Virtual Unreality

June 22 2008 / by StuartDobson
Category: Metaverse   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

Virtual worlds are created by us – so why limit ourselves to reality? We could create entirely new realities. By realising that we are free of the rules of real life, the doors are open to incredible new possibilities. In many ways, virtual worlds already provide us with glimpses of alternate realities. Its time we took notice of these instrumental differences. In the future, we may decide that a virtual existence, a life inside a fully immersive computer game where our every desire is fulfilled, is a more appealing option than the real world we currently inhabit. Many people have presented the idea that we are already in such a virtual reality, but I don’t believe this is possible. This is because virtual worlds provide us with many possibilities that the real world does not, so why have they not been “programmed” into the real world we know?

Since the early 21st century, the residents of the virtual world Second Life have been working hard to recreate real life as accurately as possible. Despite the virtual platform giving occupants the ability to fly and teleport, they still prefer to meticulously create staircases to walk their avatar up and down. At discos, people require the coolest dance animations and best looking clothes. In meetings, virtual characters sit down to rest their virtual legs. It seems the confines of reality provide a comfortable and familiar environment.

But virtual worlds are created by us – so why limit ourselves to reality? We could create entirely new realities. By realising that we are free of the rules of real life, the doors are open to incredible new possibilities. In many ways, virtual worlds already provide us with glimpses of alternate realities. Its time we took notice of these instrumental differences. (cont.)

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Regulatory Virtual Worlds Backlash on the Horizon?

May 13 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2008   Rating: 8 Hot

The broader Second Life consumer backlash that many predicted for 2007 (and actually occurred) may pale in comparison to the regulatory backlash coming in late 2008 or 2009.

Marking what could well be the first resounding shot in a full-fledged war on virtual worlds, and rich online environments in general, US House Representative Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) extended his crusade against online predators to the rapidly growing virtual world of Second Life , calling for “common sense reforms” that would make it harder for predators to intermingle with youngsters.

Coming on the heels of a Congressional hearing on the positives and negatives of virtual worlds , Kirk’s recent remarks are the most negative to date by a U.S. legislator and marks a serious push to regulate new digital terrain, especially during a presidential election year that looks to pit young vs. old, innovation vs. conservativism.

In a May 11 interview with a local news channel Kirk presented Second Life as “one of the fastest growing websites on the planet” adding that he’s worried “that they don’t properly screen for children.” “Parents should be more aware of this,” he said. (cont.)

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Virtual Worlds Finally Make the Jump to Mobile Phones

April 29 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2008   Rating: 7 Hot

This is a shot that was definitely not heard around the “real world”.

A company named Vollee has at last enabled fluid access to 3D virtual worlds, namely Second Life, via a mobile phone. Check out the video of their new service, currently in Beta:

While this product won’t matter to 99.9% of us (barring the SL addicted) in the short term, it’s a big milestone for the broader evolution of the web.

As such, we can use it to extrapolate what changes an increasingly interactive 3D web might gradually enable:

Perhaps we’ll visit real-time representations of stores from hundreds of miles away or more efficiently navigate shops in real space, or more easily find jobs that allow us to work from afar, or surf 3D social networks to see what our friends are currently doing and where, or hop into virtual games tied into real-life locations when we’re bored, or search the web in 3D and 2D as well as through text and semantic search, etc.

The main point is that as we endeavor to simulate the near term future of other domains like health, business, transporation, etc. it’s important to consider the impact of new products like Vollee so that we don’t miss the larger, more disruptive products and events just over the horizon.

New Device Mashes Maps and the Real World in Real-Time

April 25 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Environment   Year: 2008   Rating: 6 Hot

As the geospatial web evolves we’re going to see volumes of products that mash together data and location, ultimately bringing us to a state where all physical places can be experienced a thousand different ways.

One of the more promising masher prototypes I’ve seen to date is a product called Enkin that smoothly blends “GPS, orientation sensors, 3D graphics, live video, several web services and a novel user interface into an intuitive and light navigation system for mobile devices.” In other words, you can walk around with your mobile device, flip between real and simulated views, and generate tags that exist on both layers.

Developed by a pair of nerdy, ambitious Germans for the Google Android Developer Challenge, Enkin is truly a breakthrough package of gizmos that clearly demonstrates the potential for Physical/Web mixing and overlays.

Take a look at their slow-paced, yet wowing demo vid:


Enkin from Enkin on Vimeo.

Judging by the simplicity of the device, I think it’s fair to assume that we’ll see such real-time location-informed mashers built into devices like the iPhone inside of two years, and incorporated into GPS navigation systems for automobiles inside a year.

