A Bridge Too Far?

IDF Fall 2008 - Intel opens IDF by explaining how it intends to make the digital world as real as the real world.

Intel kicked off the Fall (that’s Autumn to anyone who has a grasp of English) Intel Developer Forum in the usual manner – that is gathering the technology Press from all over the word and talking about some key issues and subjects, prior to the formal event, which starts tomorrow. This pre-IDF day has come to be known as Day 0, and usually amounts to an interesting taster of what’s to come during the next three days.

This time around Intel wanted to talk about building a bridge between the real world and the digital world, and if you think that sounds a bit like an early script by the Warshawski Brothers, I don’t really blame you. But since the final keynote speech by Justin Ratner, delivered at IDF 2007, focussed on creating and living in digital worlds, today’s subject matter doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

Thankfully, today the presentation wasn’t given in Second Life, as Ratner chose to do (at least partially) last year. This time the whole subject was given a far more serious, and consequently more interesting angle. Jim Held – Director Tera-scale Computing Research – was keen to point out that the digital world, or to be more accurate, multiple digital worlds, are having more and more of an impact on our everyday lives. Computers are no longer tools that help us do our jobs during the day, and then lie dormant until the following morning. No, computers have become an integral part of our working and social lives.

Held cited many examples of digital worlds that have become ludicrously popular, not because of their ability to help us do our jobs, but because they give us an escape from that mundane existence. There’s no denying that World of Warcraft is a phenomenon of unprecedented scale in the world of video games, while Second Life has evolved to a level where business and commerce are carried out in the virtual world and carried over to the real world. Even social networking services like Facebook have helped computers evolve from insular workhorses, into social conduits.

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