Sony's much-hyped but often delayed online "Home" virtual world for the PlayStation 3 today finally began accepting applications for a closed beta - though only those living in Japan can apply for now. The test will begin in late August, when some 10,000 participants will be able to customize their appearance and own personal space or simply interact with others in a 3D virtual world reminiscent of Linden Lab's "Second Life."

During the beta stage users will also be able to access the Namco Museum PlayStation Home environment, where they can interact with virtual arcade machines offering classic Namco titles such as PacMan, DigDug and Elevator Action. Similar closed beta tests will be offered in the U.S. and Europe in the coming months, according to Sony, and an open beta test should begin towards the end of this year.