I just spent two days at the Metaverse Roadmap Summit where I got to meet people like Esther Dyson and Doug Engelbart. I’m not going to write on it right now (too fried) but here’s some comments from around the web for it and the SDForum held the day before:
- Philip Rosedale’s keynote at SDForum
SL is now running almost 2,500 servers, each of which supports a 16-acre region, making the entire world 32,000 acres in area — bigger than Boston. The world started with 16 servers, 64 acres, and only 300 paying customers when it went live in 2003.
Each month, $5 million in goods and services are traded between SL users ($60 million a year). 230,000 different things are sold or traded monthly.
The world now holds 10 million objects, 15 terabytes of user-createed data, takes 2 teraflops of CPU simulation. There are over 500 user-planned events every day.
Philip also showed a chart, briefly, graphing the number of users with profitable businesses, distributed across net profit. It was hard to add up the figures, but it looked like more than 2,000 users with profitable businesses, unless I was reading the chart wrong.
- Another take on Joi Ito’s keynote
“Even though I just trashed cyberspace, 3D is very interesting,” Ito said. “All of these [virtual worlds, MMOs, mobile computing and others] are tools that will eventually converge. People will have different interfaces they will optimize for. This is all going toward some massive conversion.” Ito pointed out that the people who can’t remember not having an email address will one day soon be the majority of those using the Web and virtual worlds. For them, video games are a natural part of their toolkit. Compex interfaces like those found in WoW will become the norm.
- A panel discussion report from SDForum
Daniel James of Three Rings (makers of Puzzle Pirates) took issue with Philip Rosedale’s earlier statement that “the time is now” to build the metaverse. The tools available now are “rickety,” at best, James said. He sees ten years from now as the time when there will the kind of ubiquitous adoption of metaverse technologies in the way that people use the Web today. Furthermore, he argued, the metaverse will move to an open-source model. Until then, we’ll see tooth-and-nail Darwinian evolution and eventually survival of the fittest.
- Ethan Zuckerman’s take on the opening sessions of the Summit
Esther Dyson, sitting in front of me, notes that she “hasn’t drunk the Kool Aid” yet, but wants to understand why people are so excited about these spaces. (Reading this, Esther points out that she’s more enthusiastic and optimistic than I’ve made her sound – she thinks “there’s a cherry in the Kool Aid”…)
Ten of the next twenty people introduce themselves using the Kool-Aid metaphor – one guy describes himself as “a Gemini, torn between not drinking the Kool-Aid… and really, really drinking the Kool-Aid”. Another describes himself as “the big fat Kool-Aid guy who bursts through the wall”. And Randy Farmer, one of the pioneers in the space, notes that he’s drunk so much Kool Aid that he’s now in a twelve step program and has gotten much of the Kool Aid out of his system.
- Ethan’s report on OpenCroquet
The demo David Smith and Julian Lombardi gave last night had jaws dropping throughout the bar. Rather than a space you visit on a server through a client, OC is a three-D operating system that allows you to create objects and spaces that can appear on your system, or be imported into other systems. Each client is a server – there are no centralized servers. Each set of interactions between clients involves a negotiation – “Okay, you want to send me three-D models, textures, some text and an audio stream. I’m on a cellphone and don’t have a 3d rendering engine, so I’ll take the audio stream and the text…”
- Scoble’s take on OpenCroquet
We have just seen a new world.
Open CroquetYou have just witnessed one of the first public demos of a 3D hyperlink in the system. You can walk from world-to-world. You can collaborate with people in new ways.
Another demo? A 3D spreadsheet that can let you work in 3D space together on numbers with other people.
This is rough, early-adopterish, but once you see this you realize a new kind of computing experience is coming.
See that chess set in the image above? You can move around it. You can spin it. You can zoom toward it. And, if you touch it you are playing chess. All running P2P. No centralized servers needed. It’s remarkable. They showed how you could just “step into” a new virtual world. Just move toward something that looks like a window and you “dive into” that Window and are instantly in a new world. In that new world there would be new people, new things to see.
Sometimes I pinch myself at what I get to be among the first human beings to experience.
- Ethan’s take on the discussions of the annotated world/geographic web/mirrorworld/augmented reality stuff
Michael Leibold from the Institute for the Future is less interested in virtual worlds, than laying a metaverse on top of the real universe. His dream is the “Star Trek Tricorder” model – step anywhere in the world and get cultural, political, historical, economic and social information about that place.
This idea suggests moving away from the “console view of the world”, assuming that the “world computer” is a handheld, mobile device. This device helps you discover the informational labels that have been put onto the physical world. This layered cartographic data is a web attached to physical places and physical objects, which allows you to access those layers of data when you’re in the world, looking at a store, a building or a natural vista.
- Randy Farmer’s curmudgeony take on the whole thing
Below I am republishing my Wired rant from January 1996, which seems to be just as relevant today:
Now in 3-D!
3-D isn’t an interface paradigm. 3-D isn’t a world model. 3-D isn’t the missing ingredient. 3-D isn’t an inherently better representation for every purpose. 3-D is an attribute, like the color blue.
Any time you read or hear about how great 3-D is and how it’s going to change everything about computers and services, substitute the word blue for 3-D.
Don’t get me wrong; there are great applications for 3D. That’s not the point.
The point is that idealistic assumptions and techno-optimism are no substitute for understanding what people actually want and do when they interact with each other, whether via computers or in the physical world.
Let’s not repeat the path VRML took – that’d be a double waste and I won’t do it. Let’s figure out the problem first, and then look to see if a global-shared-3d-standard-UI-identity-object-system is the solution. So far, I haven’t found a single one.
- Some of the forecasts made — the birdwatching one was mine.
- Photos from the event.
Much more if you search for the Metaverse keyword on Technorati.
I’ll try to write more on this stuff, plus the reason why a yellow Mustang, Victoria’s Secret, and cross-gender avatar play are all the same thing, over the next few days.