The Future Of (2022) s01e04 Episode Script

Gaming

1
[cheerful music plays.]

[indistinct background chatter.]

[Jurnee Smollett.]
Picture this.

You're at a cozy restaurant
in Tokyo with a friend.

You love this place,
but you've both been to Japan
too many times this week.

Want to try a different spot?
With a flick of a wrist,
you're now at a café
along a Venetian canal.

While you wait for your food,
your friend suggests you play a game
on the moon
- in costume.

- [alien growls.]

And what makes this night
even more magical
is that you and your friend
are actually 3,000 miles apart.

It all seems so real, but
- [lasers fire.]

- how could it be?
[man 1.]
You can choose
whatever reality you wanna live in.

That seems believable.

It seems inevitable.

[Smollett.]
Video games offer us a chance
to escape into our wildest dreams.

But what if those fantasies became real?
Game on, old friend.

[Smollett.]
It's a premise beloved
by science fiction.

- But what do we do?
- Whatever we want.

[Smollett.]
And with amazing,
high-tech leaps in mapping,
communication, and wearable tech,
your neighborhood will soon host
a wonderland of virtual games.

It's gonna be this carnival
of digital entertainment
for people to interact with.

[Smollett.]
Soon your video games
will bust out of their screens.

We're gonna have playful digital beings,
a part of everyday life.

[Smollett.]
And eventually give
your whole world an upgrade.

I'm ready to fully go transhuman
and become a cyborg.

[Smollett.]
But this playful vision
raises serious questions.

When am I just in the game,
and when is this actually my life?
[man 1.]

Are you gonna have giant PepsiCo banners
hanging next to the Statue of Liberty?
[Smollett.]
Because it's nothing less
than the future of reality itself.

[man 1.]
And it'll be scary,
and it'll be fun,
and then it'll just become normal.

[Smollett.]
And it all starts
with video games.

[theme music plays.]

[Smollett.]
Video games,
once considered a passing trend
for teenagers huddled
in cramped arcades and dark basements,
have evolved
into a colossus of cultural influence.

I really do think
that there is a gamer in everyone.

[Smollett.]
Three billion people
play video games,
nearly half the human population.

And the gaming industry makes more money
than music and movies combined.

Video games today
aren't just entertaining.

With esports tournament prizes
growing every year,
- gaming could make you rich.

- [all cheer.]

And I went to my first tournament
which had a prize pool like $400,0000.

This is in 2012.

[Smollett.]
And games have evolved
into vast intricate worlds.

I love the immersive experience of gaming.

Just like being able
to dive into a reality
that's different from
the reality you're currently living.

[Smollett.]
And they've come
to offer much more
than just a place to waste noobs?
Fortnite, they've done such
interesting things with hosting concerts.

It's become a platform
of just hanging out.

[Smollett.]
These virtual worlds
are increasingly vivid,
social, and expansive.

But at the same time, they're limiting,
confining us to our couches,
our PCs, and our phone screens.

You can immerse yourself further
with virtual reality,
but you're probably
still stuck in your living room.

I've punched a few walls playing VR.

- [woman 1 gasps.]
Dude!
- [man 2.]
Oh! Sorry, sorry.
Ooh.

[Smollett.]
But another technology
promises to bring all the fun of gaming
into the real world itself.

Augmented Reality, or AR.

AR is the world around you and
you have a layer over top and they match.

[Smollett.]
A lot of us got
our first big tease of AR
in 2016 with Pokémon Go.

It's become a global phenomenon.

You actually see Pokémon jumping around,
it's really exciting.
It's like, wow.

It comes down to what things have meaning
in a player's real life already
[sings nonsensically.]

that you can bring this additional layer
of meaning onto.

[Smollett.]
But as the novelty
of Pokémon Go wore off
Shit, where'd the Venasaur go?
[Smollett.]
the craze died down,
and AR gaming has yet
to figure out its next big hit.

Meanwhile, AR found success
in other areas,
like helping people shop
for makeup and swap faces on Snapchat.

I don't even look anything like myself,
- do I?
- [man 3 laughs.]

[Smollett.]
But now,
new technologies are poised
to unlock the next level of AR gaming.

I'm John Hanke.
I'm the CEO of Niantic.

[Smollett.]
The folks that,
along with the Pokémon company,
created Pokémon Go.

