Sunday, August 26, 2012

Comment: On the Metaverse

Today, I will write a commentary on a post made by another: the text of Chris M. Collins (aka @fleep on Twitter) on the future of the Metaverse (you can find it here).

This vibrant post was actually amazing.

However, I wanted to had my humble contribution to the debate. Specifically, I have two points that I want to discuss.

- First, Second Life :

My first point is on a phenomenon I see more and more those days: attacks against Second Life. We see more and more of that in blogs of influential people in virtual spaces. More than just criticisms, really attacks, coming clearly from disillusion of what Second Life could be but failed to realize. I would think that Linden Lab should consider seriously this phenomenon (which they are obviously not doing).

However, those attacks are partly unfair.

As a scientist working on cyberbehavior, I find Second Life simply amazing as a ground for research and investigation, not to mention simply exploring the universe of possibilities.
Second Life is not perfect. Agree.
Second Life is way too expensive for the services it offers. Agree.
Second Life did not evolved as fast and as far as the most avid users would love. Agree.
Second Life is not supporting the "communities", nor the individuals. Agree.
Second Life seems to be lacking (or to have lost) a long-term vision, as observed by the relative stabilisation (not to say decay) of the number of inhabitants of Second Life. Agree.
But again, in the context of the rise of the Metaverse, those criticisms are unfair. Second Life is not a perfect environment, nor a philanthropic association. In contrast to Opensim, Second Life is a COMMERCIAL venue: Linden Lab is a company, which exists to make money. So, we can think what we want, the ultimate goal of Linden Lab is to generate profits. Sure, they could generate much more if they would listen a bit what is said in the blogosphere (e.g., the non-assistance to educators, to communities, and so on ...). But still, Second Life has been a real and true pioneer. We all are exploring other platforms, we all are looking further. But forgetting the past, and those who had the ideas, the vision, and the guts to start things is not correct.

- Second, the nature of the Metaverse :

When reading the fascinating post of Chris (and others), we have the feeling that Second Life IS the Metaverse. Some do acknowledge it is not the case, and suggest that the Metaverse is Internet. But the Metaverse IS NOT Internet. It goes way further, and we already see its next signs. The Metaverse won't be a "virtual reality"-based environment, it will be based on augmented reality. Even more, it may well be integrated with human brain. Let me be more specific with a simple example: nowadays, I am almost not doing anymore research in animals, but the few research I am are doing in animal are aiming at developing one day human-machine interfaces. To cure human diseases, ok, but still ... even if the first goal is to cure human disease, obviously it goes in a larger framework which would allow to directly connect the brain to virtual interfaces. Or, if I reword it, to biologically connect humans to what we could call a fully integrated, "true metaverse". And we are far to be the most advanced in that, the research I am doing in this direction of neural interfaces is children babbling compared to what are doing some labs in USA, in Japan, or in Europe.

Finally, if I share the faith and wishes of Chris, I do not share the analysis, nor the feeling that we are not advancing anymore. Science, technology, human knowledge do not advance linearly, but by steps. And, in term of Metaverse, we are in an "accumulating period", accumulating knowledge, new concepts, new technologies, which will make us make a leap soon, further. And the future of the Metaverse is not in Second Life nor in Opensim. It is way, way, further.

But, to be honest, it is with people like Chris, who is obviously leaded by a dream and a vision, that we will go there !


  1. Great post! I agree with you that Second Life isn't the Metaverse, that it includes dimensions such as augmented reality, and that related technology is advancing significantly.

    Although I agree with your about future integration with the human brain, I think we're already cyborgs. Some studies have shown that tools we commonly used are perceived by the brain as being part of the body. I think that just carrying a net-connected smartphone is a significant augmentation.!

    1. I agree 100% with you ! Thank you for the comment !

  2. Interesting post, Chief.

    That we are in an "accumulating period" is spot on to what I was saying at the end of my last machinima, 'A Placid Ocean of Uncertain Liberties', which I did last year.

    Keep up the good work. Be kind to animals.


    1. Thank you Cecil. And a great machinima by the way !

  3. On the wonderful issue of The Greater Metaverse.

    Right now, many are content to see "the metaverse" only as the sum of all the 3d internet gaming and interacting systems out there... such as MMOGs, virtual world simulators, grids, and playful building worlds.

    This finite myopic vision of the Metaverse simply as a hodgepodge of un-connected "worlds", is a similar viewpoint to the old days of BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) in the days of dial-up single server systems... before everything was interconnected with ISPs, Internet and Web... but we thought of it then as an "online community" even though we had to hang up the modem's telephone line and dial it again to get into the other BBS server where another circle of friends or colleagues "lived".

    The Greater Metaverse is really much more than just a bunch of unconnected worlds!

    The Greater Metaverse is an INTEROPERABLE INTERCONNECTED 3d virtual universe, greater than the sum of its parts.

    Connectivity, Interoperability, Teleport, Virtual-Borders, are the Big Issues facing the Greater Metaverse's future.

    The technical issues of Interoperability can be solved with an "Open Source Virtual World 3d Browser" or some type of "mainframe" equivalent.

    Teleport or movement across Virtual Borders (issues of territorial nature) will be solved eventually, through some kind of Virtual Passport; replete with Virtual Immigration and Virtual Customs/Taxation/Duty, etc.

    Although many of these issues can be solved technologically via software, there needs to be a path toward a Virtual World Diplomacy. The best example of such would be Open Source Standards.

    Fundamentally, unifying The Greater Metaverse is not going to be as simple as just solving the technical issues of digital interoperability between virtual worlds.

    Let face it, there are issues in Metaverse Unification that affect the business plans and success/failure of corporations, and livelihood of real people.

    Eventually, entrepreneurs with greater vision will see the potential for huge profits that come from the interconnectivity of a Greater Metaverse. That's when we will probably see some change in the metaverse landscape. It may start with a simple pathway between a couple of commercial walled garden 3d worlds... eventually bud into an alliance... other commercial entities will see the benefits of it, and build their own bridges... perhaps a 2 camps or bridging systems with competing mini-metaverses will emerge. Perhaps a war like Mac vs PC.

    This may eventually blossom into a huge Greater Metaverse.

    1. True, I agree with the core importance of interconnectivity. Well, somehow it is what I wanted to mention with the "biological" part of my post : true Metaverse will emerge when we will be able to connect it, to wire it to the brain.