Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Milo" and the Future of Entertainment

A while back, I wrote in this blog about my enthusiasm for a new development in gaming technology called "Natal" (it's an add-on for XBOX), and in particular a game employing that technology involving a virtual boy named, "Milo" (or girl, you can choose your preference. In a recent commentary in the UK newpaper, The Guardian, "Milo" developer Peter Molyneux wrote more about this incredible technology, and revealed more details about the game. If you haven't seen Milo in action, take a look here at my original blog entry, then read Molyneux's additional comments below:

So what we've done is create a boy called Milo with hundreds of little muscles behind that face. We've created this boy, or a girl, you can choose a boy or a girl. This boy starts off when you first meet him, he's moved from the city to the countryside, he hasn't got any friends, he is starting school in two days' time and he sits there and looks out at you and he says "I need a friend, and you are going to be my imaginary friend." And everything that you do with Milo inspires and changes him, and you see the glory of him improving.

Milo will recognise shapes, but what is really happening here? The process of scanning [shapes shown to the screen] is really lovely, you just reach your arm up. You can also scan in 3D objects, for example if you are eating an apple you can give it to Milo and he will carry on eating it.

The online portion of our inspiration is that we are continuing to collect and improve his object recognition skills. This technology is something that is being worked on by Microsoft Research. With all the Milos that will be released we will be centralising their recognition of everything in the world.

I don't own a gaming system - but for this, I'll sign on! This is, I think, an entirely new genre of entertainment, separate and distinct from gaming as it now exists, and passive motion picture and television entertainment. It won't replace any of these forms, but it will allow us to be entertained in a way that really seemed firmly in the world of science fiction until very recently.

As a writer, I'm also fascinated by the challenge such a technology would offer. A novel, short story, or television writer create specific characters that interact in limited and pre-determined environments. Even a character in a game interacts only a superficial level. For those creating a character like "Milo," his reactions and interactions must not only seem realistic, but believable to an extent never possible. Since you will be conversing directly with the character in a natural, human manner, the character must respond likewise. In "Milo's" case, a shy child might not make easy eye contact at first, but will change attitude with familiarity.

I encourage everyone to read the entire article in The Guardian. I've said it before. As far as entertainment goes, this will change everything

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