Like most video game nerds, I spent a great portion of my teens and early 20′s playing world-wandering Role Playing Games (RPGs) on my Nintendo and Sega game consoles, like Final Fantasy (IV, VII, VIII) and Phantasy Star (II, III, IV) and other less known entities. From an early age, I was enthralled with the often detailed, emotional storytelling. To me, it was like a 40-hour movie where I controlled character interaction and the pace of the story. But as much as I loved my 8-bit and 16-bit animated worlds–and traveling the fictional globes by foot in them, it was Gran Turismo 3 on the Playstation 2 that changed my animated worldview.
Finally, here were actual lifelike graphics and the chance to drive the most exotic cars in the world–even though I made $7.50 an hour while working in food service.
I’m sharing the secrets of my inner-dweeb self because it reminds me a lot of what’s happening with today’s automotive infotainment scene. Like the microchip boom of the past 20 years, every year we’re seeing faster, stronger, and bigger GPS, touchscreens, and audio performance. And it’s not just in high-end luxury cars, we’re seeing this in Hyundais and Fords and Dodges!
This picture, though. It’s an ordinary photo. But what’s extraordinary about it is the detail and resolution and color clarity of the Google Maps image. This is the future! This is the Gran Turismo 3 to the 16-bit generation! And it’s in a car!
I was recently driving north in a 2013 Audi Allroad on Interstate 5 (I-5 runs from the Mexico border to the Canada border) through San Clemente, CA. Like the Surfliner, the 5 closely follows the coast, and I was amazed to look over at the map. I could see from a top-down angle the waves crashing against the beach, and I wondered, was this a still image, or were the waves actually crashing against the beach? Out the window at 70 mph, I could see the beach and the white crashing waves, just as in the image. Was it in real time?
Probably not. But maybe soon it will be?