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E3 Highlights: Scaling the Uncanny Valley
 

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In early June, E3 The Electronic Entertainment Expo--an annual video game convention and the world's argest such gathering--was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. It is always an orgy of sound and sights that continue to be impressive. The best minds in the gaming business come together and show their latest and greatest, and the fare this year was truly exceptional. A few highlights:

'˘ Computerized humans are steadily scaling the uncanny valley. In industry argot, "the uncanny valley" is a measure of believability of a human rendition. In the past, gaming-anmination technology was simply not precise enough to render humans in a believable way, so many cartoons avoided us altogether--the theory being that it's easier for a user to accept Woody from Toy Story as a "real" creature because he's only supposed to be a toy. Likewise, a zombie is easier to render, and for the viewer to accept, while animating a good human with believable speech is amazingly difficult to do. But now, the game Final Fantasy is getting very close and very good at rendering humans. And as they become more real, they become more creepy.

'˘ Cloud rendering and hosting represent important advances, and will perhaps take over most of the gaming market. Graphic-intensive games require massive computing power and graphics cards. By sharing hardware resources in the cloud, it will become possible for any crappy computer or cell phone to operate like a set of ninja hardware. The problem has always been latency (how long a lag is necessary), bandwidth, and fan out (how much cloud computing is needed for how many users). A company called OTOY has solved these problems adequately for almost all games. Latency still is limited by the speed of light, and good gamers can detect 50 milliseconds delay or less. Serving gamers within 400 miles of a server produces nice results, however. This service will be superb for providing several new economic models and opening up opportunities elsewhere in the world for game developers. Is it like a Google for games? I think so.

'˘ The last but not least highlight for me is a little game that I love that has been brought over from Korea. It's called Monato Esprit and it's free to download. The game, which is in final beta mode, awards players a currency called MetaTix, which they can redeem for stuff. I think this is a very fun world and hope you enjoy exploring it as much as I have. Look for it on MonatoeEsprit.com.

The game market is strong and still fun and getting more sophisticated all the time. Get ready to buy a bunch of these games in the fall, when many of them are scheduled for release.

Last updated: Jun 16, 2009




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