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Building the next consoles: Blu-ray

This mini-series of features will look at future and current technologies that are likely to be used in the next consoles. Of course we’re talking about the PlayStation 3, the Xbox Next and Nintendo’s next system. All three are set for 2005 or 2006 releases and will fight for our money and attention. First, we’ll take a look at the brand new disc technology, Blu-ray.

This month sees the launch of the first devices to make use of Blu-ray, a new high density disc format. Launching in Japan, are TV recorders which will, the manufacturers hope, rival DVD recorders and heighten the awareness of the technology.

Blu-ray discs can hold far more data than a normal DVD, 27GB on a single layered, DVD-sized disc, 54GB on a dual layered one. The discs themselves are held in a cartridge, like MiniDiscs are, to protect it from damage.

Like DVD, it can be shrunk down into smaller discs, but to a greater extent. For example, you can fit a small Blu-ray disc inside your phone, capable of holding 1GB of data. This would complement the new video capture technology being built into phones.

But back to consoles. Discs with this much capacity will allow developers to build whole cities, world or even universes in large amounts of detail. The only problem is the time it will take to make in the first place! Another important factor in memory technology is data transfer speeds. Thankfully, Blu-ray has a blisteringly fast rate of 36Mbps. This will allow systems to load the vast amount of data the discs hold relatively quickly.

Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are highly likely to use Blu-ray in their next systems, especially Sony, who are one of the format’s founders. Expect games to get bigger and the amount of detail to increase, because now they can fit it all in. The boundaries are about to be smashed and we’ll all be there to see it.

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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