PSP, PS3, and Sony’s Global Mapping System Vision

So, I didn’t get a chance to post this until now, but I wanted to say a few words about Ken Kutaragi’s Sony keynote address a week ago at the Tokyo Games conference. Along with lots of other points about the new PS3 gaming console, he slid in an announcement about a Global Mapping System for the PS3 that would allow users to upload location-tagged photos, interact with real-world data in the PS3 and game environments, and even use that data to customize and create new games. A number of gaming bloggers mentioned this announcement as they were covering the keynote live, but there were few details really given out by Kutaragi. It does not seem to be something that will be available at the PS3 launch, but Sony is beginning to lay out a vision of networking and access to real-world and even real-time data in a virtual environment in a home entertainment platform.

Click to read the restMost of the people covering the PS3 are of course focusing on issues related to its performance, games, and pricing. But I think there are implications of what Sony is doing beyond the world of gaming platforms and computer entertainment. They also just announced the release of a GPS card for the handheld PSP, giving it mobile location capabilities, and the first images of the GPS navigation system in action were posted to the web this week, again hinting at a larger vision of networked interaction that will continue to blur the line between the real and virtual worlds. There is already at least one PSP game announced that will take advantage of real-world data via the GPS. Back in August, Sony announced a GPS device for its digital cameras, and Sony already produces a personal/car navigation system.

So, why does all this matter? Because, as of March 2006, Sony has sold over 120 million PS2 consoles and, while the PS3’s price and other issues may not make it as popular at first, it has the potential to end up in millions of homes worldwide. And, by integrating its mapping functionality with its very popular gaming and other entertainment features (imagine playing DDR using real-world data, for example), Sony’s networked platforms will allow even more users to seamlessly integrate geospatial information into their dail experiences in ways that we probably can’t imagine. That means even more people becoming familiar with the basics of digital mapping, since there are those who game but don’t necessarily use web mapping apps like Google Maps or Live Local or Google Earth. I am sure that other large companies invested in this sphere are watching and listening, especially Microsoft, which has made several moves in the last year that suggest that it, too, is thinking along the lines of real-world geographic data in virtual gaming or other environments, such as XBOX Live.

All of the pieces are out there for the increasing integration of real and virtual worlds, and geospatial technologies and data will be at the heart of it, whether users know it or not. And, given the vast amounts of money that are involved in the gaming and computer industries, it may be that companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Google will play an even greater role in shaping how the geospatial industry develops over the next decade or so. It’s hard to say whether that will be a good or bad thing, but I think that it is something that we can’t ignore.

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