I’m a bit late with my ‘predictions for the new year/decade’ post… but on Tuesday night I took part in a Virtual Worlds in Education Roundtable panel discussion (a ‘first of the month’ panel is a regular departure from the normal roundtable format, before you ask!) on predicting the possible and preferable future of virtual worlds in education. As the meeting took place shortly after Second Life’s Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon posted his own predictions for the coming year and decade, his comments naturally became a point of reference for much of the discussion.
We all seemed to have high hopes for the potential of Augmented Reality and mobile technology to enhance and extend the capabilities of virtual worlds – though I felt there to be a lot of uncertainty about how exactly the very different worlds of mobile AR and desk-bound virtual worlds will best be meaningfully and usefully merged. Charles Stross’ “Halting State” presents one picture, but still a little way to go to get there.
From M Linden’s blog post a few things stood out:
- Chris and myself were both excited by the prospects of an improved API for communications between SL and the web. Currently a large degree of hackery is required to connect web 2.0 applications to SL – the app might provide a simple API, but to connect that to SL almost always requires creating an intermediary service running on a server to act as a go-between.
- M’s predictions for 2020 were a mixed bag. Some outlined systems that are perfectly feasible already, or have already been demonstrated (The VUE group at Edinburgh have demonstrated video/virtual conferencing already, along the lines M suggests might happen in 2020: ‘Walls in your office become portals to the metaverse’)
- “Second Life is galactic.” Some discussion here, that is Linden Lab want this outcome then they will have to work hard to ensure that SL makes itself an essential hub world for the growing number of other virtual worlds out there. Second Life is currently a de-facto standard – with the largely compatible OpenSim being one of the main competitors. Can Linden Lab pull off this feat?
- “Second Life becomes a standard in business, education and government.” Well, it already is largely a standard for virtual worlds – simply because it is the dominant virtual world. Again, the issue for 2020 is whether SL will stay that way…
- “SLHD blurs the distinction between real and virtual.” This is possibly the only area where M actually makes some far-sighted predictions. And what he is looking to is virtual world technology that provides the physical sensations of the places, objects and avatars one interacts with. This IMHO is something that will remain in the research lab, demonstration systems and theme park – I don’t see this as being a regularly used technology to access virtual worlds by 2020. If nothing else, it goes against current trends towards more mobile uses of technology, and increasing access via mobile and low powered devices.
- M also suggests that improvements to content management and protection are in the pipeline – this comes a little late for many inworld vendors whose hard work has been cracked and made freely available due to flaws in SL’s security and copy protection mechanisms. (I am talking here about scripted objects, where the scripts themselves should be secure – an inherent feature of digital technology such as SL is that it simply is not possible to prevent theft of textures and 3D data for models – as this data is required by the client to render content. Scripts are supposed to be secure – but have not been.)
In discussion I made one prediction for next year that I’d like to withdraw – I said that at the first VWER meeting of 2011 we’d almost certainly meet in SL, not some other virtual world. It’s still most likely place to hold the meeting – but an OpenSim grid now how to be a very strong second place contender.
It was a long and free flowing chat – apologies if I’ve missed out your personal highlights!