And Yet Another Step Towards a Metaverse

Snow Crash CoverThe creators of Second Life (SL) recently announced that they are planning realtime voice technologies into their next version of SL! This is the second thing they fulfill which I deemed necessary for them to rid SL of the game appeal and move towards a Metaverse as described in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

“We believe Voice is a transformative technology that will change the way Residents communicate, and will lend more immediacy and dynamism to their interaction with others. For example, academic institutions could use the voice feature of Second Life to carry out lectures, corporations could use it for customer training and friends can simply catch up with each other.” [Joe Miller, Vice President, Platform & Technology Development at Linden Lab — via VOIPNews]

My thoughts exactly. You can already stream quicktime and create powerpoint-like slideshows in-world. With the added capabilities of voice communications, SL can be a very fun and interesting place for conferences. Especially if you’re planning on demo-ing physical constructions, like robot designs or architecture — as the in-world 3D modelling tools are excellent for rapid-prototyping.

Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that this will be 3D audio, or spatial audio as it’s sometimes called. This means that if you’re standing in a crowd you’ll hear the voices coming from different directions, in different levels of loudness — all depending on where the persons talking are standing relative to you. I love it — Linden Labs, you’re doing it, and you’re doing it right. My hats off.

Here is the quick list of things I think they have to do to make SL more functional as a Metaverse. The items with a strike-through are things I predicted and they have consequently started to implement (open-source is partially struck out because they’ve only opensourced a part of SL, the viewer).

  • Make it open-source and standardize the protocols
  • In-world VOIP (voice over IP, like Skype) to allow audible conversations
  • Emphasis on fusion with reality and practical usage
  • Integrate interfaces to allow Metaverse users to create in-world programs with languages like Java, C++, C# or LISP
  • Improve upon the 3D modeling tools, allow integration with other 3D programs
  • Open up more possibilities for teleconferencing and online collaboration

For a detailed explanation and rationalization for each of these points, see my old post Another Step Towards a Metaverse.

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