Spielberg's 'Ready Player One' could lend timely marketing boost to VR

Steven Spielberg's hotly anticipated "Ready Player One" will hit theaters with fans eager to delve into the Ernest Cline's fictional virtual reality (VR) focused world

Marcus Zallman
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On the 29th of March, Steven Spielberg's hotly anticipated "Ready Player One" will hit theaters with fans eager to delve into the Ernest Cline’s fictional virtual reality (VR) focused world.

The film features characters who escape a dystopian future Ohio by plugging into an alternative universe using virtual reality headsets. With the movie already getting rave reviews from those who saw it at South by Southwest, tech watchers are speculating that "Ready Player One" will give VR a lift in the real world.

Virtual reality headsets, introduced five years ago, have failed to go mainstream. Users have complained that there's not enough content or apps; that headsets are expensive, clunky and difficult to set up; and that Oculus, HTC and PlayStation headsets must still be tethered to pricey PCs or game consoles.

However, eight pieces of VR content inspired by the book "Ready Player One" were announced earlier this month, with the first three now available to HTC Vive users through Viveport. Published by Vive Studios, you can now play Battle for the Oasis by Steel Wool Studios (Bounce, The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth), Gauntlet from Directive Games (Super Kaiju, The Machines), and Rise of the Gunters from Drifter Entertainment (Gunheart).

in January VR fans got some good news at the Consumer Electronics Show, where manufacturers announced several new products and initiatives. Google and Lenovo teamed up on a standalone VR headset, and the search giant talked up the latest features for its smartphone-based Daydream VR platform. HTC Corp. announced a new version of its powerful headset with beefier graphics. And Facebook Inc.'s Oculus stole some of the spotlight by announcing new details about its upcoming $200 Go Headset; namely that it would run a Qualcomm Inc. smartphone chip, which makes it more portable.

According to the Consumer Technology Association, this year the silo will grow a record 25-plus percent, and some analysts say Spielberg's film could provide an extra boost.

Based on a book of the same name, "Ready Player One" takes place in 2045 and focuses on Wade Watts, who lives in a teeming trailer park in Columbus, Ohio. He and other characters become addicted to a 3-D virtual world called OASIS. (The headsets in the movie were dreamed up by the filmmakers.)

While the immediate future for VR may be brighter, Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are betting that the technology eventually will be supplanted by augmented reality, which mixes the virtual with the real world.