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Tim Sweeney Believes VR and 'Digital Humans' Will Make Elon Musk's 'Hyperloop' Irrelevant

Tim Sweeney Believes VR and 'Digital Humans' Will Make Elon Musk's 'Hyperloop' Irrelevant

Welcome to part three in our “epic things Tim Sweeney says” series. In part one the outspoken founder of Epic Games warned us how dangerous collectivization could be for virtual reality; in part two he gave us our best look yet at how much Oculus is spending to fund VR content and now, in part three, Sweeney is setting his sights on the Internet’s champion himself: Elon Musk.

For the six or seven of you who don’t know, Elon Musk is a visionary entrepreneur that got his start with PayPal and has since moved on to found several highly disruptive organizations. Musk’s current projects are typically world-changing upstarts for industries that were previously thought to be untouchable by private enterprise such as space travel (Space X) and automotive manufacturing (Tesla Motors).


One of Musk’s long-running pet projects is the Hyperloop. A Hyperloop is a futuristic take on public transportation. The basic idea is to create a massive tube in which a passenger car is suspended in mid air via magnets or some other form of advanced technology. The complete lack of friction that this creates would allow for an incredibly fast and sufficiently smooth means of conveyance. Musk has been an outspoken proponent of Hyperloop technology and has strong ties to Hyperloop One — a corporation that is actively working to let people, “travel at airline speeds for the price of a bus ticket.”

Most of the Silicon Valley elite would hold that Hyperloop technology is the way of the future, but not Tim Sweeney.


Last week at the VRX conference in San Francisco Sweeney delivered a keynote address on the idea of “Digital Humans.” His thesis was that immersive technologies like VR and AR will one day completely reorganize our social structures and established routines. Sweeney stated during his talk that commuting outside of our homes will become almost completely unnecessary in a world where we “replace these big ass helmets with lightweight AR glasses that have 8k displays for each eye and a 160 degree field of view.”

Sweeney elaborated that, “We’re not going to need the Hyperloop that Elon Musk is working on because this tech will let us be in the same room with others…Digital humans in virtual worlds will be at the center of tomorrow’s world. In science fiction this is referred to as the metaverse.” 

Epic has been working on improving VR technology and paving the way for the digital human revolution “for years now”, according to Sweeney.

“We are going to see full social experiences in VR,” Sweeney said. “The next step is to have outward facing cameras picking up all of your body and inward facing cameras to pick up your face. We’ll eventually move from six to 100s of degrees of freedom of movement with far, far higher input bandwidth than we have today. The sensor side is what’s going to change next for VR.” 

To demonstrate, Sweeney showed off a clip of Hellblade, an upcoming game built on Unreal Engine 4 with incredible visual fidelity. By using highly advanced hardware in conjunction with Epic’s Unreal 4 3D graphics engine, Sweeney and the team at Ninja Theory were able to create a highly realistic, fully emotive digital avatar of a live actress, on stage, in real time.

Sweeney did point out that this tech is currently far too cost prohibitive to make the Hellblade solution viable for everyday use, but he still maintains that future advancements will eventually bridge that gap.

“When this revolution is complete, you’re going to be able to put on a very lightweight pair of glasses and interact with anyone in the world as if they are actually there,” Sweeney said. “In 15 years there will 4 billion devices out there capable of making this happen…4 billion people will be able to basically teleport.” 

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