I’m off Monday for the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference in San Jose next week (online registration ends tomorrow! see below), where I’ll be moderating what should be a very cool roundtable on the future of virtual world platforms. We go on Thursday at 11am, on the strategy track, with a very flattering title: Visionary Panel: Where the Platforms Are Going Next. The panel features Christopher Klaus, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kaneva; Raph Koster, President, Areae, Inc.; Michael Wilson, CEO, Makena Technologies; Hui Xu, Founder & CEO, HiPiHi Co., Ltd; Stephen Lawler, General Manager of Virtual Earth, Microsoft; and Corey Bridges, Co-founder, Executive Producer, & Marketing Director, The Multiverse Network. Should be some pretty fascinating talk flying around about what’s going to happen in the near and far terms, and where all of the things these people and others are working on are headed.
As noted, online registration for the conference (of which 3pointD is a media sponsor) ends tomorrow, Friday, October 5. The online reg price is only $795. After Friday, you’ll be able to register onsite at the show beginning 7:30am, Wednesday, October 10, for $995. Reg now and save your cash for drinks with Corey!
Nabeel Hyatt of Conduit Labs moderated a panel on Why Virtual Goods Matter, and What’s Driving User Adoption, at the Virtual Goods Summit at Stanford University.
Craig Sherman of Gaia Online
Daniel James of Three Rings
Amy Jo Kim of Shufflebrain
Byron Reeves of Stanford University and Seriosity
Reeves: The human brian is not specialized to differentiate between virtual and real. Same neurons fire when an avatar smiles at you as when a real person smiles at you. Seriosity is looking at what happens when you create an opportunity to do serious things with virtual currency attached, such as sending email messages with virtual currency attached. The result? You open the email faster when currency is attached. Virtual money changes real behavior. Continue reading
Landowners in the virtual world of There.com got new control over the weather at their plots yesterday, according to the company. As of yesterday, “all members owning zones, neighborhoods or property lots will have new options for customizing the environment and weather for their locations in the virtual world. Owners will see two new pull-down menus — environment and weather. The environment menu provides for different looks for the sky, including new dawn, high noon, romantic sunset and moonlit night. The weather menu provides for rain, snow and thunderstorm settings. Both menus have the ability to restore the default settings for each particular location.” This is pretty cool, if you ask me. I’d love to see the thunderstorm setting going off right next door to someone’s romantic sunset. And if none of the There.com member-developers have crafted a rain-cloud attachment that hovers over your head as you move around, they should get on that as well. If nothing else, this is going to pump up the market for virtual umbrellas.
If you missed the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference, don’t worry: now you can close your eyes and it’s almost like you’re there. John Swords has now posted most if not all of the audio files of the conference sessions over at RezNation.com, home of SecondCast. You can find all the files under the Metaverse Sessions tag, even though they’re not, really. What they are is good, informative listening. You can catch a case study of Pontiac in Second Life, the Electric Sheep Company‘s Sibley Verbeck giving a keynote speech, IBM‘s Colin Parris talking about his company’s plans for virtual environments, my own blatherings on a fun panel about the future of these things, and more. Happy listening.
Dan Catt’s mapping panel was a very cool session that was difficult to synthesize at the speed it went by, but I think I got most of what the panelists said. All very 3pointD.
Moderator: Rev. Dan Catt, from Geobloggers.com and Flickr
Tom Carden from Random Etc.
Aaron Straup Cope from Flickr
Jerry Paffendorf from the Electric Sheep Company
Ian White from Urban Mapping Inc.
Catt first asked everyone without laptops to stand up and shake their hands in front of them in order to wake up, then groan quietly like a zombie, then louder than the person next to you. Two questions before you sit down: Who objects to swearing, say boo. Those who don’t object to swearing, say Fuck Yeah. (You can imagine which was louder.)
Cope talked about how we tell where things are. Shows a quote from Douglas Coupland’s Shampoo Planet. “History and geography are being thrown away.” Cope: This is wrong.
