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I. Industry Conditions (18 pages)

1. History
2. Current Conditions
3. Constants
4. Assumptions

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Inputs were solicited in four topic areas: I. Industry Conditions, II. Forecasts, III. Issues and Questions, and IV. Problems and Indicators. These were divided into nineteen categories, from History to Progress Indicators. Each was also considered in three subcategories: A. Technology and Science, B. Business and Economics, or C. Social, Legal and Other domains. This is an adaptation of the Foresight Framework Model of Dr. Peter Bishop, chair of the Futures Studies masters program at the University of Houston.

Foresight frameworks call forth a broad set of future-relevant information, but do not fully address any category. For each input, category and subcategory assignments are arbitrary and arguable. Some contradict each other due to controversy, uncertainty, and the breadth of community perspective. Some original quotes remain, but most have been edited and interpreted by ASF staff in subsequent research. We apologize for any mistakes or misrepresentations, and hope you enjoy this rich source of community insight relevant to the future of the 3D-enabled web.

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1. History. Relevant facts in the history of metaverse development.

1A. History - Technology and Science

• In 1967 the Canadian Geographic Information Systems came online. This was the world's first operational computerized geographic information system (GIS), built by Roger Tomlinson at the Canadian Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
• In 1977, the Apple II microcomputer (followed by the IBM PC in 1981) launched the mass market home computing revolution.
• In 1978, the first "1D" (text-based) chat world, MUD (Multi-User Dungeon/Domain), by Essex University's Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle, emerged. It spawned a decade of increasingly popular text-based virtual communities run on servers. Also during this year, Scott Adams created Adventureland, the first text-based themed virtual world for home computers. Also in 1978, Ward Christensen created CBBS, the first privately operated BBS (phone in community) in Chicago, IL. BBSs were run by system operators ("SysOps") and added a new level of decentralization to virtual community.
• In 1984, the Apple Macintosh became the first commercially successful personal computer to use a graphical user interface (GUI) and mouse instead of the then-standard command line interface. This metaphor, copied by the Microsoft Windows operating system in 1985, opened up the computer screen as a visual portal to cyberspace in an intuitive point and click metaphor.
• In 1987, the first 2D chat world, or "graphical MUD," Habitat, by Lucasfilm's Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer, was launched. Habitat was the first successful attempt at a large-scale commercial 2D virtual community. In Habitat the user was represented as an avatar, a term coined by Chip Morningstar from the Sanscrit avatara (incarnation of a higher being).
• In 1993, Mosaic became the first widely distributed web browser (multimedia graphical user interface), to run on the Windows operating system. It opened the Internet's burgeoning wealth of distributed information services (websites, databases, etc.) to the general public and began the modern Web era.
• In 1994, beginning in Japan, hardware-accelerated 3D and dedicated graphics/polygon processors began appearing in console games like the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation (1994 Japan, 1995 U.S.), and Nintendo’s cartridge based Nintendo 64 (1996). This hardware advance enabled us to move from planar 2D worlds and 2.5D sprites to true 3D games.
• In 1994, Dave Gobel spun Knowledge Adventure Worlds (renamed Worlds Inc. in 1995) out of Knowledge Adventure to create fully navigable 3D virtual worlds for global users of the internet. In 1994 KAW created the worlds first avatar-based 3D chat (Worlds Chat). In 1995 Gobel made Starbright World, the first broadband virtual world and one of the first VW therapy applications, to help hospitalized children overcome their isolation. This same year Ron Brivitch and others at KAW developed an internal project called AlphaWorld, which included limited property rights, multi-user peer-to-peer construction tools, drag and drop objects that appear to all users simultaneously, teleportation, user-authored worlds, and AI-based bots. AlphaWorld became Active Worlds in 1996. The first users immigrated into AlphaWorld on June 28, 1995. The public 3D metaverse begins.
• In 1996, Nintendo’s, Super Mario 64 introduced a new era for the 3D platform game genre, allowing players to creatively explore and interact with a virtual world in three dimensions without restriction. This year also saw the first 3D MORPG (multiplayer online role-playing game) Meridian 59, by Archetype Interactive. Though simple, this player vs. player (PvP) combat game enjoys a small, loyal subscription base even today. In this same year multiplayer online role-playing games (MORPGs) gain the technical ability to expand player numbers beyond small groups (8-16) to very large player numbers (3,000+). Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs, "mor-peg's") and all their social complexities, emerged.
• In 1997, Ultima Online (UO) became the first 3D MMORPG. Ultima saw peak subscribers of 250,000 in July of 2003. Still has 150,000 subscribers in June 2005. Also in 1997, Electric Communities beta tested the fully distributed virtual world platform EC Habitats. WorldsAway and The Palace were two other early persistent worlds that debuted as technical innovations but business failures during this time. As Randy Farmer notes, persistent virtual worlds without an obvious role playing goal require significantly more initiative and creativity from their populace, and business models must expect them to be much slower to gain traction.
• In 1999, Nvidia introduced the GeForce 256, the first PC card built around a GPU (graphics processing unit) a microprocessor that brought parts of the geometry rendering pipeline into specialized silicon. Prior to this, all 3D cards for desktop PCs were simply aids to the CPU. [9]
• In 2003, Second Life debuted, the first 3D persistent virtual world that allows its users to retain property rights to the virtual objects they create in the online economy. After a period of low initial growth, by May 2006 Second Life has more than 230,000 downloads to date (paying no subscription fee) and a transaction volume (virtual GDP) of US $60M per year. By Nov 2006 these figures have jumped to 1.7M downloads and a $220M/year economy (marginal rate). Though Second Life has no overt goal unlike a role playing game, the culture and economy are now sophisticated and lucrative enough that common physical world goals of exploration, socialization, and commerce have become sufficiently rewarding "in world" for many users. By late 2004 it was clear to early observers that this was the first persistent world platform that had made it "over the hump" into sustainable exponential growth. While performance, interface, and technical issues persist, this version of the metaverse is both a business success and a great training ground for first generation virtual creativity.
• In 2005, Google released Google Maps, a free web server GIS application that can be embedded on any website using the Google API. This same year it also released Google Earth, a free downloadable virtual earth simulation based on satellite imagery.
• In 2006, the Google API was updated to support geocoding, and Google SketchUp, a free professional 3D modelling program, was released. A SketchUp add-on allows the user to export their 3D model as a .kmz file into Google Earth, allowing accurate geo-referencing and accurate placement of those models in Google Earth. The era of public annotation of the planet begins.

• In 2007, Second Life announced they would release their complex (and for newbies, difficult-to-use) VW viewer software to the open source community for modification and customization. As CEO Philip Rosedale says, "this extends the control Residents can have over the Second Life experience and allows a worldwide community to examine, validate and improve the software’s sophistication and capabilities.”" The Second Life platform continues to accelerate in membership. When we first began tracking it, accounts doubled from 160,000 to 330,000 accounts in four months (March to July 2006). Secondary to massive recent media exposure, the last three doublings have occurred an average of every two months, to 2.5 million accounts by Jan 2007. Over US $1M in transactions occur daily, on average, "in world."

 

1B. History - Business and Economics

• In 1994, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGS) was formed, with eight charter members. OGS was the first private sector organization of companies, government agencies and universities chartered to develop public interface specifications to geo-enable the web. Now with over 310 member organizations.
• In 1997, users of MMOGs began treating inworld game items as assets that could be exchanged for real world economic value. Monetary exchanges of player accounts and the promise to provide game items to players in world, began on the new online action website eBay (named in Sept 1997).
• By the early 2000's, the cost of creating popular MMOGs numbered in the millions per project.
• In 2001, the economist Edward Castronova published the first online paper analyzing the impact of virtual economies. He notes that the GDP per capita in EverQuest's Norrath, the most popular synthetic world for U.S. players at the time, was four times higher than that of India and China[3].
• In 2002, Project Entropia (now Entropia Universe) launches as the first virtual world where virtual currency can be exchanged for US dollars. It was also the first synthetic world seeking to attract the advertisement of real world services within the game world. [1]
• In 2005, virtual worlds commerce was estimated at $30M in the US and $100M globally. The number of online worlds was doubling roughly every two years, consistent with Moore's law [1].
 
