Tagged: 3D-Web

Get $200 Off at Engage! Expo

Use code MWVIP to get $200 off an all-access pass to Engage! Expo, happening September 23-24 at the San Jose Convention Center. Looks like a nice line-up, including:

* New keynotes include: Jeremy Liew, Managing Director, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Mark Pincus, Founder and CEO, Zynga.
* 125 speakers covering the subjects of virtual goods, social media, digital law and 3D learning.
* Best Buy’s innovative social media strategy keynote: With Best Buy’s Gina Debogovich and Jason Parker.
* Super Social media case studies from leading brands: Walmart, Best Buy, Intel, H&R Block, and Kodak
* Virtual goods case studies from Playdom, Six Degrees Games, MyYearbook. Plus hear from Habbo, Zynga, Social Gaming Network, Playfish and more.
* The venture capital point of view: Hear from Lightspeed, Rustic Canyon Partners, SVB Capital and Venture Capital-Private Equity Roundtable
* Get the latest market research from from Strategy Analytics, Interpret, Pearl Research, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, VGMarket and ThinkBalm
* Get your hands dirty on the expo floor with demos of the top new technologies.
* Understand the critical legal ramifications pertaining to games, social media and virtual goods
* Learn how to use the latest 3D technologies within your enterprise to save money now.

Google Virtual World Back in the Rumor Mill

Is Google building a Second Life-like virtual world? Google-watching blog Google Operating System thinks they might be, given that Arizona State University students will have the opportunity to test a new product that sounds very virtual worldy and that also sounds like it will require a Gmail account. Apparently to be “publicly launched later this year,” the product is developed by “a major Internet company” and, says Google Op, “there are hints that the application is related to social networking, 3D modeling and video games.” Want to know for sure? Enroll at ASU. That’s the only way to get in. You know Michael Arrington (from whom I first read this) has his spies crawling the campus already.

CMP Launches Metaverse Services Division

CMP Technology has become “the first global media company to be certified by Linden Labs as a full-service content developer in Second Life,” according to a press release. (Though maybe Linden Lab should be careful that their certified devs at least spell the name of the company correctly.) CMP, of course, runs the annual Game Developers Conference and the Austin Game Developers Conference (which leans more toward MMOs and virtual worlds), as well as a number of Web 2.0 and other tech events, and publishes sites like Gamasutra and publications like Game Developer and Information Week. CMP is now bringing the virtual world into its media offerings: “CMP’s metaverse division will work with customers to create unique builds and events that promote deep engagement and nurture community. The division will integrate Second Life and the web to reach global markets while leveraging CMP’s trusted brands to acquire highly-qualified audiences and bring them inworld.”

Does this spell the beginning of stiffer competition for outfits like the Electric Sheep Company, Millions of Us, Rivers Run Red and others? It has seemed to be only a matter of time before big media companies got into the metaverse services space in a big way; CMP’s entry may be the early sign of a coming wave. Other firms with global reach (Edelman, for one) are already operating in Second Life (despite the “first” claim in CMP’s release), and it seems logical that such firms would expand their operations to produce campaigns for this new medium. It will be interesting to see how the “native” firms react to increased competition. I’m still waiting for a big media company to absorb one of the main metaverse services companies. If the market holds up (a big if, but not huge one), I imagine it’s only a matter of time before that happens. CMP’s entry into the space could well accelerate the process.

Two New Virtual “Worlds” For Kids

WebbliWorld, a new virtual world for kidsWith the success of Nicktropolis and even more so WebKinz, Club Penguin, and things like GoPets and more (Animal Crossing, anyone?), virtual worlds for kids have become the hot ticket this summer. Two new ones are on their way: one an educational 3D theme park, the other a cool 2D “world” designed in part by Aardman Animations, the outfit behind the excellent Wallace & Gromit cartoons.