Cope: Geography helps set the stage for an experience, history gives an experience context and nuance. We have theselocation devices that tell you where things are. I could care less where the nearest Starbucks is. I don’r eally care about driving directions either. But if I’m at a place, I would love to be able to see what came before and have a sense of its history. Continue reading
As noted here, MTV is expanding its virtual world, Virtual Laguna Beach, to incorporate Laguna Beach spinoff show The Hills. (Read more about MTV’s virtual world initiative and how it came together in my piece in the February issue of Wired, which has just come out.) MTV’s vHills apparently launched last Monday, while I was away, but it’s now kicking off what could be a nice experiment in user-generated content: a fashion challenge (to be announced in vHills on Tuesday, 23 January, at 8pm EST) that looks like it will allow users to become either models or fashion designers. It’s also something that could help push adoption of virtual worlds as 3D social networking sites, if you ask me. Continue reading
Raph Koster flags an Escapist article in which Allen Varney covers “boutique MMOGs” and the fact that they can not only be profitable but can garner significant niche audiences in a similar manner to very narrowly focused Web sites. This kind of thing is along the lines of some of my thinking about virtual worlds. I’m pretty sure we’ll start to see a proliferation of 3D virtual spaces as time moves on and the tools for building such places get cheaper and easier to use. These will be not just individual islands (or collections of islands) floating in 3D cyberspace, built on a platform that resembles an open-source Second Life, but a metaverse of things like MTV’s Virtual Laguna Beach (built on the technology behind There.com), and games and social worlds built on a free platform like Multiverse. Eventually, a large handful of these will come to capture audiences in the hundreds of thousands. The business model is totally viable. It’s working for the games mentioned in Varney’s article, as well as for a game like EVE Online. The Web has shown us that huge “category-killers” like World of Warcraft need not actually kill a category at all; you can successfully launch and run a Web site or a virtual world that aims at a narrower audience. Will the category-killers one day fall away altogether? I doubt it, but perhaps the rallying cry will be something like, “The category is dead! Long live the category!”
It’s audio file day here at 3pointD, apparently. This is a kind of cool thing forward to me by a friend: young indie-emo-whatever-rockers Cartel, who’ve been featured on MTV’s reality show Laguna Beach, have released a three-song mini album of the live tunes they played during a virtual gig in the network’s online world, Virtual Laguna Beach. The tunes have been released through MTV’s Urge music-download service, of course, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a nice instance of media mashup: a band from a reality show whose gig in a virtual world has now been pushed back out through a more traditional media channel. I’m thinking we’ll see more and more such convergence between old media (television), current media (the Internet) and new media (virtual worlds) in the coming year.
I spent Friday and Saturday at the joint State of Play / Terra Nova symposium at the New York Law School. There was a lot of interesting talk, but probably none more so than the panel on taxation and virtual worlds that was held Saturday morning. Dan Terdiman has an excellent wrap on CNet, though I feel like his take is slightly alarmist. To the tax lawyers at the symposium, taxation of virtual assets seemed only a matter of time. But to the emissary from the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, a gamer himself, the picture looked more grey. Either way, it was clear that the debate was slowly reaching higher levels of policymaking circles, and that it’s only a matter of time (and maybe not that much) before Congress or the IRS starts making rulings that directly affect players of online games and the residents of virtual worlds like Second Life. Continue reading
Well, the There Film Festival, anyway. Check out “Wild Griefer,” the winning entry, by There.com resident Francis_7. The film is a five-minute music video based on a song by the same name, written by Thereians Banshee_Kate and Stungthumbz. And it’s all about griefing! (Of course, as There.com’s press release points out, “The lyrics and dialogue showcase There’s real-time voice chat feature, which makes it appear as if the avatars are speaking and singing without the need for editing or dubbing.” But that’s obviously secondary to the subject matter, needless to say.) Check out the rest of the winning entries on this long-loading Web page. And don’t forget to congratulate Francis_7, who actually won a hefty prize: a Sony MiniDV Handycam Camcorder, 90,000 Therebucks, and, last but not least (or maybe both) a There sweatshirt. Nice work.
