What’s Next After The Internet?
A few weeks ago at VRLA I caught up with Sean Voltaire, co-founder of Omega. While this article is a re-post from my blog, Omega is a fascinating project I’d like to have covered here on Medium.
At its base Omega is a VR engine for world building, but it’s also the first VR engine that can do everything in one place. As far as VR programs currently run, one takes care of gaming, another is for art, another for world building and on it goes.
In Omega, a user can build a world, and also open a game while still in Omega. They can open a picture as a point of reference while creating a work of art, open a separate screen for their email, browse social media, open a web browser… anything you can think to do on a regular desktop without leaving the Omega engine.
The way I like to think of Omega is as an operating system like Windows, Mac or Linux. So via Omega, users can access sites such as Gmail, YouTube, Steam, Facebook and WordPress as well as run applications such as Photoshop, Chrome and Skype.
This sounds like an endeavor that all big companies would want to pursue, but Voltaire says none of the giants have taken on this task. When Omega is first released on kickstarter as early as next year, Voltaire wants it to be released as an engine that competes with the best, and as is, outstrips them all in terms of functionality. Not to mention, that with the right investors Omega has the potential to be released as an open sourced platform. Nonetheless, Omega will facilitate the creation of software and content development by its users.
Now, as I begin to comprehend exactly what is Omega, I begin to understand the implications of such a platform. Could this be the future of the internet?
Voltaire’s interest in programming and design began in grade school from an avid interest in gaming. He worked as a programmer and software engineer after dropping out of college and surprised employers with his talent for design in VR. Other than for a short introduction in college, Voltaire is self taught, especially when it comes to VR. He also works from home, primarily independently.
It was when Oculus first appeared on Kickstarter that Voltaire finally saw the opportunity to begin work on this idea of an engine that can do everything, and he began to take the project seriously. Now, it’s been four years since he began to work on Omega, and a year and a half since he’s worked on it full time.
Rather than sell Omega at its early stages, Voltaire and his team have survived by engaging in business contracts that put Omega to work by creating VR software that meets the needs of employers in very much the same way that others will eventually use Omega to create applications, experiences, and content when the platform is released to the public.
Slowly, the Omega team has evolved into a group of 10 who work in different areas of Omega. They have just six programmers, and the others work on the business and social side of the endeavor.
Voltaire and I also talk about how VR has yet to become a common household item. There’s the price, as well as functionality. Voltaire says there’s yet to be a killer app on VR. There’s no practicality outside of gaming, and for the avid gamers, the games just aren’t good enough.
If Omega is to be the future of the internet, it will have to become something that everyone uses. I ask Voltaire what he thinks about a-non tech savvy individual’s potential to learn and use Omega. He says that so far technology that we use, like the pen, the typewriter, then the mouse and keyboard, are all based on what we have in the physical world and that’s why it’s easy to use, and, interactions in virtual reality are even closer to real life interaction than anything before. It should seem intuitive even to those who have only a basic comprehension of VR and tech in general. So, Omega can be used in its simplest form as a virtual space to browse the web or check mail, to enormous potentials in the housing of new software developments.
As I consider the uses of Omega, it dawns on me that Omega is really the first true virtual world. It’s a metaverse, an online world that is persistent and used by many, many people. It’s a place where users have no need to leave (other than to eat and a few other necessities of course!). Everything that can be done IRL* can be done in Omega. It brings a closer truth to the term virtual reality.
“Have you heard of Ready Player One?” asks Voltaire.
“Yes,” I reply, having read the book about a year ago, and he describes how this will be the first major film that brings VR to mainstream. If you’ve read Ready Player One, then you’ll recognize Omega as the first platform that has the potential to create The Oasis, the virtual metaverse that exists in the fictional world imagined by author Ernest Cline- Earth in the year 2045. If Omega is to take off, I’d like to think that I can’t possibly imagine what Earth will be like in the year 2045… if bureaucracy and the big companies don’t turn this into a political concern or as a passing profit opportunity, Omega could be the next big breakthrough we are waiting for.
“Why did you call it Omega?” I ask Voltaire, and this is the first time he actually breaks out of his calm with an eager smile. Omega will be the final evolution of human and computer interaction until we can upload via neurolace, he explains.
I’ll have to admit into looking this up after, as I didn’t know about the meaning of Omega. Turns out it’s the last letter of the Greek alphabet- the last, or the end of the alphabet.
Before I leave I experience a second demo of Omega (I first bumped into the team a few weeks ago at a VR demo at UPLOAD, LA). After a little exploration, it’s not long before I recognize something that wasn’t in this particular VR world the last time I was here. It’s a painting hanging in midair that has caught my attention: The Garden of Earthly Delights. I find myself frozen in wonder for several seconds when I do some research later in the day. In VR, I pulled the painting close to take a look at it’s depictions of heaven and hell. With interpretation open to imagination, I find the painting very thought provoking. Not just for Omega, but for all the inevitable changes technology will bring in our future.
Once again, I also ask Voltaire for one of his business cards to get another look at their logo, a custom designed Omega symbol. On the other side of the card are the words “create anything, change everything.” Surrounding these words is a list in a layout that reminds me of the code in The Matrix of just some of the industry applications of Omega. The card is small, but the list is mind opening and quite possibly infinite if the card extended forever. After all, as I often think and as my blog is named, that creativity is infinite- I see Omega as another tool for infinite creativity. Or as Voltaire says, as a platform for your imagination.
As I leave, I feel a new excitement. I don’t see Omega as an end, but as a new beginning. Could it be my generation that witnesses the next era of the internet?
*Date of original post: Oct. 2017