The world is about to get tagged. Big props to Google’s self-serving yet positive-sum innovation contests.

Intuitive 3D Camera Controller for Second Life Lowers Bar for Learning to Fly

April 21 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2008   Rating: 2 Hot

Sick of using an obscure set of keyboard strokes to control your avatar? Have no fear, the 3D camera / semi-haptic interface for Second Life has arrived.

Developed by Mitch Kapor, technology investor and Chair of Linden Lab, and Phillipe Bossut, the new interface allows you to use your actual body, much like on Kamen’s Segway, to move your avatar through virtual space. Simply lean forward to move forward, lift your hands to elevate and fly, place your hands behind your back while descending for a graceful landing.

Check out this demo to see the new interface in action:

Clearly these are just the very first steps for this novel interface that promises to make avatar navigation more intuitive, opening the door to non-technical people of all demographics, lowering the complexity barrier to virtual worlds adoption (much like the Nintendo Wii controller). (cont.)

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Journal of Virtual Worlds Research Now Online

April 08 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Metaverse   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

Virtual Worlds News reports that an alliance of metaversally focused scholars is poised to launch a new academic publication called the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, an “online, open access, peer-reviewed, transdisciplinary, academic journal, which engages established and emerging scholars from anywhere in the world.”

The new site should serve as a nice complement to the already invaluable Terra Nova, a blog by committee of industry experts that has been been discussing the MMOG and Virtual World terrain for some time now, and the increasingly valuable Virtual Worlds News which does a great job reporting the most ground-breaking metaverse industry items.

The Journal of Virtual Worlds has put out a call for papers related (but not limited) to the following topics:

- development of new metaphors for visualizing and interacting effectively with rich information spaces
- governance and taxation diversity
- methodologies of research in virtual worlds
- education in virtual worlds, virtual worlds in education, virtual worlds in the classroom, virtual worlds as pedagogical tools, curriculum in virtual worlds

(cont.)

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Kids and Tweens in Virtual Worlds - VW '08 Panel Take-Aways

April 07 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Metaverse   Year: General   Rating: 7

Virtual worlds for kids are an exploding market. But what do they mean for our youth and for the future of our society?

I just had the pleasure to sit through a Virtual Worlds 2008 session titled Kids and Tweens: Why Virtual Worlds Are The New Saturday Morning TV during which a panel of experts shared their thoughts on the rise of virtual worlds as the primary form of entertainment for our youth, exhibiting what moderator Richard Gottlieb labeled as a “sense of overwhelming optimism” about the growing industry.

The following are my favorite bytes and take-aways:

Jason Root, Senior Vice President, Digital, Nick.Com And Nick At Nite.Com asserted that “gaming is the new programming that kids gravitate to”, adding that Nickelodeon views it and virtual worlds “as a logical extension to the web space” and not a replacement for narrative television programming. “That leads kids into a new open-ended experience,” said Root, noting that what’s emerging is an audience “that hungers for both linear and non-linear content.”

Kenneth Locker, Senior Vice President, Digital Media, Cookie Jar Entertainment explained that virtual world experience producers “don’t create content, they create context”, meaning that the goal is to facilitate a variety of sticky open-ended experiences rather than passive consumption. “TV is a top-down medium,” he concluded, “The internet has no beginning, middle or end.”

(cont.)

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Second Life on the Hill: U.S. House Members Seek to Understand Virtual Worlds

April 01 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2008   Rating: 10 Hot

The following is a summary of the key moments that transpired during the U.S. House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet hearing on Virtual Worlds held April 1, 2008. This marked the first ever simulcast of a Congressional hearing into a virtual world – a truly historic moment.

Spanning the positive uses of virtual worlds (entrepreneurial, non-profit, educational, and other purposes) as well as the security implications (terrorism, child protection, privacy and illegal activities) the first-of-its-kind hearing finally came to a close at 11:15 AM this morning after nearly two full hours of position statements and riveting Q&A.

Subcommittee members’ opening speeches covered general statistics, implications, applications and potential futures of virtual worlds. Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey of Massachusetts (pictured second) noted that virtual worlds often permit people to do things that are often impossible in real life, thus empowering individuals and that virtual worlds are at the cutting edge of web 2.0 applications. As per the future of virtual worlds, the Chairman said that virtual worlds are steadily becoming more commonplace and therefore policymakers will have to continue to monitor them as they grow further while upgrading national infrastructure to foster the positive utilities of such worlds.

Congressman Stearns of Florida (pictured third) cited an interesting statistic in his opening remarks, that 40% of men and 50% of women see virtual friends as equal or better than their real-life friends. He found this a bit unsettling, and elucidated his concern for sexual predators and con-men inevitably finding their way into virtual worlds, as they did the internet.