An early model of Virtual Laguna Beach built out in Second Life
Good news, metaverse fans: This week’s episode of MTV’s eye-opening reality show Laguna Beach will premiere not on television but in the “music” channel’s virtual world, Virtual Laguna Beach, built on the same technology as There.com. The show will go on at 9pm Eastern time this evening, to coincide with the VLB “Winter Formal” being held tonight. The episode then airs on TV on Wednesday at 10pm. (Second Life residents can also visit a model of Virtual Laguna Beach in their own virtual world, sans the TV show. More on that below.) Continue reading
MTV’s Virtual Laguna Beach, the virtual world tied to its hit TV show, gets its official launch this Wednesday, according to an article in The New York Times. The article also reports that MTV plans two other virtual worlds to join VLB in coming months: “VMTV is a music destination where visitors can club-hop among hip neighborhoods, buy music, watch videos, sing karaoke or even start their own bands. The third virtual destination, LogoWorld, an offshoot of Logo, the gay and lesbian cable channel, will be designed entirely by its participants.” Could this be the beginning of the migration we’ve been pointing to here at 3pointD for some time? That is, the migration from flat online community spaces like MySpace and into their 3D counterparts like Second Life and There.com (which provided the underlying technology for VLB). We of course are betting it is, but it could also mark a shift in how such places get funded and built, from start-up companies that need to seek venture capital to stay afloat, to big media companies getting into the space. The 3pointD age is upon us.
Virtual Laguna Beach, the virtual world built for MTV using There.com‘s technology, is still running slightly under the radar. But that isn’t stopping MTV from putting on some parties in their beachfront world. Though it’s currently in a kind of public alpha test, VLB is holding a fashion show this evening at 7:00pm Pacific Time. And on Sunday you can “come celebrate the top models by attending parties in their honor at the best clubs in VLB.”
The world, of course, is based on MTV’s over-produced hit reality show, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, now in its third season. The virtual world seems to consist largely of what the show consists of: socializing among young people, shopping, and a smattering of sex. Early members of VLB are reportedly fairly bold about inviting each other to virtual makeout sessions, but that’s nothing unusual for a virtual world. Continue reading
An interesting article in MediaWeek wonders whether MTV Networks might have plans to build a MySpace-like social network out of various properties it’s acquired lately, including things like Xfire and Neopets. While MTV’s still-in-alpha Virtual Laguna Beach isn’t mentioned by name in the article, it can only lend more weight to the theory, despite the fact that it doesn’t have much of a social-networking component — yet.
The MediaWeek writer doesn’t seem to be reading 3pointD, or he might have made more of the following, which is buried toward the end of the piece: “Rumors persist that Viacom is cooking up a social networking play of its ownâ€”perhaps melding that trend with the virtual reality phenomenon. [MTV Networks president Michael] Wolf wouldnâ€™t get specific, but hinted something was in the works using avatars (virtual representations of people).” Taking Virtual Laguna Beach into the social networking space could be quite interesting. That’s one feature Second Life and other virtual worlds could benefit from, if you ask us.
The closing keynote talk at the Second Life Community Convention this past weekend was given more or less in tandem by Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale and Chief Technology Officer Cory Ondrejka. While the pair were their usual charming and amusing selves, their act having been well honed by now, they looked back at the history of Second Life more than they looked forward to its future. More about that past in a post soon to come; for now let’s look ahead with Cory at what the future of the SL codebase may hold. Continue reading
World of SL is a new project by SL resident Tao Takashi (who’s also a contributor to 3pointD’s Flickr group) that aggregates all the SL blogs Tao can find (and there are a lot of them). Slightly amusing is the fact that the big story on World of SL today is not about SL at all but about There.com, where it looks like MTV is opening a Virtual Laguna Beach to accompany its popular TV show of the same name. Apparently, the DVD of the show’s second season contains a teaser for the TV show’s virtual world, and SL resident Twiddler Thereian picked up on it and posted the news on his own blog. (The last name Thereian in SL often denotes someone who came to Linden Lab‘s virtual world from over There.) Continue reading
Ted Castronova, author of Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games and perhaps the person who’s done most to advance the study of MMOs as an academic discipline, has launched a new Synthetic Worlds Initiative at Indiana University.
The Synthetic Worlds Initiative is a research center at Indiana University whose aim is to promote innovative thinking on synthetic worlds. . . . Our goal is to learn about this technology and deploy it for research and education. The Initiative holds a bi-annual series of conferences, the Ludium, and is building Arden: The World of William Shakespeare, a massive synthetic world.
