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Sony to launch virtual universe

By RACHEL KONRAD, AP Technology Writer

SAN FRANCISCO - Capitalizing on the popularity of social networks and online worlds, Sony will launch its own virtual universe and another 3-D game built almost entirely by players. "Home" is a real-time, networked world for the PlayStation 3 in which players create human-looking characters called avatars. They can buy clothing, furniture and videos to play on a virtual flat-screen television in their virtual apartments.

The concept is strikingly similar to Linden Lab's "Second Life," a Web-based phenomenon with nearly 4.5 million residents. But Sony's world will feature heavy doses of video games for avatars to play, as well as virtual arcades, music, movies and other Sony-approved media downloads.

Sony's second virtual world for PlayStation users is called "LittleBigPlanet" and allows players to build obstacle courses, puzzles and other games for avatars that resemble beanbags — characters Sony dubs "sack boys."

Sony Computer Entertainment America has not released pricing for "LittleBigPlanet." Executives would not discuss how much virtual T-shirts, sofas, televisions or media downloads would cost in "Home."
This stuff blows me away. As somebody who has owned or currently owns Sears Pong, Atari 2600, Colecovision, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, Sony Playstation, Xbox, Sony Playstation 2, Nintendo Gamecube and Xbox 360, I understand from experience that when a new idea in gaming is launched successfully, in a few years it is taken beyond what anybody thought was possible.

Pong featured two lines and a dot that went back and forth. And we would sit there for hours with our paddles in front of the TV, blown away by how awesome it was. The Atari 2600 had a 'black and white/color TV' toggle switch. High tech. Each time there's something new, there's something that comes along that just crushes it. Playing Madden on the 360 is a nearly photorealistic football experience. It is just flat out awesome. Yet I know with certainty that the Xbox 720 version that comes out in 2010 or whenever will make it look like my old Atari.

So when I see Sony build out an online social network virtuality environment mimicking Second Life, I start to imagine the implications. I start to think that may virtual reality really will take off for the purposes of online gaming and social nettworking. I have been very focused on mobility applications for our Color Eyewear technology since they play in a big way to our technology's fundamental strength: a see-through image that allows you to receive digital data without having your view of the world obstructed.

But looking at what Sony is doing here, my 'spider sense' starts tingling. These guys have thought about this for a while. They play up the competitive advantages of their online virtual social network as compared to Xbox Live, which is focused pretty strictly on setting up matches between players for games that they own, and buying new downloadable games. They see this as their edge in the market. And, they may be on to something.

Now, if they can make this environment persistent -- i.e., portable to a mobile device such as whatever successor to the PSP they come up with (presumably a phone/game system combination), then that would be really something.


At March 9, 2007 at 1:28 AM luderella said...

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At March 9, 2007 at 6:17 AM Anonymous said...

Great stuff. Imagine donning a pair of eyeglasses that would let you see this virtual world in first person. Coupled with motion sensitive tech, something similar to Nintendo Wii, you could even act out your movements in that space.

Also, thanks to the Cell processor's capability of decoding vast amounts of high definition video streams, you have these realtime 'billboards' right there in the environment. The experience of going to a movie theater in Home to catch the latest trailer, with the well-lit environment and a huge video screen, would thus be almost equivalent of the real thing.

At March 9, 2007 at 6:57 AM Anonymous said...

Just to add to that comment, essentially realtime 3D mo-cap can be done, I believe, with an IR eye-toy camera. IR tech is still a bit expensive, but that's something that should be feasible in the not-too-distant future, maybe in the next generation of consoles.


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