Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Real life radio in a virtual world

Second Life Fever

The concept of radio in virtual environments is far from new. Console games have been flirting with the idea of radio as soundtrack for a few years now, most extensively in the driving genre, from the fictitious radio stations of RoadKill and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to the real life radio brands (Capital, XFM, Virgin) which feature in Project Gotham Racing.

However, all of these representations of radio lack one it's most compelling ingredients: liveness. Whilst station idents and barracking DJs may give the veneer of broadcast radio, most users are aware that the 'radio' in SSX 3 is just tracks being played off the CD/DVD in their console.

That all looks set to change. Listening to live radio in a virtual environment is now a reality thanks to the 'Second Life Fever' nightclub, which streams Virgin Radio Groove 24/7 in online digital world, Second Life. Any user can drop in on the nightclub and listen to the music live, with the Second Life application acting as a media player client.

If it hasn't already, it's surely only a matter of time before streamed radio starts appearing in games developed for the burgeoning generation of connected consoles (e.g. Xbox Live).

A hardware solution to bringing real life radio into virtual realms is also on the cards. Last month the chairman of XM Satellite Radio announced that the company was "investing in ways of building its pay radio service into gadgets ranging from MP3 players to video game consoles" (Reuters).

It's intriguing that in this increasingly 'on demand' era there is a concomitant demand for 'liveness'. Fortunately, technology is evolving to facilitate both...