 

1C. History - Social, Legal and Other

• In 1981, Vernor Vinge published True Names, perhaps the earliest story to present a fully developed concept of cyberspace as an alternate world.
• In 1982, William Gibson coined the term "cyberspace" in his novelette, Burning Chrome. The "cyberpunk" genre of science fiction emerges.
• In 1985, the term "avatar" is introduced as the goal of the computer game Ultima IV (the winner becomes "the avatar"). In later Ultima releases and in the online virtual world Habitat (1987) the avatar is the players on-screen visual persona.
• In 1992, Neal Stephenson, in his science fiction novel Snow Crash, coined the term "metaverse" for immersive 3D online worlds, and also popularized the term "avatar" for 3D simulations representing the user. Coinciding with the emergence of the world wide web, Snow Crash helped many early web users to begin to perceive the "space behind their screens" as nothing less than a fundamental new informational dimension to physical space.
• In 1995, software developer Bruce Damer (author of Avatars! Exploring and Building Virtual Worlds on the Internet, 1998), anthropologist Jim Funaro, and science fiction writer Keith Ferrel started the Contact Consortium, a network to serve as a catalyst and forum for the emerging medium of multi-user virtual worlds and virtual communities in cyberspace.
• In 1997, Doug Crockford wrote but did not publish "Living Worlds Considered Harmful", a critique of the VRML web-based virtual reality community, which prioritized 3D graphics and standards over enabling "socialization" (the development of social communities within worlds). Adoption of VRML, an early attempt at metaverse 1.0, ceases shortly afterward. Crockford published this essay for historical value in conjunction with the Metaverse Roadmap Summit 2006.
• In 2004, according to the Entertainment Software Association: [7]
  - more than 50% of the US population over the age of 6 plays video or computer games at least occasionally.
  - 43 percent of game players are women.
  - 97 percent of games are purchased by adults over the age of 18
  - 60 percent of parents play games with their children at least once a month
  - the average game player is 29 years of age.
• In 2004, Marvel Comics sued NCSoft, publisher of City of Heroes (CoH), the first major MMOG based on the superhero comic action genre. Their suit alleges CoH's powerful character creation and modification system only allows, but actively promotes the creation of characters whose copyrights and trademarks are owned by Marvel. The suit is settled for undisclosed terms in 2005, and the issue of physical world intellectual property infringement by players in virtual worlds becomes increasingly important.
• In 2005, in Korea, successful lawsuits have been conducted against game providers by those who have lost their virtual items due to game-server insecurities [1].
• The Milestones Project is an online respository for the history of advances in data visualzation. Roughly 1,000 images, 6,000 BC to the present. Michael Friendly, York U.
• A brief history of virtual reality. University of Illinois.
• A good source for the business, cultural, and some of the technical history of video game development is Steven Kent's Ultimate History of Video Games, 2001.
• An brief history of Active Worlds, 1985 to present. See also "A Brief History of the Virtual World" (Bruce Damer Interview, CNET)," 2006
 
 

2. Current Conditions. Important current conditions in the metaverse industry.

2A. Current Conditions - Technology and Science

Web 2.0 (Participatory Web) technologies, led by innovative social networks, browsers, and search platforms, are accelerating the use of 3D and other rich media. The Participatory Web is tools and platforms that empower the user to tag, blog, comment, modify, augment, select from, rank, and talk back to the contributions of other users and the world community. Reputation-based public wikis, like Wikipedia, are pioneering examples of participatory web technology. Open APIs for tagging the web and tying it to the world, like Google Maps, are another. Rich media-enabled social networking sites like MySpace are another. Another is the open source Flock web browser, which encourages RSS aggregation, automated blog posting, photo sharing, gathering and indexing of web searches, and other participatory technologies. In Japan, companies like GaiaX have built social networking websites that allow their users, as one of many community options, to invite each other to online games and virtual worlds. This makes the social network the hub and the virtual worlds the occasional immersive experience [16]. Today's browsers are just beginning to manage 3D web capabilities (3D graphics, games, and video). Opera 9, for example, includes "widgets" that make it easy for users to organize their online games. The ability to easily incorporate YouTube and other video in leading social networking sites has really improved the stickiness of online community. Nevertheless, there is much to be done. We are very early in collaborative productivity software, like Writely (Google's online word processor). We don't have robust data interchange, rich annotation (video, etc.), or conversational search. We don't have good security, privacy, identity, or reputation. We don't have worldwide ultra-broadband or wireless connectivity, which greatly limits efficiency and scope of the collaboration space. Within 3D spaces, we don't have easy access to professional digital modelling tools, or grid computing for data rich simulations. There is a lot to be done, this is a very incomplete list.

• Internet penetration in the US homes in 2006: 42% of Americans have broadband at home. 71% of "active users" (those going online at least once a month) have broadband, and over 85% have dialup or better. 35% of all internet users post content to the web. [14]. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, less than half of all Americans (142 million of 295 million total) were active internet users in 2004. Countries wth better quality and more ubiquitous broadband, like Korea, are likely to have significantly higher percentages.
• Software and story are today the prime indicators of success in online virtual worlds. Hardware (speed, graphical realism) and interface intutiveness remain important, but they are not the primary drivers of game success, as originally envisioned by virtual reality pioneers. Hardware and interface may be more negative factors, limiting the size of the market rather than driving differential success among offerings, at least in more mature markets. In the history of the video game industry, market share consistently accrues to stories that mentally and emotionally engage the user and are accessible by simple interfaces. Even virtual worlds like Second Life, which have deficits in graphical realism (several generations behind the state of the art), interface ( a nonintuitive system requiring real dedication to learn to use) and traditional story (being entirely user-driven) nevertheless have a strong niche that caters to users desiring the freedom to create their own story, in a framework that encourages the marketing of their digital creations to other users. Even for proprietary platforms (consoles, portables), the quantity and quality of software titles remains the key market differentiator [1].
• The dominant virtual world story to date is medieval fantasy. This is probably because our primary Western and Eastern cultural mythologies are fantasies and fables adapted from our distant past. Though we can expect a broader range of fiction and nonfiction worlds, medieval fantasy dominance may be very slow to change.
• Pluralistic standards. There are many standards bodies: ISO, ANSI, W3C, etc. and many competing standards that find their own niches. As examples in the 3D Web space, Microsoft developed Direct3D as a Windows-proprietary 3D graphics standard, and OpenGL (Open Graphics Library) has emerged as a competing open source standard. Direct3D currently leads OpenGL in video games (both have major share), but OpenGL has developed a clear lead for academic research and scientific visualization, as well as for non-Microsoft platforms. A range of open (Scalable Vector Graphics), semi-open (Java) and proprietary (Adobe Flash, Microsoft's DirectX 10, MS Vista's Windows Presentation Foundation, XAML, and Dassault and Microsoft's 3D XML) 3D web enhancement standards are in competition, and each has taken many years to develop. Many historical 3D web standards (VRML, Microsoft Chrome, Adobe Atmosphere, Shockwave 3D) failed to gain traction, while others (X3D, the VRML successor, adopted as an ISO standard in 2004) have had slow adoption rates and increasing competition from other open standards developed by proprietary groups (Microsoft's DirectX and XAML, Intel’s Universal 3D, others).
• Independent developers and the open source community have not yet rallied around an open metaverse platform, as opposed to proprietary worlds. Croquet is a potential candidate, and the OpenSource Metaverse Project is another even more recent early effort, but to date none has received major support in developer time or funding from the volunteer community.
• 3D desktop prototypes. Sun’s Project Looking Glass, built on Java 3D, is an interesting but early attempt to enhance a primarily 2D desktop by incrementally adding fast and natural 3D functionality only where it makes the most sense. Looking Glass is a mostly 2D environment, but desktop objects become as manipulable as pieces of paper in the physical world, with windows, objects, and tabs that move, zoom, stack, and flip in a manner that conveys an appealing weight and physicality. Combined with intuitive mouse or touch gestures for object manipulation, such future desktops promise to greatly increase the ability to manipulate and manage information. Eliminating any signs of lag/processor overload for the 3D components, and developing entirely natural manipulation interfaces (possibly touch, verbal, or vision driven) are still significant barriers to be overcome.
• 3D browser prototypes. Companies like 3B, Browse3D, and SphereSite have first generation 3D browsers available. 3B's is the most participatory, allowing users to pull in pages and graphics from sites like MySpace and Flicker to create a "personalized 3D space" for others to view, but doesn't yet include community or avatars. In general, the 3D browser space presently fails to make a compelling case. We may need to see useful 3D desktops first, then an extension of this metaphor into collaborative 3D space and virtual worlds.
Location-based games (LBG) (also called "locative games") for mobile phones are now emerging on GPS-equipped cell phones. In 2004, GloVentures demo game RayGun pushed current GPS technology "to its limits," updating the players position once per second and making the player's "next three steps matter." Mikioshi, a mobile online games leader, makes Gunslingers 2 a combat-based cell phone LBG played in Asia. Mogi is virtual treasure game played with cellphones and mobile IM in France. Human Pac-Man was another concept game that demoed in Singapore in 2004, where the players used augmented reality goggles to capture pellets and run from ghosts, just like the 1980's video game. In 2005, Blister Entertainment launched Swordfish and Torpedo Bay as the first US location-based GPS games. As geospatial tagging (geotagging or geocoding) begins to be added to these games, a collaborative game reality can emerge, directing game play.
• Creation of 3D worlds from 2D photos and video is now possible in rudimentary form. Mova's Contour is a system for live action volumetric performance capture in video, mapping the performance to 3D and eliminating much of the post-production work in 3D animation. ImageModeler by Realviz, available for all the major 3D animation packages, is another such professional tool (using 2D photos as input). GeoTango's SilverEye is a similar product. MVR Summit quote: "It's getting really easy to measure the world physically and recreate it using data acquisition. On this laptop computer my guys at U. Arkansas flew over the city, wrote a program, and four hours later had 3,000 real life buildings virtualized with x, y, and z coordinates. That process is automated, so we can do that easier and easier with the demo files and high-res photos."
• AI agents continue to make major strides in computer animation. Massive Software, started as an AI project for massive simultaneous character animation for The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), has developed a framework to provide each character a broad range of attributes and personality traits, and allow them to make independent decisions based on those traits and what they encounter in their virtual environment. In crowd scenes, these characters animate in a highly realistic fashion. The Ant Bully (2006) is the first U.S.-produced film to use the Massive crowd-based computer graphics, but a score of other films using Massive's system are in development. Nonplayer characters (NPCs) in virtual worlds also are making progress in autonomy and AI, but are several years away from the scale and sophistication seen in these feature films.
• In 2005, roughly 600 million cell phones, 110 million desktop PCs, and 60 million laptop PCs were being sold globally per year [66]. Cell phones are the most likely platform for mobile, augmented reality interaction with geospatial virtual worlds in coming years.
IPv6 and next generation internet (Internet2, etc.). In December 2003 the U.S. Dept. of Defense announced one of the first large-scale deployments of IPv6. Adoption of IPv6 since standardization has been slow, due to such factors as cost of conversion, operational conservatism, short term industry outlook, and difficulty of quantifying the cost of not converting in competitive markets [68]. IPv6’s mandatory security, (authentication and non-repudiation), auto-configuration, multiple options for communication (unicast, multicast, broadcast, anycast), logical group indexing for addresses, and 128 bit address space (10^23 addresses per square meter of planet surface area) should be sufficient for all global embedded devices for the foreseeable future. In 2004 the Chinese launched CERNET2 [67] a competitor to Internet2 in the U.S. and an effort to become leaders of the next generation internet. IPv6 adoption will be an enabler of such 3D web advances as internet television and geospatial platforms, particularly in the longer run, once people are using a mobile geospatial web in five or more years. Likewise, next generation internet will bring HD videoconferencing, 3D television and other data-intensive services, possibly beyond the 10 year horizon for this roadmap.
• Onset cues are used for realistic motion simulation in high-end simulators. In orienting to the world, the human body responds primarily to "onset cues," inital rapid accelerations that signify a change in speed or direction. In combination with vision simulation, a number of virtual reality simulators (pilot trainers, combat trainers, etc.) use onset cues to provide kinesthetic feedback in highly immersive environments without requiring motion through space. Link's AH-64 Apache helicopter simulator, which requires a security clearance to operate, employs such such powerful onset cues that operators can get broken noses and bruises from the impact of virtual missiles, etc. Similar approaches are used in amusement park rides and simulated racing.

