The Virtual Worlds are starting to get interesting:
- The MLB piped the All-Star game into Second Life (population 321,000).
- Transhumanists have set up an Island in Second Life call Uvvy and held a presentation there while beta testing a new voice/hand raising technology from Vivox.
- Apparel companies are selling virtual versions of their clothing before releasing the physical version in the real world.
- Habbo Hotel (population 53 million) is expanding to mobile phones with a U.S.$7.7 million investment from a Japanese company.
What I find most fascinating is that most of this activity is occurring before the Grid truly arrives. Some games and virtual worlds are hosted on local grids, but the wider merging of all of these local grids into one global Grid is still a few years away. Even without mature technological platforms, virtual worlds already rival physical countries in both economy and population.
Virtual world activity in Asia, especially South Korea, is especially promising. These are places where all demographics visit the virtual worlds, unlike the United States where teenagers and young adults dominate.
If you do not already, what features would convince you to start spending time in the virtual worlds, and what features keep you away currently? I get bored with the virtual worlds easily and annoyed by people who knock me off mountains or say bizarre things as they pass by. Also, I do not like any delay in the graphics, but there is often latency (probably my 4 year old computer’s fault).
On the flip side, I am interested in the educational opportunities offered by virtual worlds. Museums, universities, galleries, and digital representations of real world art pieces are popping up in the virtual worlds. If you can master the building skills of each virtual world, then creating your own virtual space become much more interesting. So far I have only dabbled, but building and scripting tools are becoming easier all the time.
Accessing a virtual world is free or relatively cheap, but actually building a home/island and business costs money (though far less than trying to do the same in the real world). I wonder if people will start buying or renting cheaper and smaller places in the real world while they start spending more time in the virtual worlds? There is some indication of this trend in Japan already, where people are renting “Media Immersion Pods“. Maybe we will all live in “Media Immersion Pods” a decade from now. Take care of the body’s physical needs in the real world, explore the endless landscapes and possibilities in the virtual worlds…