The Aardman offering is known as WebbliWorld, and is populated by all kinds of avatars and features beginning for the most part with W- or Webbli-. That’s WebbliWallace above, the avatar I created by sticking together the bits and pieces on offer. Not really an immersive multiuser world, as far as I can tell, WebbliWorld instead offers a range of Flash games and activities designed to educate young ‘uns and inspire them to take on real-world activities like sports or mucking about in the garden. You can view other Webblis profiles, but communication seems limited. Continue reading

Sheep Launch New Second Life Shopping Site

Electric Sheep Company launches new shopping site for Second LifeThe Electric Sheep Company (which sponsors 3pointD) yesterday launched its new shopping site for the virtual world of Second Life. Known as OnRez, and launched with little fanfare, the site really constitutes the migration and overhaul of the old SLBoutique (which now redirects to OnRez), one of SL’s longest-standing shopping sites. The Sheep bought SLBoutique early on in the company’s history, and had been struggling with its codebase ever since. OnRez represents the chance to get new users interested in the Sheep’s Web-based services, and as such is an important step forward. Will it work? Continue reading

Render 3D Objects in JavaScript

3D rendering engine hacked up in JavaScript

Check out this demo of a 3D rendering engine concept that the Useless Pickles blog hacked up in JavaScript. It works by manipulating the borders of page elements so that they appear as triangles — which means it could conceivably be used to render objects of some complexity, since most 3D objects are rendered out of meshes of triangles. Of course, JavaScript probably doesn’t scale to that point, but it’s a very interesting hack nonetheless. Nice stuff. [Via Hackzine, from whom I’ve stolen the image above.]

Getting Social: Connecting in Virtual Worlds

I won’t be able to make this, unfortunately, but what sounds a really interesting panel will be held this Thursday, July 19, in the virtual world of Second Life. Kicking off at 6pm SL time (9pm Eastern), the panel will be a “Virtual Roundtable,” discussing “what drives the virtual human connection.” Moderated by Giff Constable of the Electric Sheep Company, it features some great speakers: Susan Wu of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Charles River Ventures, Beth Coleman of MIT, Robin Harper of Linden Lab, and Chris Carella, creative director of the Electric Sheep Company. Continue reading

AjaxLife: Browser-Based Second Life Viewer?

I couldn’t get this to work yesterday and I still can’t today, but one of the Electric Sheep got it working and it sounds fascinating. Someone (said to be a teen) has created an Ajax-based client for the virtual world of Second Life. Is this the start of browser-based SL use? That’s a potentially revolutionary idea. From the original post describing AjaxLife:

Due to some combination of boredom, wanting to talk to people in SL, and inspiration from a vague memory of something Interfect Sonic did, I decided to start work on an AJAX based SL client.

It’s still under heavy development, but the result so far is an application/page/site called AjaxLife.

It now works on the MG (I think!)

* Basic map
* Teleports
* Accepting/declining teleport offers
* Local chat, instant messages (partially — you can’t start them except with online friends)
* Inventory received notifications
* Friend on/offline notifications
* Balance change notifications, etc.

It also correctly logs you in and out, and notifies you if you were disconnected for any reason.

Let us know if you get it going. [Via Vint Falken.]

Tao On StageSpace: Java-Based Virtual World

Blogger and Second Life resident Tao Takashi has posted a good review of a new Java-based virtual world from Germany called StageSpace, which is still in alpha. While there are some technical problems to overcome in this area, these kinds of worlds could become very popular in future. Why? Tao writes: “The main idea is to manage individual branded virtual worlds for their clients.” Consider the fact that no Hollywood movie gets released these days without a Web site — it’s not a far leap to imagine the day when no movie gets released without a browser-based virtual world. Tao also points out a related problem that will have to be solved: “If more and more seperated virtual worlds come up it will get very annoying to join them. It’s not like Second Life where the next community might be just a teleport away. And multiple accounts are already a problem with all those web2.0 apps these days. Editing your profile, finding and inviting all your friends again will be joined by customizing your avatar as nobody wants to look like a noob. This also might get costly I assume.” Indeed.