Head mounted displays (HMDs) and Spatially Immersive Displays (SIDs) like CAVE for virtual reality exist, but both technologies today are used only in niche markets. HMDs are likely to remain niche applications for the forseeable future (see Predictions, Tech and Science). There are many small HMD makers. eMagin makes a head-mounted, head-tracking 3D Visor with a 600 x 800p OLED display for immersive gaming for $600. Sensics uses the eMagin displays to make a very expensive panoramic HMD VR system with 2200 x 1200p per eye for military customers.

Physical Hyperlinks (Physical World Hyperlinks) are any machine readable identifier (1D and 2D barcodes, RFID tag, image, sound, fingerprint) that can be resolved by a cell phone to dial a phone number, start an email, or facilitate a direct Internet connection. In Japan today, 2D barcodes called QR ("Quick Response") codes, originally used for inventory management, are now proliferating on business cards, in magazine ads and product packaging. QR codes displayed on All Nippon Airways kiosks now allow cellphone users to travel with paperless electronic tickets. On 3G phones with good built-in cameras, even QR codes on billboards can be resolved by the camera phone, to play a movie trailer, provide a coupon code, etc. The current spec has an alphanumeric data capacity of 4,296 characters. A billboard QR code presently takes up significant space, but this space will certainly shrink as cell phone cameras and processors get better. See picture right, from "New Bar Codes Can Talk With Your Cellphone," Louise Story, NY Times, 1 Apr 2007.
 
 

2B. Current Conditions - Business and Economics

Real-money trading (RMT) (also known as virtual asset trading), the purchase of virtual game items and virtual currency online, through such online enterprises as IGE, MOGS, and TEKGaming, is a major global annual business, with the 2005 market size estimated at somewhere between $200 million and 1.5 billion [13]. Many virtual world currencies trade at rates higher than national currencies such as the Korean won and Chinese yen [1]. Besides blogosphere commentary on in-game activity, RMT is one of the few significant feedback systems today between events in the virtual and real world. Summit quote: "There is the idea that what happens in the virtual can be tied to the real world. The reality is it's only happened a few times, real-money trade being one of these cross-over points. And it's not supposed to happen, it's actually against the rules in most MMOs."
• Proliferation of internet video viewing platforms, and innovative video content distribution and revenue models. A number of companies have recently innovated serving video over the internet to large numbers of users, setting the stage for the emergence of true, network-independent internet television (IPTV). Companies like YouTube (70 million clips watched daily in July 2006), Google Video, Apple iTunes Video, iFilm, and MetaCafe are leading examples. Some are also innovating new downloading systems, like Metacafe, which allows regular users to download desired content to their hard drives automatically at night. Many are creating new digital rights management (DRM) systems for distribution of proprietary content. Apple iTunes Video allows viewing of reasonably priced content ($2 per network TV show) on computer or wearable video iPod. Google's revenue model is the most innovative, giving 70% of the revenues from paid video content to the content producer, allowing independent video producers to go direct-to-internet with a revenue model far better than they've ever had before. Google Video is also allowing the content producer to set the price, another first. Some of the free user-rated content is so interesting and tagged to user interests that it would, if downloaded to a digital video recorder (DVR) be preferable to watching regular television in the evening for some users. One can foresee a great platform for delivering specialized video content (machinima, tournaments, etc.) to game players and virtual world denizens just a few years hence.
• Chasing the long tail. A recent NYT article [49] noted that Netflix, the online DVD rental service, with 5 million subscribers and 60,000 titles, has more than half (35-40K) of these titles rented out in any particular day. This suggests a strong appetite for the "long tail" [50] of 3D media content, at least among a subset of consumers, that is presently not being fulfilled by lowest common denominator Hollywood video productions, but is begining to be addressed by new media (Netflix, internet video) in an increasingly participatory culture. Netflix's movie recommendation collaborative filtering system pushes consumers down the long tail of similar but more obscure fillms. It is so advanced that, like Amazon's, it is a competitive advantage. We can expect simiilar advances in recommendation systems for social communities within 3D worlds, as they proliferate.
Virtual prototyping (VP) is term from computer aided design (CAD), development, manufacturing, product lifecycle management (PLM), and quality assurance circles that involves simulation and testing of designs prior to manufacture. Most of this software is proprietary today, like SimDesigner by MSC Software, and Noesis PLM Optimization software, by Noesis Solutions, both built on the Catia V5 product development platform of product lifecycle management (PLM) software leader Dassault Systems. VP systems "automate the exploration of the design space", allowing designers to try different materials and design parameters, rapidly simulating the physical and cost characteristics of the expected result. A few products designed in today's virtual worlds have already made the jump to the physical world. Tringo, a multiplayer game designed and played in Second Life, has been licensed for "real world" distribution on the Game Boy Advance in 2006. This has led some to forsee virtual worlds potential to become a low cost and low risk environment for prototyping physical products and architectures. But perhaps a more competitive future will be the ability to run professional CAD/CAM, architecture, PLM and other simulation software from within virtual worlds, as specialized creation environments for those with prototyping interests.
• 3D worlds do not yet provide a useful work experience for most people, nor have enough features that integrate into people's nonvirtual lives. Summit quote: "If I could go to these worlds and do something [useful] I'd be there everyday. But I'm not there just for the social activity. As soon as they bring in document creation or start being able to trade real things that have value outside the virtual environment I'm in." Seriosity may be the first company developing virtual worlds as online collaboration spaces and workspaces for virtual companies. They are in stealth mode in 2006.
• Business models are emerging that allow humans to do piecework in cyberspace (and with gold farming, even in virtual worlds), and even to train simple AI programs. MTurk, Amazon's automated system for employing humans in contracts for simple online tasks, launched in beta in 2006. MTurk supports micropayments (e.g., a few pennies per task) and the monitoring of piecework performance via reputation. Boxxet, a website and set of tools for generating community-ranked topical interest pages, launched in 2006. One of Boxxet's innovations is the use of human web users to train support vector AI machines to recognize valuable aggregated content.
Gold farmers are individuals who acquire in-game currency or objects by continually defeating enemies within online games. This "gold" is then sold to other players through third party RMT (real-money trade) websites. Many farmers work in less developed countries and sell online to affluent gamers in the more developed nations. A Dec 2005 NYT article [15] estimated as many as 100 million people worldwide play interactive computer games on a monthly basis, that as many as 100,000 people in China (0.4% of Chinese gamers) are employed (self employed or in small businesses) as gold farmers. This latter number hasn't been independently verified.
• In 2004, Internet penetration in China was still less than 6% of the urban population in 2004 [6], yet by that time China already had the single largest population of online gamers. This same year Chinese game companies Shanda and Nexon announced a world record for simultaneous online play of 700,000 users, playing Crazy Arcade (BnB), a game where families play a simple virtual world game as teams against other families online.[1].