Congresswoman Harman of California echoed many of the same positive implications of virtual worlds, but seemed most concerned with the use of virtual worlds by Islamic militants, noting that a “clear-eyed understanding is essential” in helping fight this new wave of “transient terrorism.”

(cont.)

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The Legal Issues Facing Virtual Worlds

March 29 2008 / by Accel Rose
Category: Social Media   Year: General   Rating: 4

Here’s a cool slide presentation by Cory Ondrejka, former CTO of Second Life who now teaches at USC’s Annenberg School, that summarizes the bevy of legal issues facing virtual worlds:

(via Raph Koster)

U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee Holding Hearing on Virtual Worlds

March 28 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2008   Rating: 2

On the heels of Singapore’s announcement that it plans to throw some serious money at the development of mixed-reality applications the slower U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce has scheduled a hearing on the issues surrounding virtual worlds.

The session, titled Online Virtual Worlds: Applications and Avatars in a User-Generated Medium, will be held April 1 at 9:30 a.m. and live webcast streamed for those who wish to view the proceedings from home (or at work). It seems likely that the potential economic value, catalytic effects and security ramifications of user populated virtual worlds will be discussed. No doubt this is just the beginning of broader federal recognition of the power of this rapidly diffusing new medium.

I will be eager to see what transpires and then to discuss the ramifications here and with all of the virtual world officionados converging at Virtual Worlds 2008 next week.

(via Virtual Worlds News)

VW 2008: Where are the Virtual Worlds Headed?

March 28 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2008   Rating: 3

Broadly popular virtual worlds are a relatively recent phenomenon, and yet have taken the real world by storm. It was just 2003 when Second Life opened its doors to the public – it has now grown to 13,018,921 residents (as of today) with millions of Linden dollars being exchanged every month.

Virtual worlds evolved from basic online communities and chatrooms. From these roots sprouted Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs) and Multi-User Shared Habitats (MUSHes), like the first 3D shooter game Maze War. Inspired by UK-born MUDs of the late 1970s like AberMUD, the first Internet-based MUD, early virtual worlds of the 1990s were solely text-based with limited graphics and often used a Terminal Interface. The launch of CyberTown in 1995, the immediate success of The Sims Online in 2002, and the growing success of Second Life sewed the seeds for a market that has recently begun to skyrocket. Due also in part to the steady popularization of MMORPGs, it didn’t take long for the rest of the world to catch on to the potential of such virtual environments. With virtual worlds popping up everywhere, the roster now includes World of Warcraft, Multiverse, There.com, MetaPlace, Club Penguin and many more.

This year’s Virtual Worlds Conference in New York City promises to be a playground for those interested in the Metaverse. The two day conference agenda covers the business, operations and legal issues for companies seeking to monetize their intellectual property with virtual worlds.

“Virtual worlds are rapidly reshaping the toy, media, and entertainment industries,” said Christopher Sherman, Executive Director of the Virtual Worlds Management. “This year’s Virtual Worlds Conference keynoters are individuals who are leading the charge, leveraging existing content, brands and intellectual property to create new, high-margin virtual worlds that excite, entertain and engage audiences.”

(cont.)

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Myrl Launches Social Networking for Avatars

March 21 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2008   Rating: 4

Making friends in virtual worlds is pretty hit-or-miss. Unless you’re at a specific event, you have no idea what kind of person you’re bound to bump into. To make matters worse, approaching someone requires a bit of bravery. Interacting from behind a computer screens helps, but virtual worlds are so life-like that talking to someone out of the blue takes some level of courage. Dare ask someone their real name? Blasphemy!

This morning Virtual Worlds News reported the launch of a London-based social network for the metaverse called Myrl. Created in an effort to allow users to “worldshop,” as founder and CEO Francesco D’Orazio put it, Myrl intends to knock down the barriers that make virtual worlds so exclusive from one another.

Even in its early stages, Myrl has much to offer when trying to find like-minded users/avatars. Think of it as Facebook for the Metaverse – you can post pics, share favorite places and slurls, promote your virtual start-up, make friends, and even earn “Karma” points the more you interact with others. According to TechCrunch UK, Myrl currently supports users from Second Life and There.com, but plans to continually expand and create relationships with numerous other virtual worlds.

This social network and others of its kind will surely result in a more seamless metaverse experience for all – and allow those of us with shy avatars to finally make some friends. :)
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Interested in virtual worlds? Don’t miss this year’s annual Virtual Worlds Conference from April 3-4 in New York City for a host of interesting keynotes, demos, networking events and more. Email marisa@memebox.com for info on how to get a discount on conference tix.


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