MapJack Looks Like Google Street View in Focus

MapJack looks like Google Street View in focus

MapJack.com is a new Web site offering the kind of street-level views that Google Maps‘ Street View feature does, only in better focus and with a more interesting interface. MapJack only has San Francisco, for now — and only part of that city, to tell you the truth — but if they can add more streets and cities and find a way to capture users’ attention, it could become a useful or at least entertaining tool — more entertaining than Google’s feature. MapJack splits your browser window in two, as seen above, with a satellite street map in the bottom and a street-level photograph above (of better quality than Google’s; see comparative screenshot after the jump). You can place “Jack” on any of the blue dots on the map, and you can also click on the dots in the photo to move him around. Since he’s a tiny little articulated avatar, you can also see which way he’s facing. Continue reading

View22, Autodesk Partner For 3D eCommerce

View22 has been inking some interesting deals lately, and today comes the announcement of another one: the company, which makes a 3D eCommerce solution called Immersiv, has just struck a co-marketing deal with design software maker Autodesk to cross-promote View22 for sales and Autodesk for design. “Autodesk will recommend View22 as a preferred partner for providing web-based, thin-client 3D sales automation solutions for its current and prospective customers. View22 will recommend Autodesk as a preferred partner for 3D design and engineer-to-order products for its current and prospective customers,” according to a press release. This kind of browser-based 3D eCommerce stuff is likely to become a bigger part of the 3D experience going forward. It’s a lot easier to get in front of people through a browser than it is through a downloaded client. Not that this means View22 or Autodesk necessarily win loyal customers and clients through such a deal, but it could help open the market by getting the browsing public more acclimated to useful 3D.

Publicis and Dassault Dive In for a 3dswym

Huge global marketing and communications company Publicis and big 3D design company Dassault have teamed up on a new plugin-based 3D browser tool called 3dswym, which will “offer a collaborative Web-based platform allowing marketers to connect directly to consumers in order to jointly create and adapt new consumer goods and new retail environments using advanced Web and 3D tools.” You can plug in and mess around with an early version of 3dswym, but it doesn’t seem to offer anything special at the moment. That said, it sounds like it could be cool once it’s spun up. The tool is based on an interesting premise, though: “Successful marketing must permit consumers to enter the product creation process at a much earlier stage, so that products and services are in fact co-generated with them” according to a press release. Thing is that the global reach and sway of these companies could well help drive things in a more co-creative direction. Keep an eye out for 3dswym coming to a consumer products company near you — although not necessarily soon.

Virtual Goods: The Next Big Business Model?

Conference host Susan Wu moderated an afternoon panel addressing the question of whether virtual worlds are “the next big business model” at the Virtual Goods Summit.

Tim Stevens of Doppelganger
Kevin Effrusy, general partner with Accel Partners (investor in Facebook)
Dan Kelly, CEO of Sparter
Min Kim of Nexon

Susan: How do you guys estimate the size of the overall virtual goods market?

Dan: It’s easily a billion dollar [secondary] market. Consumers have told us these things have value, the industry now is trying to reconcile that with their business model. Continue reading

Virtual Goods: KartRider US Coming Soon

Min Kim of Nexon gave a presentation at the Virtual Goods Summit and said the company would probably announce the release of its KartRider in the US soon, which has been in closed beta. Kim also said Maple Story has been “kicking ass” in the US, with 3.5 million registered users. The company is also introducing prepaid cards at Target that can be used to buy virtual items, which it expects will push up sales as well. It also just released Audition, which already has 100,000 registered users, more than half of them female. Continue reading

Neopets’ NC Mall to Open Next Week

Kyra Reppen of Neopets gave a presentation at the Virtual Goods Summit on MTV’s Neopets. Like other MTV presenters before her, she began her presentation with a video. Perhaps the most interesting part, though, was about the new NC Mall that Neopets will introduce in beta next week. It’s about customizing and self-expression. It’s complementary to the Neopoints economy, no exchange between the two. Themed items around Neopian events. Launching with PayPal. Why do we think this is going to work? Digital is real life for this audience. Technology is invisible. Emotional connection makes the pixels go away and it’s about these experiences. Virtual worlds and virtual economies are simply applications to achieve those four core goals: fun, self-expression, social needs, and control. Kids ages 6-14 have $60 billion in income. One important feature of NC Mall is try before you buy. Continue reading