The fashionistas of There.com are going frock to frock over the next nine weeks to find out who’s the best designer of fashions for the virtual world. The There Fashion Challenge pits a dozen of the world’s top designers in weekly design competitions, commencing with a pirate outfit challenge that’s currently up for judging. The competition is being run along the lines of a reality show, with residents voting a couple of designers out of the running each week. Continue reading
When I posted the other day about going to the Supernova conference in San Francisco (I leave tomorrow), I forgot to mention that you’ll be able to virtually attend part of the conference by logging into Second Life this Thursday. And, probably not coincidentally, it looks like you’ll get a branded heads-up display when you attend, something that’s going to become more common as third parties become more closely integrated with the virtual world experience (see below).
As Jerry Paffendorf points out, the Electric Sheep Company (a sponsor of this blog) will put on one of its mixed-reality events, broadcasting Supernova’s Connected Innovator’s Showcase (held in association with TechCrunch) into SL on Thursday afternoon. (More details on the SL forums.) The showcase features a dozen forward-looking companies, most of which will be “launching or making significant announcements at the conference,” according to Supernova, so if you’re interested in what they have to say but can’t make it to the conference, this could be a good way to get the early news. It’s too bad the rest of the conference isn’t being shared this way, though. But I’ll be liveblogging most of the sessions I attend, so stay tuned.
One of the interesting things about this broadcast (if that’s the right word) is that it looks like attendees in Second Life will be given a branded heads-up display to facilitate the session. Continue reading
Very Spatial yesterday flagged an interesting story on the BBC about Google‘s mobile aspirations for the future. That, combined with talk coming out of Google’s Geo Developers Day that various people have reported to me, has finally convinced me that Google may at least be starting to think about some kind of multi-user version of Google Earth. If it comes, it won’t be soon, but it’s worth recapping possible developments (if that makes any sense), though a lot of this talk has been circulating for some time. Mozilla as well seems to be thinking about related ideas. Continue reading
I don’t usually post about Second Life membership numbers, but reaching the quarter-million mark (which I spotted on SL resident Tateru Nino‘s blog) seems significant to me. Tateru follows up with a post attempting to look a bit more closely at the numbers. Neither she nor I have great insights into the matter, but the point here is that the quarter-million mark I just blogged is actually relatively meaningless, since as far as I know it merely counts number of characters that have been created historically. (These could be defunct accounts, multiple characters on the same account, etc.) A better number can be found on SL’s economic statistics page, where it says that 124,028 residents have logged in during the last 60 days. But even this is obscure, since it counts characters, and not actual real-world people. And neither of these numbers give any indication of how many people are actually paying money to Linden Lab (basic SL accounts are free). A month or two ago, when I chatted with LL CEO Philip Linden on related subjects, the company had only 12,000 or so paying customers. Continue reading
This was going to be a brief post about some new features of the ActiveWorlds software that was just released, but it turned into a longer contemplation of how the 3D Internet will work once many, many more of us have a presence in such online spaces.
Chris from SWCity, a community in ActiveWorlds that I’ve been meaning to visit ever since I blogged it back in April (sorry, guys!), sends news that AW recently released a preliminary build of the new Version 4.1 of its software. I don’t spend a lot of time in ActiveWorlds so I can’t say how much better this is than the last version, but a couple of things jump out at me from the release notes that are notable or at least cool-sounding — including a kind of identity portability. And some of it seems to point, in a platform-agnostic way, to what would seem to be the future of 3D spaces on the Internet. But first the new AW stuff: Continue reading
Sixth-graders in Wisconsin are apparently using an avatarized virtual environment built at Harvard to learn about science. MUVEES, which is saddled with one of the most unwieldy names I’ve come across in virtual worlds (Multi-User Virtual Environment Experimental Simulator), lets users don avatars to navigate a shared 3D online space filled with “virtual architectures,” “digital artifacts,” and “museum-related multimedia and virtual environments for teaching and learning science.” But why aren’t these people just using Second Life, There.com, or ActiveWorlds, any of which could almost certainly do the job better? It seems that market education in this area still has a long way to go.
