The SLENZ Update – No 100, June 15, 2009

The boy from the future

XBox 360’s Milo  takes virtual

reality into another  world

I’ve been mulling over, for a few days now, whether  Microsoft’s latest offering in virtual worlds, Milo and his virtual friends, is going to prove a greater boon to  video games and MMORPGs or to personal computer-based virtual worlds.

Is Milo the next step along the road  to virtual life becoming mainstream or will he ,being console and television screen-based, kill off the  virtual worlds like Second Life. In other words is he the next step.

The benefits are obvious and the reality of Milo is in many ways astounding. But  I will let you judge for yourselves.

The anonymous blogger (Cv, picture and “occasional” avatar, “Head Teacher”,  but shy about real name) who writes Crossed Wires for Eduworlds.com said the launch of  Microsoft’s Project Natal controller at the E3 gaming conference earlier last  month  appeared as though it would redefine how “virtual and non virtual worlds ( i.e. the real world) interact”.

Project Natal is a hands-free control system for the Xbox that recognises facial expressions and body movements and allows, so it is claimed, virtual characters  to recognise not only voices and even faces but also read moods  [Interestingly, one could pose the question: Is Milo, Microsoft’s answer to Eve? Massey University, New Zealand, announced earlier this year it had developed a virtual teacher, Eve (pictured right), who can read and react to a student’s emotions].Eve

Head Teacher said, “If anything was ever worthy of the description game changing this is it … Microsoft  may have done for virtual what the Iphone has done for the mobile interface. Others will surely catch up but if Microsoft can really deliver on this, virtual experiences will soon be split between clicking in a make-believe world and apparently walking around something we can almost touch.

“For me,” he said, “the conclusions are that the future of virtual experiences won’t be limited by uptake or not of the current crop of virtual worlds: it is virtual experiences which overlay and blend with our real lives in ways we are only working out now. Virtual worlds will continue and thrive but will not define our experience of virtual reality.”

Meanwhile on the BBC,  film director Stephen Spielberg described Project Natal to journalist Peter Emery as “a window into what the future holds”.

Saying it was an evolutionary step for games, Spielberg said, “It’s like the square screen we saw all of our movies on in the early 1950s. Then The Robe came out in Cinemascope. And then came CinRam and Imax followed. That’s what [Natal] is.

“The video games industry has not allowed us the opportunity to cry, because we were too busy putting our adrenalin rush into the controller, or wherever we swing our arm with a Wii controller to get a result,”  Spielberg said. “Because of that, there is no room for a video game to break your heart. We now have a little more room to be a little more emotional with Natal technology than we did before.”

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