Tencent Tells its Story at Virtual Goods Summit

David Wallerstein of Tencent began the Virtual Goods Success Stories panel at the Virtual Goods Summit with a presentation, mostly to demonstrate what Tencent is doing in China: Chinese Internet penetration is only 10.5 percent. Wireless is 35.2 percent. Roughly 40 percent of Internet usage in China takes place in Internet cafes. Tencent currently has more than 4,000 employees, with roughly 30 percent R&D staff. Tencent has five leading online platforms:

• QQ.com is the #1 portal in China
• QQ games portal is the #1 mini casual games portal in China
• QQ IM, #1 IM service provider in China
• They also have a leading wireless portal
• Qzone, the #1 blog site / MySpace in China

Revenue has grown from RMB250 million in Q1 2004 to RMB750 million in Q1 2007. The largest share, 65 percent, is Internet value-added services. 25 percent mobile, 10 percent advertising. Continue reading

Level Up With 3D Email From 3D Mailbox

I’ve somehow broken the Glitchy Links that usually appear here, so Glitch has had to send this along by hand: It’s a 3D email application called, what else, 3D Mailbox, which represents your email in three dimensions — i.e., as objects in an environment I think you can navigate as you would a first-person shooter game. At the moment, there’s a single “level” which is built to resemble Miami Beach. According to the site, “Beautiful models represent good email, and sleazy guys represent spam.” Coming soon (if you pony up the $29.95 for the premium edition) is the Los Angeles International Airport level (I think a “wtf?” is not out of place here), where your email is represented as jetliners. Man, there would be some serious congestion at LAX if my inbox were trying to get clearance to land. The trailer (above) quite brilliantly invites users to “hang out with your mail poolside or feed your spam to the sharks.” Is this a threat to Seriosity’s Attent? Probably not. But Robert Savage, who’s behind 3D Mailbox, apparently likes the value proposition in representing flat data as 3D objects, since he’s done it before with VisitorVille, which turns statistics about the people who have visited your Web site into, well, people. To me, these feel like rather lonely applications. Or perhaps they’re just testament to the current frothiness of 3D.

Exploring the Future Virtual Cosmos With IBM

ComputerworldUK has a nice article up about the possibility that different virtual worlds will one day support a standard that would let users travel freely among them. This is an idea I’ve been hot on since even before starting this blog, so it’s nice to see other people supporting it — especially when they’re people like IBM vice president of standards and open source Bob Sutor, who’s quoted in the piece. Sutor has been putting up a nice series of posts on his blog since the beginning of June, detailing his basic requirements for virtual worlds, his desire for more VW artificial intelligence, some scenarios for moving assets, information and identity among virtual worlds, and the need for worlds to run on multiple platforms. (Sutor will be at a virtual worlds event at MIT’s Media Lab this Friday, apparently, though I can’t find a link.) A lot of what he’s talking about in those posts, if you ask me, points toward the broader future of virtual worlds. But feel free to poke holes in my arguments below. Even if it’s only to complain about the great length of this post. Continue reading

D-Briefs: State Dept. in SL, 3D Printing, More

3pointD briefsA couple of events to briefly note today, including a new presence in the virtual world of Second Life, the U.S. State Department. Also, 3D printers are getting cheaper, but even the “home” versions remain prohibitive. Plus some microelectronics that could prove awfully cool someday. Continue reading