The technologies
have matured a great deal.

I think people are really beginning
to understand
the medium and how to work with it,
and we'll start seeing a sort
of second wave of creativity.

[Smollett.]
More and more creators
are honing their skills
with rapidly improving AR software
and hardware,
and soon games will explode
out of our homes and into the world,
leaving traditional gaming in the past.

[chill music plays.]

[Smollett.]
Imagine stepping outside,
taking out your phone,
and discovering your neighborhood
has become a giant game board
where your daily routine
is infused with magic,
and mundane places now host epic quests
for you and your friends.

The whole world would be full of gaming.

[Smollett.]
But for this virtual wonderland
to be possible,
AR gaming is going to need
a major software update.

Today's AR is plenty creative,
but it often ignores basic physics,
which makes it hard to believe.

And right now, if you and your friends
want to battle the same monsters together,
your options are limited.

Solving these problems is fundamental
to the future of AR.
And the solution?
The future of augmented reality is a map
that is a 3D recreation
of the entire world, indoor and outdoor.

[Smollett.]
Currently,
Pokémon Go relies on inexact sources,
like GPS and car cameras to place you
roughly amongst the Pokémon in your area.

But to make AR more convincing,
games will need to know
exactly where you are
down to the centimeter,
and what is around you.

That's why Silicon Valley
is currently vying to map the world
like never before,
with companies like Meta,
Apple, and Niantic
all cooking up their own
hyper-detailed 3D scanning technologies.

[exciting music plays.]

By weaving these features
into their products,
tech companies hope to one day
have billions of users simultaneously
uploading scans of their surroundings,
which they will merge into a single shared
real-time digital twin of planet Earth.

The map that we're talking about is
if you think about
Google Maps or Google Earth,
this is taking it to a whole
'nother degree of fidelity
that's needed to get the accuracy
to deliver the sort of
ultimate AR experiences
that we wanna achieve.

[Smollett.]
It all sounds kind of creepy
and we'll get to that.

But, for indie developer John Wolff,
better mapping is an important step
in a long quest.

So, for you to be able to create,
you know,
a world and really tell whatever
story you want in this alternative world,
was really engaging to me initially.

It kind of evolved from then about more
of blending, uh,
reality and virtual reality together.

[Smollett.]
John is one
of the first indie developers
to build a game
with Niantic's new software
and he's kicking things off with pigs.

A Tontachi is
an augmented-reality pet simulator.

[Smollett.]
It's a throwback to Tamagotchi,
the much-loved,
often neglected digital pets of the '90s.

This one had a great,
big, steaming virtual poo.

Tamagotchi actually translates
to eggs or egg friends,
so the same thing here in Tontachi
is either it's pig or pig friends.

[Smollett.]
John's prototype
provides a sneak peak
at how precise 3D maps
will make AR more realistic.

It's mapped out the table,
and it's mapped out his body.

You know, they recognize that, you know,
this is an object, this is an object,
so they can't go through.

So I'm either going to go in a path
that's maybe under the table,
or I'm gonna go around the table.

[Smollett.]
And because all the users
are referencing the same map,
a whole group of players can now interact
with the same AR objects.

You're able to then have races with it
with other individuals
in real space and real time.

- There they go! They're off.

- [woman 2.]
They're going.

[Smollett.]
John's game
is a work in progress.

- Oh yeah.
Yup.

- Player three's gonna get it? Took it.

[Smollett.]
But he's just one
in a wave of developers
learning to build
with more powerful software,
and their combined creations
will soon unleash a whole new era of AR.

It's gonna be like this carnival
almost of just digital entertainment
for people to interact with.

And you could be flipping
between channels as you're walking.

[Smollett.]

In this future augmented amusement park,
you'll have the choice to jump
from stream to stream, or go deep
on a single sprawling story line
with friends around the world.

Whole narratives could be written
around just where you live, right?
[Smollett.]
In one level,
you're stopping aliens
from invading your favorite pub,
and then you spot those same aliens
while strolling through the local market.

And even when you visit your grandma,
you can score points
for defending her tomatoes.

[Maughan.]
It would be the same game mapped
onto the environment that you're in.

The possibilities are really limitless
with AR gaming.

[Smollett.]
Which begs the question,
could a gaming world without limits
end up a little too much fun?
You don't want people walking
into traffic, don't want people tripping.