• In 2005, eBay's Internet Games category, hosted $30 million in trade for goods (virtual items and currency) that only exist in synthetic worlds [1]. Some (not all) game providers have since banned virtual asset and currency sales, driving much of this traffic to third party sites.

• 2D Avatarized IM and chat worlds are popular and profitable, more so than 3D. There is already a healthy business in 2D virtual world chat spaces, where avatars navigate 2D space, make friends, participate in activities, and purchase items. Registration in such worlds is free but access to activities and purchase of virtual items (furniture, etc.) costs real money. Playdo in Sweden has more than 300,000 registered members in 2006. Habbo Hotel in the UK is a similar service. Coke Studios (Coca Cola, Inc.) is the most successful branded 2D world where users trade music, wander, chat, and collect items for their 2D "studios." Yahoo IM avatars can be upgrade with faces, outfits, and backgrounds for a small fee. These low-latency and efficient 2D worlds are still vastly more popular than 3D, and may remain so for some time. This is especially evident in the Korean market. 2D virtual worlds like Puzzle Pirates are presently trying to bring this formula to the US and Europe.
• While 2D+ social networks (Cyworld in Korea, MySpace, LiveJournal, many others in the US) have gone mainstream, 3D worlds have yet to do so. While being on a social network of some type is a prerequisite to "being cool," using an open-ended virtual world today (Second Life, There, Project Entropia) can still have the opposite effect, positioning you as "out of the mainstream."
• Since many of the legal liability issues of virtual spaces haven't been resolved, perhaps only smaller companies, willing to take calculated risks, can pioneer the development of virtual worlds at present. Linden Lab (creators of Second Life) is a rare example of a company willing to accept the emergence of loosely controlled user-generated content and expression within their world, including pornographic content on the adult version of the world, and user mashups involving visual imagery that is not their own intellectual property. Summit quote #1: "As an outsider one of the reasons why Second Life works is because you've got management who was willing to take the positions that they've taken on sex and IP etc. That would seem the rare thing: finding a management team willing to make those decisions again." Summit quote #2: "I was at the Austin Game Conference talking to a big shot from Sony Online, he was talking about how great it was to see SL succeeding... I said if you like it so much, how come when I play a Sony game I can't at least upload a coat of arms to wear on my armor? Nothing else, just give me that. And he said, 'Oh no we can't do that because then we'll have Nazis running around everywhere.'"

• Virtual tourism is in its infancy. Beginning with interactive CDs in the 1980s, virtual tourism is slowly gaining interest. Communities from Geoplace to the Virtual Terrain Project exist to promote tools for constructing the real world in interactive, 3D digital form. The attractiveness of virtual tourism systems seems today to be a complex function of hardware (speed and resolution), design (interface intutiveness), and software (story appeal and usefulness in connection to "real world" activities). As the market develops, software should increasingly become the key differentiator among competing VT systems, as we have seen with video games and online worlds. In coming years, when we have significantly faster computers, and can rapidly tour "interactive Los Angeles" or "interactive Yosemite" and sample micronarratives before deciding which of the many possible experiences we will take in a given day, and when this platform is integrated into tomorrow's browsers and today's passive, narrative-driven experiences like LA City View or the Travel Channel, virtual tourism is likely to be a very compelling activity.

• There is a gap between advertising dollars spent on television, print, and other media versus video games. Of $80 billion spent on advertising worldwide, only 10% of is games-related. This is disproportionate to the time people spend playing, so there may be room for significant growth in game advertising revenue. Some believe in-game advertising can grow significantly, but others believe such product placement will be too disruptive to be tolerated in many game environments (e.g., picture soft drink ads inside a medieval fantasy game). Nevertheless, there is still significant room for advertising around the delivery of the game, as during free downloads of advertiser-supported game modules. Making a bet on in-game placement, Microsoft recently purchased the in-game advertising company, Massive Inc. Michael Cassidy of Xfire at E3 2006 said "$15 billion is spent on TV advertising. Less than 1% today spent on gamers. But 18-34 year old men spend more time playing video games than watching TV. If you believe in an efficient market, there's going to be a huge shift into gamers."
• The AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) industry is a major constituency driving metaverse development. They see 3D geospatial visualization programs like Google Earth as major new tools for "location-based simulation." The US, Europe, and China are all experimenting with virtual geographic environments for city planning, building, construction, modeling.
• Local positioning systems (LPS), extensions of GPS tracking systems in use in shipping logistics, allow the ability to identify and inventory all objects in a local space, which in turn can be used to improve the value of 2D and 3D GIS visualizations. Chief among LPS solutions today are RFID systems, which integrate microprocessors, memory, modems, antennas, and power sources on a piece of silicon the size of grain of rice to a postage stamp. 3M sells an RFID Tracking Solution that allows the realtime location of physical files, and other important objects throughout the office. Privacy advocates have major concerns with RFID tracking, which is both invasive of privacy and not secure, as the chips can easily be interrogated and spoofed. Nevertheless, their use for object tracking, and their ability to feed this data into visualizations, continues to grow.
3D navigation systems are emerging in Japan and Europe. 2D navigation systems come preinstalled on many new cars, boats, and planes, and are available on portable units for $200-2,000. Verizon's VZ Navigator is a cell phone service with turn-by-turn directions and voice instruction for $10/month. Honda's navigation system provides spoken response to 700 natural language commands.
 
 

2C. Current Conditions - Social, Legal and Other

• Dramatic rise of social networks and social virtual worlds. While there have been many false starts and fadeouts (Tribe, Ryze, Yahoo! 360, etc.), today's leading 2D social networks like MySpace (94 million users), Xanga (27 million users), Bebo (22 million users) and Orkut (16 million users), etc., have experienced sustained explosive growth in recent years. Most focus on the youth demographic, rapid adopters of new online behavior. MySpace is now the fourth most popular English language website, according to Alexa Internet, adding an astonishing 500,000 new users a week (Jul 2006). Automation allows these users to be supported by a company of only 500 employees. MySpace supports streaming audio and internet video, giving it limited 3D functionality and making it very popular with independent musicians and filmmakers. A number of these communities, like Cyworld (18 million users), Habbo Hotel (7 million users) and Playdo (300,000 users) also support avatars and the navigation of 2D social space, making them true "social worlds." Finally, a few social worlds, like Second Life (340,000 users) and There, offer a fully 3D immersive experience, but have the slowest acquisition rates, as the technology overhead and user effort required for 3D worlds remain higher at present.

• The state of online and virtual worlds time statistics today is poor. The BLS's American Time Use Survey (ATUS) is a major new undertaking that will give us insights into actual time use changes from year to year in American workplaces and households. The first official 2005 dataset has not yet been released, but early datasets have been analyzed in the first ATUS conference. Various non-ATUS studies have estimated that Americans spend roughly 35 hours per week either at school or at their jobs, and another 35 hours a week in leisure activities. Of this latter 35 they spend roughly 10 hours watching television. In their small annual phone survey, Harris Interactive estimated that the average American spent 9 hours online in 2006, up from 7 in 1999. Based on the movement of reading from physical to virtual space, a 1997 OC&C Strategy report estimated that by 2010 people would spend more time online than reading books, magazines, and newspapers combined. The 2006 ESA Game Player Data page claims that 50% of all Americans play video games, and that the average male game player plays 7.6 hours, and adult female game player plays 7.4 hours/week. They also claim that 44% of the most frequent video game players play online games. Other studies estimate that youth "heavy gamers", the top 25% of youth gamers, mostly male, age 14-17 years of age, spend on the order of 20-30 hours/week playing games. ESA claims that women represent about 38% of the total game playing population. In Korea, where broadband penetration is greatest, a 2000 study estimated that 80% of all youth (8-24 years) played games online at least once a month.

• There is presently very weak broadband leadership at the federal level. Despite several Korean studies linking broadband development with economic prosperity and social welfare, and the obvious value of broadband as a platform for Web 2.0 innovation, there are no government initiatives to accelerate broadband development in the United States. President Bush's Technology Agenda gives only the expected lip service to broadband development, and touting minor economic incentives such as a two year deferment on the planned Internet Access Tax (hey look, we didn't tax your access this year!) as examples of progress, but offers no specific monies, strategy, or program.

• The rising importance of “Network Neutrality” Policies. Lesiglation and activism that guarantees democratic access to the network. In August 2005, the FCC adopted the following guidelines regarding network neutrality:
  1. Consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice;
  2. Consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement;
  3. Consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and
  4. Consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
Regulators have increasingly shown willingness to require broadband providers (cable, DSL, wireless) to eliminate competitive restrictions on network usage (e.g., ensuring the consumer has freedom to run free VoIP programs like Skype over telco-run broadband infrastructure, to set up Wi-Fi extensions on home networks, etc.). These emerging “network neutrality” policies bode well for U.S. consumer rights to run complex 3D applications in coming years. Even if such applications compete with existing provider offerings, are bandwidth intensive and force network upgrade, network providers have few options to restrict network usage.

