It's a fact that technologies simply don't succeed and develop unless they penetrate the mass market or kill people (but preferably not both). Now Lionhead studios are working to make Spielberg's AI a reality, developing a virtual child to download to your XBox 360 - meaning that there's a potential army of thirty million networked "Milo"s. In other words, Skynet is now a certainty.
Interaction with the virtual kid is a flagship application for Microsoft's new "Project Natal", so called because "webcam" doesn't sound sexy enough. It's a Wii without the -mote, designed to let players interact with games without any controller at all. According to an E3 demonstration video Milo can recognize people, expressions, understand speech, detect motion and even scan and interact with real items (creating virtual versions for his own digital world).
Of course there are a couple of caveats: the first is that this isn't just E3, the self-congratulatothon where companies could unveil an interactive toilet roll to massive applause, but this is Peter Molyneux - the man known for developing pretty good games but hyping each and every one as a Holy Grail dispensing a neverending supply ofcancer-curing champagne. The demonstration was recorded, not interactive, many of Milo's responses sounded very ELIZA- ish, and the actual in-game physical activities would embarrass a Wii shovelware title.
The second problem is even more terrifying: what if it actually works? What if we really are downloading intelligent software to be trained by no-one but the average XBox 360 user? The day won't be far off when Skynet does exterminate us all with metallic robo-killers.
Posted by Luke McKinney.
Project Natal http://www.xbox.com/en-US/
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