Three products to look for in 2007 are Spore, the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) and TVP. Between them, they hope to redefine online gaming, education and computing, and TV. All three have been getting plenty of media attention this year.
New Yorker on Will Wright’s new video game, Spore: At the first level of the game, you are a single-celled organism in a drop of water, which is represented on the screen as a two-dimensional environment, like a slide under a microscope. By successfully avoiding predators, which are represented as different-colored cells, you get to reproduce, and that earns you DNA points (a double helix appears over your character). DNA is the currency in the early levels of Spore, and as you evolve you can acquire better partslarger flippers for faster swimming, say, or sharper claws for defeating predators. Eventually, you emerge from the water onto the second leveldry landand your creature must compete with other creatures, and mate with those of your own kind which the computer generates, until you form a tribe. You can play a violent game of conquest over other tribes or you can play a social game of conciliation. If you make clever choices, according to the logic of the simulation, you will survive and continue to evolve. Along the way, you get to acquire ever more powerful tools and weapons, and to create dwellings, towns, cities. When your city has conquered the other cities in your world, you can build a spaceship and launch into space. By the final level, you have evolved into an intergalactic god who can travel throughout the universe conducting interplanetary diplomacy and warfare.
James Surowiecki on Nicholas Negroponte’s $100 laptop project: The $100 laptop sprang from the fertile, utopian mind of tech guru Nicholas Negroponte, who is the cofounder and chairman emeritus of the MIT Media Lab, a successful venture capitalist, and the author of Being Digital, the 1995 paean to the digital economy. The concept behind the project, which Negroponte unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, less than two years ago, is as simple as its name: give all children in the developing world laptop computers of their own. If we achieved that, he believes, we could bridge what’s usually termed the ‘digital divide.’ The laptops would offer children everywhere the opportunity to benefit from the Internet and would enable them to work with and learn from each other in new ways. OLPC, the nonprofit organization that Negroponte set up to manage the project, has taken responsibility for designing the computer and engaging an outside manufacturer to produce it. But the nonprofit is not going to buy the computers. That, at least for now, is the responsibility of governments, and Negroponte has said that the $100 laptop will not go into production until he has firm commitments from governments to buy at least five million units. Would (or should) any government be willing to lay out the cash? Negroponte answers that question with characteristic bluntness. ‘Look at the math: even the poorest country spends about $200 per year per child. We’ve estimated what a connected, unlimited-Internet-access $100 laptop will cost to own and run: $30 per year. That has got to be the very best investment you can make. Period.’
Om Malik on an exclusive first look The Venice Project started by the Kaaza and Skype founders to disrupt the TV industry: How does this stack-up against say a Skype or Kazaa, the two previous startups that were a Janus & Niklas co-production? I think from a disruptive standpoint, it is right up there with those two. Free Phone Calls, Free Music Free Television pretty easy to understand the unique selling proposition. However, unlike Skype which had ‘forced viral distribution’ built into its business model, this one needs content a lot of quality content. Large media companies, globally, would like to get their pound of flesh from the Venice Project (now that the Skype boys are all rich, they can pay right!). The technology certainly works, and for content providers – say the Disney and Viacoms of the world – this is a pretty good thing. It frees them up from the carriage providers and gives them a global audience.
TECH TALK The Best of 2006+T