• Transparent cities. Public surveillance in some cities is already in an advanced state. In London today, closed-circuit TV networks take pictures of many drivers of cars as they enter the city, record and run their licence plates, and officers check for major law violators. The network can be used to visually search for the car and the pedestrian throughout the city if an arrest is warranted. Over an afternoon of public driving and walking, a citizen might be photographed 200 times by the network. As image recognition improves, such networks will allow a virtual realtime map of city auto and foot traffic, a major advance for secure cities.
• The online pornography industry is now innovating internet video on demand (VOD), with downloads burnable to DVD. Many of these VOD aplications allow unlimited burns to disk. It is questionable whether this "multiple-burn policy" will spread to other content providers, as pornography is less socially sharable than other media. Controlling copy count still seems by far the most prevalent future business model for providers of most types of proprietary content, with promotional samples and small independent material available free on public download sites.
• A high diversity cost of current content filters. We want the web to be an intimate social medium. Yet we also want it to be one with fine-grained filters for those who want them, and in this function it presently fails (pornography, spam, etc.). Communities and platforms (AOL, etc.) can provide such filters, but presently in a coarse-grained manner, that involves a loss of diversity.
• Virtual-physical commerce and social fusions. Many virtual world businesses and social activities can’t be easily partitioned between physical and virtual components. Consider an e-commerce site, or a virtual real estate site that has employees in the physical world, or online social communities that involve both virtual and physical world meetups.
• MMOGs like World of Warcraft (WoW) have been called “the new golf” (only partially tongue in cheek) among online gamers because they are an excuse to get together and talk about real world life (business, social events) while engaging in automatic and ritualized behavior. The "stickiness" of WoW is that it is a shared experience. You are able to talk about anything you want while working your group through a relatively simple arc of gameplay.
• Online virtual worlds can already be considered places where social behavior is "prototyped," and several social scientists now conduct research on social behavior in virtual worlds like Second Life, aided by their superior transparency to physical space.
• According to The Economist magazine, China has roughly 30,000 people employed specifically censoring their domestic websites, but it’s almost all political censorship, very narrow in scope. There are at present few signs that this kind of top-down censorship is significantly impeding the increasing sophistication and personalization of either the internet or its web services. In fact, the Chinese effort shares many features of failed Soviet centralized information control programs from the 1950s to 1980’s, a far simpler era in terms of information management.
• In 2001, 39% of 3,916 respondents to a survey of EverQuest players said that if they could make enough money selling things from Norrath [the EverQuest world] they would quit their current job or school and make their money there instead [1].
• Legal and political implications of virtual world use are just beginning to be considered. The reality of individuals making their livings via work in virtual economies, most without income reporting or taxation, is beginning to reach mainstream awareness. This has recently attracted attention in the mainstream business media ("My Virtual Life," Business Week, 2006), but so far there has been little political response [17]. Lawyers are already looking at the virtual worlds space, and a growing number are very interested in the issues. The Harvard/NYU/Yale State of Play conference began the legal education around this space in 2003. Summit quote: "I remember in NY when the Internet was getting to be something, the lawyers were early. It's interesting that they're early here as well."
• There is very limited interoperabilty between virtual worlds, for technical, business, and gameplay reasons. Summit quote: "We can't just take WoW and mesh it with SL. Their policies and mechanics are inherently in conflict."
The Nintendo Generation. There is a gamer generation that is psychologically and culturally augmented to navigate virtual space and socialize within and around these environments. This perspective was persuasively outlined from the perspective of educational reform in a National Academies publication, Reinventing Schools: The Technology is Now! (2000) [18], and the cultural effects of modern digital and interactive media recently chronicled in Steven Johnson's new book, Everything Bad is Good For You, 2006 [19]. Summit quote: "Talking about augmentation and youth and the fact that we adapt [to our technology], this generation is much more game savvy than the last one. When you start saying what this game savviness is, it's really augmentation. They've learned different patterns for interaction [with virtual systems]"

• Personal cartography is emerging. People with time and patience can create annotations of their local spaces and journeys using tools like Google Maps [20], and there is a mash-up startup that revolves around people telling their personal travel stories in sharable cartographic journals. Increasingly these will maps will also have 3D (video, 3D object, and virtual world) components.

• Serious games and training simulations have been used for decades and are seeing increasing use by the military and other large organizations. Beginning with the Serious Games Initiative in 2000, the serious games community (game-based education and training occurring outside the traditional primary and secondary educational software markets) has grown steadily. SimuLearn's Virtual Leader, a corporate workforce training tool used in a few Fortune 1000 companies and developed with the budget of a normal video game, won awards in 2003. America's Army, a free first-person shooter owned and distributed by the U.S. government, has been a very effective, and controversial, global public relations and recruiting tool. Summit quote: "Training time has gone down from the amount of time new recruits have spent playing first person shooters."

• Most virtual environments today still socially isolate us, distract us, and undereducate us more than they empower us in the physical world. We may still be in or just leaving Stage 1, the dehumanizing stage, of John Smart's proposed Three Stages of Technological Development. Summit quote: "First generation technologies are usually net dehumanizing, they have disruptive social effects, are crude, and don't get the interface right. The second generation is ambivalent to humanity, with new benefits but persistent drawbacks. Third generation technologies, with luck and repeated feedback, are usually net humanizing." Let's hope we can move quickly to later generations of these very important social technologies.
• First generation exergames, also known as active video games (AVGs), are becoming broadly adopted [69]. Konami's Dance Dance Revolution and imitators are a flagship exergame. Sony's EyeToy has a number of exergames, and Nintendo's Wii console will be coming out motion controllers that will bring physical activity to the video game. Exergames reverse the bias that video games will continue to contribute to the obesity epidemic presently seen in all youth in the developed worlds and many in the emerging nations. Get Up Move a site that promotes fitness with exergames, reports that people have lost weight and improved school performance by using them.
 
 

3. Constants. Important metaverse-relevant things expected to remain the same (continue as is) in coming years.

3A. Constants - Technology and Science

Learning/experience curve (Henderson's law). This observation, first quantified for aircraft production in 1936, and later generalized by Bruce Henderson of the Boston Consulting Group in the 1960's, notes that the time and cost to perform a broad range of technological tasks decreases exponentially in repeated trials. More generally, with each doubling in total production, unit production cost for a given level of performance or capacity falls by a predictable and generally constant percentage. While each particular technology paradigm will improve on a decaying exponential curve approaching a fixed performance limit, ongoing important problems usually elicit periodic technology shifts, allowing average capacity doubling times to remain relatively stable for long periods of time. Most classes of technology problems show experience curve price/performance improvements from 10 to 30% with each doubling of production. Most technologies at the human scale, such as transportation, eventually saturate, though they may proceed through many decades of exponential improvement, through a range of paradigms, before they do so. By comparison, technologies at the nanoscale may in theory continue their exponentiation past the limits of human systems, as they are driven by the discovery and implementation of the unique physics of the nanocosm, not human creativity, and as informational nanotechnologies become increasingly autonomous (human-independent) with time. Experience curves for ICT and nanotechnology argue that many of the computing and communication tools available only to the most powerful corporations today will be affordable to the poorest global citizens in coming years.

• Computing growth (Moore's Law), human-competitive machine performance (HCMP), and the Technological Singularity. Beginning in the mid 1960's, Gordon Moore observed that the price/performance ratio of computing hardware doubles every 18-24 months. Every 5 years has thus provided as much as 10X additional computing platform capacity, and every 15 years as much as 1,000X additional delivered capacity. This has allowed successively more computing-intensive performance thresholds (desktop publishing, 3D graphics, PDA's etc.) to be crossed for mass market ICT devices. Ray Kurzweil has extended this observation back 120 years, charting an initial doubling rate of 36 months for mechanical computing devices of the late 1800's. Given the unique properties of the microcosm, this growth is widely expected to continue in our information technology for the forseeable future, enabling exponentially more immersive and intelligent virtual worlds with each passing year. Another Moore's law-dependent constant we have observed is that increasingly complex "actions" of human labor and "modules" of human intelligence, have been achieved in a human-competitive fashion in our robotic, automation, and IT systems. A few HCMP objectives have even been achieved using biologically-inspired, evolutionary computing strategies [22]. Should this progressive and modular "machine takeover" of human physical and intellectual tasks continue, which is presently the most reasonable assumption, at some point future machine performance will achieve generalized human competitive abilities even in the highest human functions. This would be a global transition, or phase change, that technology scholars and futurists call the "technological singularity." Many classes of accelerating technological change have been, in the long term, a surprisingly constant and inexorable progression, and they present major opportunities and challenges for social guidance in the process. Books like Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near, 2005 [35] are commendable early efforts at charting these developmental trends, yet this phenomenon remains largely understudied at present.
• Miniaturization growth and the unreasonable efficiency of the Microcosm (Kurzweil, Mead, Smart). Ray Kurzweil has observed that many technological processes shrink by an average factor four per linear dimension per decade. In computing, miniaturization is a leading contributor to price/performance acceleration. Semiconductor feature sizes shrink in half every 5.4 years in two dimensions, doubling the number of circuits per area every 2.7 years [35,37]. Increasing system integration capabilities on small scales is another major contributor. Computing has moved from mechanical, to electromechanical, to vacuum tubes, to transistors, to integrated circuits, and integrated circuits have become multicore ICs and system-on-a-chip (SoC) platforms. In the sensor and effector space we are making a growing variety of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), enabling new features. Carver Mead has long noted the "unreasonable efficiency" of the microcosm. The smaller we make our computing systems, the more efficient they become, often yielding astounding and "unreasonable" efficiency increases. John Smart has charted stepwise efficiency/performance advances of 10,000X, 100,000X, 1,000,000X and beyond with incremental redesign in microscopic systems, advances that greatly exceed the average magnitude of gains we see from system redesign at the macroscopic scale. As far as we can see into our extraordinary future materials scientists and research physicists expect these new efficiencies to continue to emerge, driving the miniaturization trend forward, and making the idea of highly effective and largely invisible wearable and ubiquitous computing, sensing, effecting, and communication systems a likelihood in coming decades.

