Whenever most people hear the term “virtual reality”, a few things come to mind, but more often than not, the first thing to pop into peoples minds is either The Matrix or the holodeck on Star Trek. The idea of being part of a world that looks just like ours but where we can be something other than our everyday self is immensely appealing. Who wouldn’t want to be a valiant knight or feared overlord instead of an accountant or truck driver? There are a few distinct bottlenecks standing between where we are now and where we can be in the future: the hardware to create the worlds, technology to connect us to them and the network capacity to push them to us. As of today, however, that list got a little bit shorter.
The International Association of Virtual Reality Technologies, or IAVRT, has announced a new network is being formed specifically for the purpose of virtual reality. This new network, called the Neuronet, will be the world’s first network capable of meeting the data transfer speed requirements to allow for real-time immersive gaming and cinematic experiences. The IAVRT was formed as a non-profit group with the purpose of governing and leading the Neuronet to maturity and beyond. The gaming possibilities for this project are limitless. The following is from a press release on the IAVRT site:
“Today, the best and the brightest innovators in the world are pushing the boundaries of virtual reality and gaming. Virtual worlds such as Second Life, The Sims, Everquest, and World of Warcraft continue to attract legions of followers while new game systems from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft offer near life-like character renditions. In business, companies like IBM and Sun Microsystems are investing heavily in virtual reality business applications. These VR trailblazers, and many others, have been limited by the confines of the Internet. The Neuronet’s communication bandwidth and real-time VR and gaming data transfer protocols will enable them to reach their full potential.”
The Neuronet is made viable, and even possible, by the fiber optic cabling left over from the dot com era. Due to the sheer amount of cabling that is left, the Neuronet can be brought up with a minimal investment. The first generation of the network is due to go live in 2007 as a connection between virtual reality shops and gaming research and development centers. The IAVRT predicts that we will be able to see end-user applications becoming available as early as 2009.
To that end, the IAVRT is establishing a system for pre-registration of domain names on the Neuronet. These domains will not be compatible with the current Internet domains, and vice versa. From February 5th, 2007 to June 1st, 2007, the IAVRT is offering a grace period for copyright holders to register their domains. General domain registration opens up on June 4th. After the grace period, domain names are free game for anyone who wants to register them.
As exciting as the idea of the Neuronet is, it could really go either way. Taking on the Internet is quite a challenge, and even though this new network is meant to be a completely separate project with a different agenda, it’s going to take quite a bit of convincing to get people to spend even more money on another service. However, the first time you show a person the way to become a mighty warrior in another dimension, I imagine the sales will go up. It’s an exciting, but risky, prospect.