How do we design public spaces
for play with augmented reality?
How do we make them safe?
[Smollett.]
Maybe instead of
a free-for-all,
you'll go to a designated AR arena,
like a skate park but for gaming.

And AR presents another threat.

To privacy.

Say you want to use an AR app
from Meta in your house.

They'll need to know exactly
what that space looks like.

So suddenly, Facebook, it's like
you've invited them over to your house.

[doorbell rings.]

The fact that it is scanning
and understanding our physical space,
the public isn't necessarily aware
of how it is being used.

[Smollett.]
Apps already use
our personal data for targeted marketing.

Imagine you're playing
a virtual scavenger-hunt game
on your phone around your house,
and your family's belongings keep
bombarding you with ads
for gifts to buy them.

[Khandaker.]
The impetus is gonna be
on platform holders to make
really informed
and conscientious decisions
about what areas should we say is
like fair game for a location-based game
and what shouldn't be.

[Smollett.]
Also, if games can be anywhere,
just about anything you do
could get turned into a game,
which might not be as fun as it sounds.

There's the term "gamification.
"
That you're gonna learn to exercise
because there is an app on your phone
that is making it a game.

You're running from zombies!
Or you're gonna eat better
because it's gamified
and you're getting,
like, virtual stickers.

[Smollett.]
Gamification has been effective
in a lot of areas,
like education,
because who doesn't like having fun?
But if we let our every experience
become pegged to a system
of prizes and power-ups,
it could actually rob
a lot of value from our lives.

[Maughan.]
Some things
impact us emotionally in ways
that are more important than
unlocking things in a mobile game.

Exciting as it is for gaming
to be everywhere,
we don't want everywhere to be a game.

[Smollett.]
We'll need to keep grappling
with these big questions,
because in the far future,
gaming tech will go full God mode
and redefine reality itself.

[chill music plays.]

[Smollett.]
In the far future,
the tech that drives AR games
will be so powerful
it will make your phone seem like a relic.

Taking your entire digital life
and seamlessly weaving it into the fabric
of your physical world.

This idea is often referred to
by a term that's been all over the news.

- The Metaverse.

- Metaverse.

- The Metaverse.

- What is Metaverse?
I think about it in the convergence
of the physical and the digital.

[Smollett.]

The term is actually 30 years old,
but Facebook made it mainstream
when they rebranded as Meta.

And other tech companies
are in the game as well.

The Metaverse is the entire digital realm
layered onto the world around us.

While the industry has
many hurdles to overcome
before making good on this promise,
a crucial step is to make it as easy as
possible to access the digital world.

And that means making smartphones
a thing of the past.

It should feel kind of seamless to people,
that's where I think wearable tech
has the potential to be really,
really powerful.

[Smollett.]
In the future,
phones could be replaced
entirely with AR glasses.

There are already
a bunch of models to choose from,
but the tech has a ways to go.

[Maughan.]
With field of views now,
you put glasses on and can only see
when you're looking straight ahead.

[Smollett.]
And even if the field
of view improves,
would you want to wear these in public?
I think the biggest problem
is you look like a dumbass [comic ping.]

and I think until
they get past that hurdle,
I don't know anybody
who would feel comfortable.

[Smollett.]
But the hardware
is getting sleeker
and lighter to attract a wider audience,
including artist
and designer Leighton McDonald.

[McDonald.]
They look way more fashionable.

I don't look like I'm about to jump
into a jet cockpit and take off.

[Smollett.]
Leighton used Snap Spectacles
to create a futuristic art exhibit.

One of the reasons I do what I do
is because I want to help uplift
other Black artists
and showcase a lot of my art in the world
in ways that we haven't seen before.

[Smollett.]

Beyond fashion-forward headsets,
Leighton hopes the hardware fades
even further into the background.

Like it could one day shrink down
to a contact lens,
or even directly into your brain.

I want the full brain implant,
like I'm ready to fully go transhuman
and become a cyborg.

[Smollett.]
Whether or not we actually
plug our brains into the Metaverse,
AR is going to get
much more accessible and immersive
and will transform our relationship
with the world.

[Hanke.]
And you can pick the reality
that you wanna overlay onto the real world
based on what you're interested in
and then have that experience.

[Smollett.]