• Polygon count growth, motion control point growth, and the Reality Threshold (Smith). Polygon count generated by leading video game hardware doubles roughly every 2 years. Alvy Ray Smith of Microsoft/Pixar has estimated that the "reality threshold" (simulations indistinguishable from ordinary human vision) is 80 million polygons per frame, and on the order of a million motion control points on the objects within our field of view [21]. Microsoft's Xbox had a peak capacity of 2.1 million polygons per frame. Xbox 360 peaks at 8.3 million polygons (triangles) per frame (the PS3 will have only half this, yet another reason it may be a big setback for Sony). The faces of the best digital actors in Toy Story (1996) had over 100 motion control points. In Toy Story 2 (1999) they had over 1,000 motion control points. If these trends continue, the reality threshold may as close as eight years away, in 2014. While the actual transition might take twice this time (2022), it is clear that within a relatively short time our best simulated realities will be indistinguishable from physical reality. This is a development with global implications, as it promises to eliminate the current sensory opportunity cost of spending extended time in virtual environments. After this point, we may consider our best 3D online spaces to be "hyperreal" (environments with simulation capacity, and eventually entertainment, education and productivity capacity, that exceeds reality).

Software algorithmic efficiency and simulation/representation capacity growth (Kurzweil, Ebrahimi). Algorithmic efficiency is a vast and technical topic that is dependent on automation, representation schemes, processing capacity growth, and experience curves, among other factors. Even with "software bloat," general software efficiency for many classes of problem has been quoted by Ray Kurzweil and others as doubling in price/performance efficiency every six years [35]. While still a dramatic growth rate, the doubling period is nevertheless three to four times slower than Moore's law. As Touradj Ebrahimi notes [36], algorithmic efficiency in video compression has doubled every five years for the last fifteen years. H.263 video encoding (1995) is twice as good as H.261 (1990), and H.264/MPEG-4 v10 (2003) is twice as good as MPEG-4 v1 (1998). Further developments will show if these growth rates continue to hold, but as we continually learn new ways to represent, locally store, and generate data, these growth constants seem a reasonable expectation for many classes of visual, sensory, and system simulation. Compression in portable audio (audio simulation/re-representation) capacity has grown at a roughly similar rate. First available in the Diamond Rio PMP300 in 1998, CD-quality mp3's (128kbps MPEG-1 layer 3), had a 10X compression over files in the Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) based compact disks that played on Sony's first portable CD player, the Discman D-50, in 1984. MPEG-4 AAC audio compression, available on today's iPod, offers modest additional compression over mp3. As Barry Vercoe of MIT notes, future audio standards are evolving toward a postscript-like, "structured audio" description language, which will allow audio files another 10X compression over mp3. Today's structured audio is not yet CD quality, but if the historical growth rate continues, we may see such a format used in portable players in 2012. In combination with storage growth trends, today's 60 GB, 15,000 song iPod will be capable of storing 2.4 million songs in 2014, more than the entire current song catalogs of today's leading online sites (iTunes Music Store, URGE, etc.). With regard to system simulation, virtual machines like VMWare, and such tools as software defined radio are examples of the representational capacity in software of a large and ever growing class of hardware systems. Such constant performance advances are strong evidence that not only hardware, but software will continue its accelerating ability to deliver simulated reality.

• Digital storage capacity growth (Kryder's Law) and the Lifelog. Density of information on digital storage devices has been doubling every 23 months, on average, since 1956. This observation is named after Mark Kryder, a storage research pioneer. Rapidly increasing storage capacity has enabled successive thresholds in database complexity, allowing the mass storage and manipulation of digital pictures, audio, video, HD video, etc. One development being enabled by this is the lifelog, a storage system that allows persistent global access, retrieval, and potential sharing of all past information generated by an individual user's life experience, in various data categories (email, websites visited, GPS coordinates visited, audio, video, etc.). The mass-accessible lifelog threshold for email was crossed in 2004 with the advent of Google Gmail, which began by offering 1 gigabyte of free email storage to users. Consistent with Kryder's law, Gmail adds storage behind the scenes daily. amd as of June 2006 offers 2.7 GB to their users, a growth rate well in excess of many user's email needs, including attachments. Flock, a Web2.0 browser, is developing a lifelog of all previous websites visited, and using this as a basis for context-sensitive internet search queries initiated by the user, displayed preferentially at the top of the list in the manner of Google Desktop. The No. 2 telco in Japan, KDDI Corp, has developed the Lifelog Pod, software that keeps track of every user action (photos, searches, MP3 listens, software runs) made through a cellphone or computer, extending one's searchable memory into even the minor details of their online history [64]. SLStats is a log program, activated by a watch your avatar wears in Second Life, that records simple statistics on the user's in-game activity. Passively Multiplayer is a research idea for more broadly recording and sharing user data generated in virtual worlds. Having one's life experiences auto-archived, persistently available, and only a voice query away is a threshold with major implications, including both personal empowerment and the potential for abuse of privacy, if accessible to others. We will need new social conventions for consented recording of public experiences, but we see nothing that would stop large fractions of the global population, particularly youth, from running lifelogs for personal and trusted network use as computing technology improves.

• Wired bandwidth growth (Gilder's law, Nielsen's law) and the Video Wall. George Gilder originally observed in the 1980's that wired bandwidth capacity was doubling every 6-18 months, apparently faster than Moore's law. Jakob Nielsen later amended this observation to note that premium internet users received new bandwidth at an annual growth rate of 50%, giving a doubling rate of 21 months from 1983-1998, a rate slower than processor capacity growth (Moore's law) over this same period. Bandwidth growth has since continued at the 21 month rate, with the average premium (cable modem) user in 2006 receiving 5 megabits per second of bandwidth, exactly what Nielsen's 1998 graph predicted a typical premium user would have in 2005. Projecting this forward into the next generation bandwidth technology, fiber to the home, Utah's UTOPIA initiative is today delivering 30 megabit per second access to 14 lucky cities in Utah, and will soon offer 100 megabits/second. At this rate, a two hour video on demand movie can be downloaded in six minutes [23]. As fiber to the home rolls out, we can forsee a world of ubiquitous video on demand, and the opportunity for Video Wall emergence, bringing simultaneous video multicasts with internet video, HD video, group videoconferencing, 3D worlds, and other streams to large wall-sized displays in many rooms of the future home (see Predictions - Sci-Tech, Video Wall).

• Wireless bandwidth growth (Cooper's law). Martin Cooper observed that the spectrum efficiency of radio communication (both voice and data) has doubled every two and a half years, over 104 years, since radio waves were first used for communication. Frequency, spatial, and code division multiplexing, modulation techniques, mesh networks, and now smart antennas are examples of technologies that have kept wireless bandwidth on this growth path. Today, CDMA EVDO 1X is available from Verizon Wireless and Sprint in the U.S. for $60/month, delivering peak cellular modem speeds of 2.4 megabits/second in just 1.25 Mhz of spectrum. This presently allows rapid web browsing, very light streaming video and audio to the mobile user, and dedicated VoIP. EV-DO Revision A, allowing 3.1 megabits per second [24], are scheduled for commercial release in late 2006 [25]. In late 2007, Qualcomm will release CDMA EV-DO Revision B data modem and cellphone chips to card makers, which will provide up to 14.7 megabits per second on downlink. When these emerge in 2008 they will enable such mobile features as television, and internet browsing while making VoIP calls, and the enough extra bandwidth to support location-based streaming radio in the car (a huge new market, see: Predictions: Business and Econ) [26].

