Gaming and the ‘3-D’ Internet

First the news:

Microsoft announced a partnership with NASA to use its Photosynth 3-D application to provide users with interactive images of the upcoming Space Shuttle Endeavor launch. There’s also a related Photosynth tour of the Kennedy Space Center. In June Microsoft and the BBC announced a similar collaboration to offer Photosyth imagery of British architecture for the show “How We Built Britain.” (More at SEL.)

And in the “I can’t write about everything category,” last week Disney bought kids’ “virtual world” Club Penguin for approximately $350 million. I wrote previously about Club Penguin and the “3-D Internet” here.

Last night I saw the Wii in action up close for the first time. I’m not into gaming but my eight year old daughter and her friend (who owned the game) played it for almost three hours while the adults escaped to drink red wine in the other room. Once again I was motivated to step back and think: multi-player gaming/social networking and TV-Internet convergence.

I’ve tried to argue that when the Internet truly comes to the living room or family room, whether through the Xbox, IPTV or AppleTV, the current Internet experience (especially search) will feel quite impoverished. There’s something really interesting starting to emerge that will combine the graphical richness of gaming (3-D) and the broader Internet, as well as social interaction and pump that through a big screen.

Kids, especially, are being conditioned to expect “immersive” experiences that are much visually richer than the largely “text-based Internet” of today. That’s why Club Penguin and all its kin matter to you and me; that’s why the Xbox and Wii matter and why all the desktop 3-D (and related) innovations — Google Earth/StreetView, Microsoft Virtual Earth/Photosynth, EveryScape and so on — matter. Because they all come together eventually in some very interesting way.

I would imagine that 10 years from now when we look back on this period of the Internet’s development it will be akin to looking at a classic car parade featuring cars from the ’40s and ’50s.


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