By Clair LaVaye (Clairwil Oh in SL, OSG, and Reaction Grid)
There is a growing universe of virtual worlds, simulation grids that will be linked together in a seamless whole. A search engine will develop that will allow visitors to the virtual worlds to teleport to whatever they seek. A communication relay system will develop that will allow “long distance” chat between, for example, residents of Reaction Grid, OS Grid, and perhaps even Second Life.
A new way of life has already begun. Just as it was with the Internet, early adopters are misunderstood and ridiculed. But before long, a large population will occupy the grids as users recognize their utility. Lives will be transformed as the grids evolve. As a handful of talented people develop the technology, the grids will generate a tremendous amount of revenue as a new economy emerges.
These connected grids are so new that there is no standardized term to describe them. I suggest the term Virtual World Web (VWW). Some might prefer Virtual Reality World Web (VRWW), but acronyms with four initials are awkward. A familiar acronym might help to speed understanding and acceptance of the new virtual connected worlds.
Most us are so familiar with the WWW that we simply call it the web,
so perhaps we should just call it the virtual web.
The virtual web will develop far beyond what the current users of Second Life and open-sim grids experience today. Perhaps the virtual environment will be displayed on giant screens or maybe it will develop as a holographic display. However the technology develops, the virtual web will surround us, wrapping us in colors, sights, sounds, and sensations. It will provide us with new ways of learning that are more akin to how we learn in real life, adding to the education toolbox that already contains print and electronic books, art, music, science, and the current web, bringing our culture fully borne into a 3D world where everything is at our digital fingertips.
We'll meet our friends and family there, however far we are separated by real-world distance. We'll visit there, share experiences and talk as we do in real life. We'll shop together, travel to new worlds together, learn together, watch movies and listen to music together, dance, love, and possibly even make war there. Time and space will mean less, as we will move through distances at the blink of an eye and even choose our virtual age.
Why we are “on the computer” so much
In business on the web, there is much effort made to get as many eyeballs as possible to look at your website. There is talk of stickiness and discussion about how to keep someone engaged in a particular web network. Facebook is a good example of an online application that has been successful in capturing a world of users who spend many hours hanging around a virtual cocktail party made up of intentional communities, chatting socially and exchanging information.
For those who become immersed in a virtual world, time spent interacting with a computer takes on a different meaning. It's like asking someone "Why are you spending so much time in Paris?" You are in a place, not staring at a flat computer screen. You live in the virtual web.
It’s not something that can be explained. Interacting with a virtual world changes the brain, permanently, as dendrites grow and form connections, making sense of a new three-dimensional space that is on the other side of the screen. Once you grow that brain space, you are not the same. It’s akin to taking hallucinogens, because your mind changes. Either you get it, or you don’t. And like the web, those who won’t or can’t comprehend it will fall behind.
Virtual worlds such as Second Life are not just a social experiment or a new business model. They are mind-mapping, epistemological enterprises where people are re-creating the external world inside digital devices. And just think what will happen when we start to break the rules of physics and create worlds that are go beyond merely recreating the familiar external world. The remapping of the mind is in its infancy, with much work to be done.
But for now, the next logical step is to link the simulations together, just as the web linked text information into one whole. The hypergrid system is doing this.
And, for the business minded, if you can build an interesting, pleasant simulated environment that will keep virtual visitors hanging around, you might have a marketable skill for the new economy.
Search and you [may] find…
Those new to the web take powerful search software like Google for granted, unaware of a time when the only way to find subject matter on static webpages was to follow links posted on individual pages. This primitive link following is mirrored in virtual worlds in "profile picks." Many read the picks of avatars they encounter, teleporting randomly based on the recommendations in the picks. The crude search function inside current viewers like Phoenix, Imprudence, and the SL viewers allow users to search by keywords, like Google, and have algorithmic attempts to sort for the most relevant locations. Just like in Web searches, users try to game the system to push their location higher in search. But these search engines are limited to searching within one grid. With hypergrid, the need for hypersearches has arrived.
In the hypergrided, linked open-sim worlds, the person who is first able to create an effective search engine that can be used both in and out of world will possess the first useful virtual web’s Google. That future search engine will drive the economy in the virtual worlds.
Squabbles over virtual world flavors and content need to cease
When I go online to research more about open sims, I find posts where writers take turns putting down “empty” open-sim grids such as OS Grid or “walled gardens” such as Second Life. It sounds a bit like the argument from the past about Facebook versus Myspace. Second Life was the first well-known rollout of simulation software. Now the open-source software is in the wild, running on thousands of computers, without an effective system (yet) to link it together seamlessly and a search mechanism so that users can find what they are looking for.
Currently, there is not as much content in the open-sim grids, in part due to ownership disputes on content built in Second Life and fear of losing control of content. Some of the items in dispute are old freebees from the first years of SL. To me, ownership disputes seem laughable, like children arguing over toy blocks. Some of the fussing comes down to a handful of Photoshop textures or sets of cylinders rezzed with a skirt prim generator.
It is a waste of energy to argue about content that soon will be outmoded. One of the most interesting aspects of the current osgrid is that content is free and, if you are willing to set up your own sim, your prim limit is almost unlimited. Free is good and anyone willing to donate some of their older SL content to the open sims is my idea of a new-world champion.
We will look back on the primitive tools currently used to build content for 3D worlds as the Stone Age for virtual worlds. New methods are evolving to create environments and content that will far surpass what we see today.
I won’t say more about content protection, as it is the subject for another essay. But content protection will come to the open sims. It’s just one more technical problem to solve.
As quickly as the content issue is solved, the virtual web economy will rise up, much stronger than anything so far seen in Second Life. So, a word to content creators: get busy exporting your content from SL and be ready to set up shop in the virtual web.
The future is here, get into it
Here’s some links to find out more about open sim development and about hypergrid, which is currently developing to link the grids. Like the early days of the web, you can start by setting up a sim on your own computer. If you are willing to leave it running 24/7, you can link it up to a grid and set up hypergrid — or you can run in standalone mode and link to the grids using hypergrid. It’s pretty entertaining to see avatars walking around inside of your computer. Yes, it’s techno-geeky, but it you are up for a little challenge, the rewards are worth the learning curve.