• Flat panel display (FPD) growth (Nishimura's, Kitihara's and Odawara's laws). From the U.S. Display Consortium (USDC) website: "Nishimura's Law, states that the size of [the glass] substrate used [and thus the display size available at the same cost] grows by a factor of 1.8 every 3 years, i.e., it doubles every 3.6 years, less than half the time IC wafers take to double in size (7.5 years). Kitihara's Law describes the evolution of FPD panels. In each three-year cycle, the average screen area grows 44 percent, while the power consumption required for a given function decreases by 44 percent and panel thickness and weight is reduced by one-third. The law further estimates that the number of bits needed to specify the image on the screen has increased fourfold every cycle, matching Moore's Law for ICs. Odawara's Law centers on [desktop and wall mounted FPD] panel prices, stating that each doubling in the cumulative area of flat panels produced results in a cost reduction of 22 to 23 percent [per area produced]. The cost of a full-color active matrix LCD cell-phone display, however, is expected to remain about six times higher than would be expected by applying this theory. This creates a market-entry opportunity [in the small form factor screens] for AMLCDs made with polysilicon thin-film transistors, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and electronic paper." Keeping these laws on track will require alternative technologies or new materials, or both at some point.

• Battery energy density growth, cycle life growth, and charge time reduction, and the Pervasive Computing threshold. Since batteries were commercialized 147 years ago we have seen just two doublings in energy density (a modest constant of 0.9% capacity growth per year), three doublings in cycle life (1.4% improvement/year, and six halvings in charge time (3% improvement/year). Nevertheless, after decades of research neglect, recent attempts to improve the nanostructure of solid battery technology have yielded dramatic improvements in cycle life (more than a 2X increase), and charge time (an impressive 15X reduction) in just the last few years. We can anticipate these significant gains to increase over the near term, taking us past a "pervasiveness threshold," where our portable electronics will experience no significant downtime. Figures below are for commercial cylindrical batteries, cost/cycle is in 2001 prices [27,28]:

Type Energy Density Charge Time (80%) Cycle Life (80%) Cost/Cycle Year Sold
Lead Acid 40 (30-50) Wh/kg 12 (8-16) hrs 250 (200-300) $0.10 1860
NiCd 62.5 (45-80) 1 hr 1500 $0.04 1899
Alkaline 80 (initially) 2.5 (2-3 hrs 1100 (200-2000) $0.30 1949
NiMH 90 (60-120) 3 (2-4) hrs 400 (300-500) $0.12 1989
Li-Ion 135 (110-160) 2.5 (2-3) hrs 750 (500-1000) $0.14 1991
Li-Ion Nanobattery 150 (est.) 10 (5-15) mins (est.) 2000+ (est.) $0.20 (est.) 2007 (est.)

A123 Systems, an MIT spinoff, is in phase two multimillion dollar development on nanobattery they claim is 80% lighter, has 10X longer cycle life, 5X power gain, and "dramatically faster" charge time vs. conventional batteries. Toshiba has announced a portable nanobattery, expected commercially in 2008, which recharges 80% of its power in 60 seconds. This will allow users of portable and wearable electronics to recharge while waiting, eliminating one of the major problems with current portability of the 3D web. In addition to enabling ubiquitous portable electronics, nanobatteries will eventually allow hybrid electric vehicle owners to recharge their batteries as fast as they fill their gas tanks, at fast charge stations like PosiCharge. With electricity at only 70 cents per gallon equivalent when drawn in off-peak hours (roughly twice this cost in peak hours), these may be deployed privately in coming years, once the platform matures.

• Network address density growth (Poor's Law) and the Transparent Society. In the early 1990's Robert Poor observed that spatial network address density, a measurement of digital connectivity, doubles every 12 months in urban environments [29]. This rapid doubling rate, more rapid than all the growth constants yet discussed (and not yet independently quantified) has major implications for the structure of physical reality and nature of the 3D web. Taken together with constant growth trends in miniaturization, processing, storage, bandwidth, energetics, and sensor and effector efficiency, this trend makes it reasonable to assume a coming world of incredible public and consented private data accessibility, or
"transparency" in our global digital networks, as outlined in David Brin's The Transparent Society, 1998 [30], as well as a very high degree of fidelity in our digital and visual "mirror worlds," as forecast in David Gelernter's Mirror Worlds, 1993 [31]. The next networking protocol, IPv6, already in early deployment, will move us beyond the present 4.3 billion addresses of IPv4 (allowing not even one IP address per person) to 3.4x10^38 addreses, or 50 octillion for each of the 6.5 billion people alive today, plenty enough to give every important physical item, no matter how small, its own connection to the web. This will enable a world of embedded, ubiquitous, and pervasive computing, as outlined in such books as When Things Start to Think (2000) [4], Ambient Findabilty (2005) [32], Geospatial Matters (2006) [33], and Everyware (2006) [34].

• Network value growth by structure (Sarnoff's, Metcalfe's, and Reed's Laws), Social Networks, and the Participatory Web. Broadcast pioneer David Sarnoff noted the value of a broadcast network to the broadcaster is linearly proportional to the number of users. Bob Metcalf noted that the total value of a network to its users grows exponentially, and may be as high as the square of the total number of users/nodes (n squared, though the actual value is probably closer to n log(n)). David Reed noted that when a network allows users to form their own self-determined groups within the network, total value may grow in proportion to 2^n, a rate greater than the square of the nodes, as it accounts for the additional value of the overlapping subgroups. Taken together, these network theories dictate a trend toward the "participatory web:" as the global internet develops, utility economics will drive it to become an infrastructure that facilitates social networks, secondarily an open network, and only tertiarily a hierarchical network. Even with today's primitive network we are already seeing early disruptions and flattening of the hierarchies, and it is clear we can expect much more of this in coming years, as the individual actor is increasingly empowered relative to the most powerful nodes in the system.
• Differential learning curves of Technology, Business, and Society (Smart). As John Smart and others have observed, with rare exceptions, culture changes more slowly than business, and business changes more slowly than technology. Recall the hyperbole in Wired and other leading magazines about the way the internet was going to imminently revolutionize both business and culture during the early "Awe" stage of the internet (mid-to-late 1990's). Only today are web strategies beginning to broadly revolutionize business, and perhaps only in another decade or beyond should we expect them to revolutionize culture, through the spread of the participatory web, social networks, internet television, digital democracy, and collaborative culture. As Brian Arthur of Santa Fe Institute notes, the first years of the railroad, telegraph, auto, airplane, and other disruptive technologies produced similarly inflated expectations--and investment bubbles. As Roy Amara of IFTF says (Amara's law), "we tend to overestimate the [business and social] effects of a [disruptive] technology in the short run, and underestimate the effects in the long run."
 
 

3B. Constants - Business and Economics

• Information technology's (IT's) share of GDP and economic growth and the emerging Metaverse Sector. In the way it is currently measured by the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) of the Department of Commerce, the U.S. information technology sector (IT hardware, software, and services, including communications, both business and consumer) contributed only 8% to U.S. GDP in 2003 [38]. What's more, its growth as a percentage of our total economy is an anemic 3% per year, a doubling time of 23 years [35]. But even though the IT sector's total share of the economy remains low, its marginal contribution to U.S. productivity is very high, indicating a structural transition is underway. Between 1997 and 2003, the IT sector's contribution to marginal GDP growth averaged 40%, and was as high as 80% in some recessionary years (Digital Economy 2003, Table 1.1). IT's contribution to the productivity of non-IT sector industries (entertainment, education, manufacturing, retail, tourism) is not included here, and must make the total IT figure substantially higher. This is evidence that IT, not services, is now the largest marginal driver of U.S. economic growth. Classic economic theory charts U.S. economic development from Resources, to Products, to Services sectors over time. Structural change occurs in an economy when GDP (or for the world, GWP) or employment in one sector grows to exceed another. We contend that the emerging IT-based metaverse sector, economic activity enabled and managed by our 2D and early 3D digital web (including not only traditional IT but all digital media, geospatial web, wireless and participatory web technologies), will surpass, encompass and redefine each of the three traditional economic sectors in coming decades, the way each have done during their own historical emergence. Providing plausible indicators and examples of metaverse sector development is a major goal of our roadmap. From a marginal perspective, it is clear this transition has already taken place. It may take another generation or two for the metaverse sector, however liberally defined, to grow to represent the majority of us GDP or employment, but the marginal slowdown in traditional economic sectors, as well as general economic slowdown during the transition, is already being charted by leading economists, as with The Way it Worked and Why it Won't: Structural Change and the Slowdown of U.S. Economic Growth, Gordon Bjork's 1999 analysis of the maturing U.S. economy, as it waits for the emergence of a global metaverse-enabled service and automation economy.

• The video game market will continue to grow at a healthy rate for the foreseeable future, as increasingly global youth markets are established, as non-players are targeted by new types of games, and as gamers encounter a host of new PC, console and mobile computing platforms and faster and better networks. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the worldwide video game market, a $28 billion industry today, will be $46.5 billion in 2010, an annual growth rate of 11.4%, triple the GDP growth in developed economies over the same period. Wireless games will grow the fastest, 28% per year, to $2.3 billion in the U.S. and $4.2 billion in Asia by 2010 [39].

