Nearly 25 years in the making, is Sony building the foundations for ubiquitous virtual reality?

I should preface by saying anyone who hasn't read William Gibson's Neuromancer should run, not walk, to the nearest bookstore and pick up a copy.

Neuromancer, the 1984 cyberpunk thriller, is one of my favorite books of all time.  Over the years copious amounts of little details in Neuromancer have become everyday components of daily life today.  

The matrix (not capitalized) was Gibson's virtual reality in 1984.  Hackers portalled around on "decks" -- personal consoles that were more like appliances than computers.  Ultra-rich denizens of the supercities picked up cybernetic matrix implants as casually as executives today run out to an afternoon liposuction. 

Growing up to see large portions of Gibson's fantasy come true had always intrigued me, but the latest announcements from Sony put me over the edge.  Gibson often describes his cyberspace as if it's a real place; people mingle with each other, programs are objects you can pick up and use.  I say his cyberspace because the term did not exist before 1982, when Gibson first used it in his novels.  The equivalent of a website in Gibson's novels is always described as a physical place, yet surreal and manmade.

In Gibson's 1996 novel, Idoru, large portions of the book takes place in personal cyberspaces.  A primary character, Chia, spends almost all of her time listening to music in her virtual room as an avatar.  Sound familiar?  It should, because it's exactly the roadmap Phil Harrison lined up for the PlayStation Home. 

It's not to say Sony overnight duplicated what Gibson has been writing about for 25 years.  Even many of Gibson's ideas are not unique, just evolutionary advances on older ideas.  What makes me excited about Sony's announcement is that PlayStation Home will be the first ubiquitous virtual reality, if Sony can pull it off. 

Now, I should give Second Life some credit here as well.  If anything, Second Life is actually closer to Gibson's descriptions of the matrix -- yep, Gibson called it the matrix 15 years before The Matrix and a decade before Ghost in the Shell.  The difference between Second Life and Playstation Home is that Sony wants the interaction between virtual and reality to be transparent, especially with media and the internet. Gibson anticipated this dozens of times over the last 25 years in his novels. 

When Neuromancer was re-released in 2000, a quote from Jack Womack was added to the epilogue.  "What if the act of writing it down, in fact, brought it about?" 

I couldn't have said it better myself.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il
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