LifeLike Conference, Copenhagen, Sept. 26

Book your tickets to Denmark. There’s yet another virtual worlds meetup in the works, this one being held by Copenhagen’s Innovation Lab, home of past metaverse meetup attendee and Terra Nova guest poster Peder Burgaard. The Lab will hold the LifeLike conference on September 26 [UPDATE: The conference is just on the 26th, not 26-27, as previously reported]: “Looking at the prevailing trends and technologies, the virtual worlds seem to be a natural effect of a series of causes: the game industry is perpetually redrawing the boundaries for graphic prowess; and their turnover has long since passed that of Hollywood. Social networks are forging virtual bonds between several hundred millions of people. Today, the sharing of digital properties, such as e.g. sound and images, constitutes the majority of all Internet traffic. Web 2.0 and open source are labels conveying a much more interactive exploitation of the Internet as a tool. Concepts such as CustomerMade and Crowdsourcing express a net-based and extremely active user involvement, where products or -– in case of virtual worlds, entire worlds -– are created by the users themselves. All this leads to an unavoidable and natural consequence: our lives are becoming virtual. LifeLike is an international stocktaking of the aspects and perspectives of the virtual worlds.”

Outback Online’s Peer-to-Peer Gaming Protocol

I’ve been interested in what little information is available about Outback Online and the “user-generated spaces” that Yoick CEO Rand Leeb-du Toit is building there, so when I read (in an article I’ve since lost the link to) that Australian research institute NICTA had developed the peer-to-peer technology that is supposed to make Outback more scalable than any 3D online world we’ve seen before, I got in touch. NICTA’s Dr. Santosh Kulkarni was kind enough to give me some time on the phone. Between what Dr. Kulkarni was able to reveal and what I was able to understand I seem to have got a rough outline of NICTA’s technology that hopefully sheds some light on the new techniques being developed there. Continue reading

MindArk’s Chinese Virtual World: Business First

The new virtual world that MindArk, makers of Entropia Universe, are developing for China will focus on business transactions and avoid politics, according to an Assoicated Press story.

David Liu, chief executive of Beijing-based Cyber Recreation Development Corp., compared the upcoming Chinese virtual world with a three-dimensional eBay, where users can shop online through a more visually appealing interface.

(CRDC is backed by the Beijing government and is responsible for the project.) Continue reading

UpNext and Other Location Apps at Where 2.0

Artur Bergman, writing on O’Reilly Radar, has a good wrap of the location-based services that were trotted out last night at Where 2.0. We posted yesterday about UpNext, about which there’s now more detail, and Artur has good insights into other services as well.

UpNext sounds pretty cool, featuring “a 3D cityscape of New York” where you can zoom around, select different data sets and mash up things like your Upcoming.org events. Plus, “You can click on any building to find out what is in it, as well as tag buildings.” It’s not avatarized nor multi-user, but otherwise sounds quite nice. Of course, it sounds like you could build similar functions for Google Earth with a little bit of effort, and the new Google Maps Street View gives you a crude approximation of the scene at street level (it actually took me a minute to recognize the facade of the building I live in when I looked it up). But UpNext sounds like — sorry about all the “sounds like,” there’s still very littile information on just how it works and what it does — it sounds like it comes ready to load up with events and people and all the rest, which means it could catch on if people dig the interface. Continue reading

Play Tennis With IBM in Second Life — Sort of

IBM's virtual tennis installation in Second Life

I had a brief visit with Second Life resident epredator Potato today (that’s him in the audience with me above) at what is currently »the main court« of the French Open tennis tournament in Second Life. epred, of course, is the SL avatar of IBM metaverse evangelist Ian Hughes, whose virtual Wimbledon of about a year ago was more or less responsible for galvanizing IBM’s attention to virtual worlds and 3D technologies. The Roland Garros version of the build does the same shot-for-shot replication of live matches as epredator’s original Wimbledon, but uses SL’s physics engine to pitch the ball back and forth across the net. You can also “play” the points, or at least view them from the player’s-eye-view, which is a nice touch. Walker took to the court with his golf club, which you can see after the jump. Continue reading

