Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Virtual boy, virtually ridiculous!

Microsoft has today unveiled its latest innovation for the XBox, a 'virtual human' that can react to a person's emotions, body movements and voice.

A groundbreaking and almost unbelievable piece of futuristic software that's fit for any time-travelling movie, Microsoft are set to make countless millions from it. One tiny problem, however, is that this could be just the thing that's needed to turn a planet of already obese, computer-addicted children into total Microsoft zombies who prefer to interact with virtual human beings than real ones.

The virtual boy, dubbed 'Milo', is shown in a video example on this news site, and there's no doubt that he's incredibly clever - if a bit wet behind the ears and unrealistically keen to do his homework - but if these characters are as interactive as Microsoft lead us to believe, then will this mean that children actually turn to their computers for friendship and companionship? If so, what affect will this have on children's ability to form genuine relationships with real people and what happens, heaven forbid, if Little Tommy's virtual best friend breaks down or is accidentally erased?
On the flip side, of course, there is an argument to suggest that virtual friends could provide an effective way of teaching children all kinds of life lessons and even offer them a place to turn to if they are too nervous, embarrassed or uncertain to talk to their parents, peers or teachers. But is this opening up the world's biggest can of worms?

What happens if Milo doesn't have the right answers? What happens if Milo doesn't offer appropriate advice? What happens if Milo turns out to be a bit of prat?

Microsoft, as ever, has come up with a revolutionary way for people to interact with their computers, but has anyone actually stopped to look at the dangers and risks such software could raise? And are parents ok with the idea of introducing a digital friend in to the lives of their little ones?

1 comment:

  1. I find this an incredible worry and need to think about my reaction to this!