Paul Hemp of the Harvard Business Review has an interesting article in the current issue about “Avatar-Based Marketing,” i.e., marketing to avatars in virtual worlds. What’s interesting about the piece is Hemp’s oblique examination of identity; does the fact that you’re inhabiting an avatar when you’re receiving a marketing message affect your purchasing decisions? Or is marketing to avatars the same as marketing to the people behind them? A good read if you haven’t already checked it out.
Social virtual world There.com has launched an alpha version of its service in the Philippines in association with local social networking site Groovenet, according to this announcement on the There site. There Philippines exists separate from the main There grid, on its own hardware, though it may eventually be merged with the current grid, according to CEO Michael Wilson. It sounds like Filipino There residents will be jacking in for the most part from Internet cafes, which should is an interesting twist. The move could give There a strong toehold in Asia, which is a potentially enormous market, given the vast number of MMO players in the region. We await further developments.
The Smart Internet Technology Cooperative Research Centre in Australia is bringing positional voice and audio to online games and 3D virtual spaces. Its Immersive Communications Environment will represent environmental audio and users’ voices positionally: the gamers and gunshots that are closer to you will sound louder, while those that are further away will sound fainter or won’t be heard at all. For gamers, this is a step forward in games like World of Warcraft and Counter-Strike, and could add a great deal to virtual worlds like Second Life and There.com, for those who care to adopt it. The system can only support around 1,000 users per server at the moment, but for most conversations and contexts, that will be more than enough. It doesn’t seem to be commercially available at the moment, but I’m betting it’s only a matter of time. I definitely want to hear my guildies’ voices echoing down the halls of WoW instances in a positional, directional way, rather than just everyone shouting at once. [Via Glitchy.]
Will Harvey, founder and CEO of IMVU and founder of There.com, gave an afternoon keynote talk here at SDForum titled “Virtual Worlds Meet Instant Messaging,” which is what IMVU is all about, Harvey said. Not only that, but IMVU is “the best 3D instant messenger,” he said — though he noted that the competition isn’t very stiff at the moment. The talk was, for the most part, a case study in how IMVU has developed up to now. Continue reading
Here’s an idea that’s been kicking around in my head lately: PeopleTagging. It grows out of the question of who I am online. Am I my Web site? Am I my email address? My toon name? My password? Or am I the person sitting at the keyboard, and if so, how do you translate that into various online contexts?
PeopleTagging first, deep techno-philosophical questions to follow. PeopleTagging presumes a world in which we all have easy access to wireless RFID- and GSM-enabled devices (if we want them). It would also be helped along by an app like Wayfinder, a 3D digital earth for Java-enabled mobile phones that should be in beta as of May 2 (according to Ogle Earth), or Google Maps Mobile, a 2D version of the same idea. The basic concept is that you’d use your computer or your mobile device to search for someone within a network of friends or some other community, click on their name, and have your browser zoom in to their location anywhere in the world. Maybe you can then open a communication link to them — voice, IM, SMS, whatever — or, if they happen to be cruising around Second Life or There.com at the moment, would let you drill down further to find them within that world and even launch the application so you could meet up with them there. Continue reading
VRCO Inc. is a company that specializes in creating interactive 3D visual representations of various kinds. “VRCO’s business is immersive environments and we wish to enable as many applications as possible,” reads its Web site. A lot of its products seem to be middleware apps that allow other apps to communicate in 3D, or which translate between “flat” data into 3D representations. Now, Ogle Earth has posted a comment from VRCO senior software engineer Todd Yocum, in which Yocum describes his company as being “probably the closest there is to having GE in a Metaverse at the moment.” Continue reading
SW City’s Cirrus Street
This blog post alerted me to what sounds like a huge and thriving city in ActiveWorld that I hadn’t heard of before. SW City apparently covers 130 square km. of virtual space, and is filled with impressive builds, judging from this YouTube video. Billed as “the largest city in ActiveWorlds,” the place was founded in 1999, has over 200 “citizens,” a government, a census bureau and an active media sector. The video makes a great advertisement for AW, and seems to be inviting new users to “come build with us” in SW City. We don’t hear a lot about AW or the other big virtual world, There.com (which actually claims around twice as many members as Second Life), but I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more about both later this year.