New 3D eCommerce Package From View22

View22 Technology has announced what it calls a “3D Web commerce and media platform” that “simplifies the process of adding 3D Web applications and customer experiences into the marketing mix.” Known as Immersiv (and viewable in video clips on the View22 site), the tech resembles a fancy Flash app with a few extra features, including camera controls, integration with Google’s 3D Warehouse of Sketchup objects, support for a number of files formats, and a few other things mentioned at the end of this post. What’s interesting to me, though, is how View22 is positioning the product. If View22’s press release is to be believed, this is one of the first nearly plug-n-play 3D ecommerce packages to come along. (CyWorld USA is using it as an ecommerce solution for one of their media partners.) According to the release, “The new platform enables manufacturers, retailers, media networks, content developers and third-party integrators to quickly customize and deploy a range of in-demand applications such as 3D virtual stores and showrooms; 3D product configurators and visualizers; 3D social networking experiences; 3D Web sales automation systems; interactive 3D room planners; and interactive brand promotion and online advertising.” There may well be one out there, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a Web-based 3D ecommerce system that makes so many end-to-end claims for itself, from the aforementioned file format support to “integrated Web 2.0 services, customizable catalog and user interface, and an ad serving module” (see below). It remains to be seen, of course, how well it works and how easy it is to use, but it’s an interesting foray into the market nonetheless. Continue reading

Icarus Launches Next-Gen World-Building Tools

Icarus Studios, which makes tools for building 3D massively multiplayer online games, virtual worlds and other similiar environments, has a new next-gen platform and suite of middleware tools out, according to a press release from the company, which you can find below. (The Icarus platform is currently in use by “two unnamed clients covered by NDAs,” as well as the forthcoming MMO Fallen Earth.) It’s interesting to note what the release says about how well Icarus-built worlds can be integrated with the Web and other external functions. Icarus will feature “integrated working browsers, dial-out to real world phones, and real-time video streaming,” apparently, and will support functionality such as “user-generated content, in-world social and entertainment activities, diverse revenue models, and in-world profiled marketing on a secure and scaleable platform.” I don’t imagine middleware solutions are generally the best way to build open, Web-integrated, general-purpose 3D spaces, but this kind of thing could move standard MMOs further toward something of the sort, and generally get more people used to the idea of a 3D world that interfaces smoothly with the 2D Web, or that’s useful as a social-networking app, thus opening the door for 3D spaces to assume more and more of the functionality we now associate with the Web. Continue reading

IBM Sensors Link Real World and Virtual World

IBM creates real-world links in the virtual world of Second LifeUgoTrade has a lengthy write-up of some of the work IBM has been doing in the virtual world of Second Life lately. [Via IBM’s Rob Smart.] The blog entry is all about creating links between the real world and the virtual world, so that sensor data and other information can be visualized in Second Life on a real-time basis. In the screenshot above, “The blue balls with white designs represent active Bluetooth devices. The pyramids scattered about the floor represent other people working, with the color designating things like physical presence or telepresence,” according to UgoTrade. This is just one kind of application that could start to make Second Life a much more useful place. I’d love to see entities and conditions being tracked around SL in real time. Why? Because there’s a ton of information to be extracted from a digital environment, which can then be applied to real-world problems from logistics to marketing to sociology, you name it. That said, this won’t start to get really interesting until we have a nearly plug-n-play solution. Which is probably one of the things IBM is working on. Keep your sensors tuned.

Finger-Mounted 3D Mouse From Undergrads

Finger-mounted 3D mouse from undergraduate teamA team of five undergraduate students from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute has designed a prototype of what looks to be a cool 3D mouse that you wear on your finger like a ring. The MagicMouse works using ultrasound receivers that picks up sound waves emitted by the ring. You can move around in three axes at the moment, and the students are working on adding gestural functionality like mouse clicks as well. You can watch a video of the thing, if you can get the page to load. If you can’t, and you want to see some similar technology, watch this YouTube video, which demonstrates cursor control based on a user’s hand gestures in space — both hands — with no transmitting technology involved. Interesting.

