The deal that Google have just struck with tiny start-up Improbable is the kind of deal that you desperately hope will lead to a brighter tomorrow but you just can’t shake the nagging feeling that nothing much will come of it. Wired report that Google, a little-known search company, has joined forces with Improbable, a company started by two Cambridge graduates that managed to attract $20m in funding from Andreessen Horowitz.
So, what’s the deal and what’s the attraction? Improbable have a bunch of tech that – until recently – was shrouded in secrecy. Now it turns out that they have built a cloud-based platform that enables tremendous levels of complexity in environments that would be denied to a non-daisy-chained platform. It’s like multiple game engines working concurrently to allow you to code something akin to a Second Life or an MMO at an accelerated pace.
Not only that, but the tools can be used for more complex economic simulations too. It could be a tremendously exciting platform for modeling future societies where assumptions have altered from the ones that power our society today. Indeed, another UK startup, Immense Simulations, is doing just this using SpatialOS. Their take is to help the UK government understand traffic flow for its push towards the use of autonomous vehicles via their £100m Intelligent Mobility Fund.
If you were thinking that a noble egalitarian calling like that might not be enough to tempt Google into a partnership with Improbable, of course you are right. For them the SpatialOS tools are another showcase for their own cloud architecture, the creatively titled Google Cloud Platform. This is a direct competitor to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s cloud (which breaks the dull naming convention by being called Azure, as in azure sky). For Google, the current boom in virtual and augmented realities has seen them play a blinder by being the architecture that underpinned the Pokemon Go phenomenon. Now this distributed virtual world building suite could see them associated with the next big thing in connected gaming.
This is all a cozy forerunner for the dystopian future of the Matrix where we are all just organic batteries for the machines, existing in our cocoon of virtual reality that we don’t even realize is not real any more. Ok, so perhaps that’s overkill, but our continued push towards multiple virtual worlds is a weird modern trend that is only in its first generation. With so many bright minds devoted to improving virtual realities, are we in danger of watering down our efforts to sort out the problems in the real world?