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Avatars Consume Energy

Posted by SIM on January 11, 2007

Virtual reality’s eco-footprint
Thursday, January 11, 2007

Business writer Nicholas Carr has calculated that the average Second Life avatar consumes 1,752 kWh per year, through the power requirements of the servers on which the game is stored, and the player’s own computer.

Errors and assumptions aside, If you compare this to the average usage for a single person in Brazil, 1,884 kWh, you can see that SL is using a significant amount of power. Brazil seems like a random comparison, but has been chosen because of the relatively low usage figures. Compared to the global average of 2,436 kWh, the impact is slightly lessened.

However, the point is valid; “They don’t have bodies, but they do leave footprints.”

It’s unfair to pick solely on SL though. I use lots of services every day which rely on a vast infrastructure of servers. I have two email accounts, work and personal, I have an online RSS reader, I write 4 blogs, all hosted on servers that run 24/7, I watch YouTube videos, search on Google, and lots more, every day. Every time I make a phone call or send a text message, my data passes through a massive number of machines too.

This usage is unavoidable if we are to maintain the information-rich lifestyle that we have become accustomed to. But hardware designers should be doing everything they can to reduce power consumption, perhaps following Sun Microsystem’s example.

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