D-Briefs: Sony/ClubPenguin, Shanda VW, IBM

There’s so much metaversal news these days that it’s impossible to make a blog post out of everything that crosses my browser. (It was impossible before, but it’s getting more impossible now.) In an attempt to cram yet more news onto the blog, then, 3pointD is happy to introduce “D-Briefs,” an occasional roundup of short news items, some big and important, some trivial but interesting. Look for D-Briefs to appear on a consistently every-so-often basis. Today we have news of a Sony/ClubPenguin deal, a new immersive world from Shanda, IBM getting Torqued, and a million bucks tossed at a startup world. Continue reading

Second Life Complaints Bring May 3 Meeting

Linden Lab, maker of the virtual world of Second Life, announced on Monday that it would hold an impromptu town hall meeting with chief technology officer Cory Ondrejka to address the concerns of the almost 3,500 SL residents who have thus far signed on to Project Open Letter, a list of five complaints about the Second Life platform that have long gone unanswered. The open letter is an initiative of Second Life snapshot baron Cristiano Midnight, who’s also one of our co-hosts on SecondCast, and has been a member of Second Life for several years now. The project was started “after I read yet another open letter in a third party forum begging Linden Lab to fix myriad problems that have been going on daily for more than a year, in some cases extending years,” Cristiano writes on the project site. He goes on to point out that LL has closed down all the centralized venues of feedback, such as the company-sponsored forums, that had formerly been available to residents. A bug-reporting system is in place, but LL has not been as responsive to that as many residents would like. In the wake of the letter, LL appears to be listening harder, but it may not yet be hard enough. The platform remains vulnerable; read on for more details. Continue reading

Sun Aims New 3D Environment at Business

Sun Microsystems' MPK20 virtual workplace

On the heels of IBM‘s recent announcement about their new mainframe-class machines geared for 3D virtual worlds comes the news that Sun Microsystems has constructed its own 3D virtual environment for business. Currently an in-house demo project, the software could be ready for release within six months, according to a Sun engineer quoted in this InformationWeek story.

The system is currently known as MPK20, which identifies it as the 20th building at Sun’s corporate campus in Menlo Park, California — which is known as MPK and in fact houses only 19 buildings. The MPK20 environment is built atop the open-source Wonderland software and the Project Darkstar infrastructure designed to run online games.

According to Sun, the key difference between MPK20 and other 3D environments is that it is explicitly designed for business use. The Wonderland software permits the creation of live, shared applications that are ideal for a workplace environment, Sun says. And of course the virtual world lets Sun employees work together no matter their location in the real world.

One interesting thing about Sun’s vision for MPK20 is that the company seems to be looking toward a mirror world environment for business. “The next stage in the MPK20 project is to design complementary physical and virtual work spaces. If personal and team workspaces primarily exist in the virtual world, then people in physical spaces should be able to project their workspace around them no matter where in the world they are and interact seamlessly with people who are remote.” [Emphasis added.] It will definitely be interesting to see exactly what that means. Continue reading

Zwinky Builds Virtual World For Toolbar Avatars

Zwinky toolbar avatars get their own virtual world in ZwinktopiaWith 4.7 million “active users,” Zwinky lets you create and share avatars, emoticons, cursor icons and other stuff that teens seem to love, all from your browser’s toolbar. Now, IAC, the company behind Zwinky, hopes to lead those millions of users into its new virtual world. Known as Zwinktopia, the world “will provide Zwinkies a social community with 29 unique locations and dozens of games and activities,” including shopping, chat, games, events, and hanging out in dorm rooms. As in worlds like Club Penguin, users can earn a virtual currency, called Zbucks, and buy clothing, furniture, etc.

As a virtual world, Zwinky looks like nothing special. But it’s interesting that creating at least a 2D Flash-based multiuser environment like this has now become simple enough that you can just add such a service on top of one that’s already been adopted. Are these kind of virtual world services going to proliferate? What will be more interesting is when Web sites start to have these kind of “presence-based” services associated with them, almost like a Gabbly with avatars that an move around. I don’t think I’ve seen one yet, though Me.dium comes close.