When the world's enveloped in AR,
places we already know and love
will gain new layers of meaning.

Imagine visiting Machu Picchu
and seeing the legendary city
come to life before your eyes.

You could spend the afternoon
with a 15th-century Incan family,
or even witness its rediscovery
on an archaeological dig.

But an even more dramatic change
could happen to future environments.

As AR expands, we might end up designing
physical spaces for customized visuals.

Both the interior
and the exterior building
might just be a blank white box
with a couple of markers on it
that helps the AR glasses.

[Smollett.]

Picture that restaurant from before.

In this future blank-slate bistro,
you could dine wherever you want.

It might even give rise
to totally new types of cuisine.

We could download a scene
from World of Warcraft,
and then, okay, now what type
of food would you make with that?
- [Smollett.]
Orc chops?
- [crowd cheers.]

In the far future, say your best friend
is expecting you for dinner,
but they live 3,000 miles away.

AR will erase that distance.

Because, to me,
you're projected onto a chair.

[Smollett.]
It would be
a more fulfilling connection
than ever before.

The thing that's really missing
in a lot of our digital communication
is nonverbal communication.

And AR is a way of bringing that back in
where you'll literally be able to
physically see somebody in front of you.

[Smollett.]
And just like how we design
our avatar in a video game,
we'll be able to customize ourselves.

I hate trying on clothes.

I think it'd be awesome to be like,
"Nah, I don't like that.
"
"Let me try this.
"
[Smollett.]
TV and film are
already forecasting this future.

[man 4.]
That's my avatar.

At least, until I feel like changing it.

[Smollett.]
Teasing how
a virtual persona could empower you
to push your limits.

I'm not ready to be a human pop star.

I'm a digital pop star.

- Freakin' nutty nuts!
- [exclaims.]

[Smollett.]
Or you can stick
with what's comfortable.

In my Second Life, I was also a paper
salesman, and I was also named Dwight.

[Smollett.]
And your social network
could expand in wild new ways.

We're gonna have playful digital beings,
a part of everyday life,
who can kind of like be in a space
with you and with other people as well.

[Smollett.]
The only problem is,
how do you keep your grip on reality?
Looking at sci-fi,
it's a common head-scratcher.

[Wolff.]
Did you ever see
the movie Avatar?
And the soldier spends so much time
as the avatar,
when he comes out and he's having
his mission logs, he's like
[soldier.]
Everything is backwards now.

Like out there is the true world.

And in here is the dream.

[Wolff.]
As we continue to dive
into immersive technologies,
it seems like it's gonna get
increasingly harder to unplug.

[Smollett.]
And we could all
- end up as perplexed as this little guy.

- [roars.]

So, how do we keep our lives
from becoming a confusing mix-up
of matter and make-believe?
Maybe we need to limit just
how real this illusion can get.

I think that augmented
is the perfect word for it.

I think it is the splash of color.

I think it is the hint of sound.

I think we still like real,
tangible things.

What I do think is really interesting
is having more and more
sort of playful things
that you can opt into
and playful moments that you can opt into.

That's, I think,
the important distinction.

[Smollett.]
But at the end of the day,
how much control
will we even have over our experience?
Being able to flick through
those different AR channels
feels like you've got a lot of agency
and you're picking what you see,
but do you have control
over that content that's been sent to you
any more than you have control
over the TV you see?
[Smollett.]
Considering all the issues
we face online today,
identity theft,
misinformation, extremism
Is there any way to stop these problems
from spilling into this new world,
or getting even worse?
[Plante.]
Let's advocate for people
who run these companies
to have a sense of decency and humility.

And think about all possible outcomes,
not just the one
that makes the most money.

[Smollett.]
Designing an augmented world
will require new levels
of care and caution.

We'll need greater transparency
from the companies building it
and stronger rules to protect your privacy
and mental health.

But we need to learn from today's mistakes
because the allure of AR is irresistible.

It starts with gaming,
but this technology
will eventually reinvent our whole world.

Everyone's gonna be creating these,
you know,
new experiences
that we have never thought of.

[Smollett.]
Enhancing how we see ourselves,
other people,
and the environment around us.

Our eyes will no longer be confined
to our devices.

Instead, they'll look ahead
to a more expansive reality.

We're breaking out everything.

Like, it's a whole new world.

[theme music plays.]

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