World of Warcraft goes down the toilet
It's every game addict's dream and parent's worst nightmare - a self-contained World of Warcraft pod that includes a computer, toilet and kitchen for the 24/7 gamer.
Created by boffins at Massachusetts University of Technology (MIT), the contraption is described as "an immersive architectural solution for the advanced WoW (World of Warcraft) player that provides and anticipates all life needs".
World of Warcraft - or WoW as it is affectionately known by its millions of fans - is notoriously addictive.
The role playing game's long quests encourage players to slog it out for hours at a time, and when playing in groups, one player leaving for a toilet break can throw off the rhythm for everyone.
Enter the WoW pod, which is entirely self-contained and is designed to resemble a hut featured in the game. Inside, the throne doubles as a toilet, while next to the computer sits a cooking pot and automated stove top.
Within reach is water and pre-packaged food with names such as "Crunchy Spider Surprise" and "Beer Basted Ribs". All the player has to do is select a food item and a seasoning pack.
"By scanning in the food items, the video game physically adjusts a hot plate to cook the item for the correct amount of time," wrote one of the creators, MIT researcher Cati Vaucelle.
"The virtual character then jubilantly announces the status of the meal to both the gamer and the other individuals playing online: 'Vorcon's meal is about to be done!"'
The pod, which has a wooden frame and skin and fur inside, is so well integrated with the game that when the player resumes playing after eating, their character is affected by the food.
Ms Vaucelle, a self-confessed "hardcore gamer", developed the WoW Pod as part of her research into the design of "hybrid physical/digital objects for play, performance and psycho-physiotherapy.
There are no plans to commercialise the product as yet but Ms Vaucelle said the device had practical uses and was well received by hardcore WoW players.
"If you've got to wait every 10 minutes for someone to heat up their microwave dinner, the whole group falls apart," she said.
A commercial version of the pod would undoubtedly raise the ire of health experts and family groups, who have already sounded the alarm over the negative effects of what they term "video game addiction".
In 2005, a South Korean man died after playing Starcraft, similar to WoW, for 50 hours straight at an internet cafe with no sleep and few breaks.
Sydney Morning Herald