in the simulation, you die in the real world.
IBM did not, thankfully, try to kill anyone, but it does let people grasp how effective the technology is, and there’s a lot of promise here. Part of the reason VR was developed was to create digital worlds for people to interact in, after all, and as we develop more and better VR tools, connecting them is the next logical step. IBM’s setup here is enormously complex, networking dozens of servers to individual, custom-built “stations” with a headset and a pedestal to move around in. If that weren’t enough, the software tracks your movement, right down to your hands, to allow you to pick up objects just by gesturing. Really, all that’s missing is the ability to upload knowledge directly into your brain, and somebody else is working on that.
Of course, we should also keep the lessons of The Matrix and Sword Art Online in mind. After all, nobody wants to go head to head with an agent.