• Virtual world persistence. In contrast to game titles, which experience rapid turnover and obsolescence, synthetic worlds rarely go away once they achieve any kind of subscriber base. Familiarity and community creates unique inertia versus standalone games. The seven year old Ultima Online, for example, had 150,000 paying subscribers in 2006. To this day, no virtual world has ever been completely shut down unless the operating company absolutely forced it to be. Hardcore users keep the communities alive. Games like Uru Live, the never-finished online Myst successor, have been kept alive by the beta user community. Arthur C. Clarke made this general observation: "No communication technology has ever disappeared, but instead becomes increasingly less important as the technology horizon widens." Even the most primitive communication technologies (semaphore, morse code) remain used by a subculture interested in history. Increasingly, such may be the case with any virtual world that develops a passionate user base, subject of course to legal and economic hurdles.

 
 

3C. Constants - Social, Legal and Other

• 2D visual interfaces will remain a more efficient solution than 3D for many applications. Read "2D is Better than 3D," [41] for 3D drawbacks (increased cognitive overhead, as we are evolutionarily optimized for 2D interaction at a distance), and "2D vs 3D, Implications on Spatial Memory," [42] for 3D advantages (better task memory, as we use 3D up close). Summit quote: "2D is very powerful. We're going to have a real hard time getting away from it [for many applications]. It is one of those interesting local maxima. There's a bigger hill over there [3D interfaces that include efficient 2D representations, or perhaps more likely, 2D interfaces that are tightly integrated with 3D experiences where most appropriate] but we can't cross that chasm yet."
• The metaverse is representational. It has the potential to represent anything: real world data sets (as in Google Earth, GIS, and scientific visualization), socially constructed visions (MySpace,Second Life), thematic visions (as corporate collaboration platforms, role playing games, or worlds with physics unlike our own). It can be educational or entertaining, political or prosaic. Consistently, however, it returns to fulfilling basic human desires. It is first and foremost a social space, allowing persistent connection, exploration, innovation, and new ways to fulfill a relatively constant set of human needs.

• From Janna Anderson’s research, the key themes of any communication technology center around addressing such values as:
  - Identity, Reputation, and Trust
  - Security and Privacy
  - Connection, Persistence, and Community
  - Ease of Use, Portability, Interoperability
  - Affordability and Value
Each community of users has a threshold value for each of these that must be met before a social space will be broadly adopted.

• People will still want privacy in our publicly transparent future. How many people want to be on call, available to their community 24/7? This is always a small minority, and such individuals are usually paid well for their time. Technology exists for our own convenience, not just society’s convenience.
• Satisfying user needs with simplicity and dependability is a key adoption driver for digital solutions. MySpace was initially ugly vs. Friendster, but it gave people more of what they really wanted (an HTML-based rich media architecture in a simple, easy to use interface) for the purpose of showing their personality and creativity to their friends. Second Life is primitive vs. other virtual worlds but it is simple enough for the early adopters (if not the masses) who want the freedom to make their own spaces and stories.
• The human social environment that emerges in a virtual world is really no different from any other human social environment. The virtual world's features and theme may look very different, but we bring to it all our predictable social and legal norms [1].
• There is an ongoing primal social conflict between hackers and lawyers (politicians, Hollywood, interest groups, etc.) in metaverse space. There is a natural tension between those trying to set the code free and those trying to gain IP control over it, or legislate public conduct. There will always be cultures and tools supporting each, but polarized positions don't take into account the necessity of both.
 
 

4. Assumptions. Stated or hidden assumptions with regard to the emerging 3D web.

4A. Assumptions - Technology and Science

• Some interface designers assume a 3D interface will be more intuitive or efficient than 2D, but that often isn't true. 1D (text) and 2D are faster and more user-friendly for many types of interactions, both with data and with other people. As usability gurus like Jakob Nielsen observe ("2D is better than 3D"), if a particular information set has 100 dimensions, visualizing in 3D instead of 2D still leaves 97 that must be abstracted, but now you are saddled with the cognitive overhead of a third dimension to navigate visually and mentally. In other words, you've gone backwards, which is why most 3D scientific visualizations are confusing toys that people don't use. They take away clarity by comparision to a set of alternative 2D representations, each of which can be rapidly scanned, that designers like Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Cognitive Information, 1992 [45], find so useful.

• Major technological development will be a necessity for mass web collaboration and subsequent 3D web adoption. Many basic features of the participatory web have yet to be developed, and there is a common assumption that we'll need much better collaboration tools (artistic, scientific, commercial, and social, etc.) before the web will become the preferred social medium over today's dominant communication media, including face to face. Once that support exists, some assume that people who find it most efficient to collaborate on the web will then gravitate to 3D spaces as their technology allows, simply because 3D is more intuitive and less isolating than existing interfaces for some forms of social interaction and exploration.

• Some assume that avatars will be ubiquitous early in the 3D web, but the threshold for mass adoption may be very high. Some think avatars won't make sense for general use until we can all talk to our computers verbally, using a primitive conversational interface. Perhaps only when your avatar-butler can speak back to you does it make sense to add the parallel nonverbal communication that avatar gestures can provide, to increase the efficiency of verbal communication. Summit quote: "I'm going to make a generalization. Unless the metaverse makes solving our existing problems faster or easier people won't use it. And this is why I don't believe that avatars are going to be ubiquitous. They don't make things easier [at the present time]. Tabbed browsing makes things faster and easier."

• Metaverse designers commonly assume that extending a real world metaphor to virtual space is the best way to interact with computers and other people. But our fantasy worlds play fast and loose with the laws of physics, inventing new rules with less restrictiveness, and even nonfiction virtual worlds have common features, such as flying and teleportation that would be "supernatural" in physical space. So it might be more accurate to say that our best virtual virtual worlds seek to recreate the reality of physical space, yet to also exceed the limitations of that reality, in a consistent and intuitive way, with persistent rules that can be learned through play, as in physical space.

• We assume sufficient standards, including data transfer protocols, document formats, and other infrastructure pieces will emerge to support a rich content metaverse.
 

4B. Assumptions - Business and Economics

• Metaverse builders assume an immersive 3D web and more and better virtual worlds are things people want at the present time. We assume that new money and investment will continue to flow into this sector. Heavy use of virtual worlds is clearly compelling for a subset of internet users, some of the time, but we have no idea yet how large or cosmopolitan this market can become, or what other competitors to their use might emerge. Could augmented reality systems, for example, when they arrive, pull people out of our virtual worlds and digital spaces and back into physical space in large numbers? Will tomorrow's social networks and AI systems reverse the declining time we presently spend in real world social interactions, or will we keep choosing to spend more and more of our free time "inside boxes, sitting in front of boxes?" What about when virtual spaces become so high fidelity that we feel telepresence remotely? It's hard to imagine anything powerful enough to reverse our virtualization trend, and yet it must eventually stop growing, and it is a key assumption that it will continue.
• We assume the metaverse (3D enabled web and 3D worlds) will soon be a highly creative place, with users generating lots of new content. But how rapidly this participatory web vision occurs is yet to be determined. Summit quote #1: "Some of my assumptions have to do with [content] generativity. I worry that people look at WoW, it is an open game in that you can move around, but it's not so open that you can make a spaceship or change the physics. The creativity of the space is limited. Creating something original in that space is impossible." Summit quote #2: "We've seen tremendous growth in the non-generative spaces like EverQuest, WoW, Legend. These have enormous communities. By comparison, Second Life-style spaces have had less growth or less explosive growth. My feeling is that it's really hard to be generative in these worlds at present. The assumption is that people will be more creative in these spaces. If that assumption is wrong, then the 10-year forecast [for mass-appeal Second Life-style metaverse worlds being common in 2016] could be way off."
• Some designers assume the superior value of an architecture of contiguous geography in the metaverse, transparently connecting spaces, versus archipelagos of loosely linked worlds, as we have today. That assumption is yet to be validated, and remains a key uncertainty to metaverse development, to be tested in the marketplace. What we do know is that for at least the next few game development cycles, the bulk of our virtual worlds will continue to be "walled gardens" in respect to each other. That is the most conservative business strategy at present.
• One common but questionable assumption is that we are converging toward the emergence of “single sign on” identities either at the governmental, proprietary, or NGO levels. But there are major technical complexities and competitive pressures working against such projects, and the benefits of interoperability are small, versus the historical course of balkanized, pluralistic, competing standards. Previous unification efforts (e.g. Microsoft Passport, National ID cards) have been held with high suspicion and very low adoption rates. Identity metaguidelines will emerge (see Kim Cameron’s Seven Laws of Digital Identity [44]), but are likely to grow slowly and must compete with the existing network of abstraction layers between the user and the world.
• With the exception of virtual world providers who significantly disrupt, inflate, or otherwise devalue their world, we assume the social value of virtual items and currency will be persistent. This, in combination with the accelerating popularity of our larger online worlds, allows for the accumulation of significant physical world income from virtual world activities.
• We assume people will invest time learning a complex new program interface as long as the payoff is high enough. Summit quote: "Millions of people use WoW. It's complex but they do it because the payoff is so high. Driving a car is incredibly complex, but we don't even question learning because there's so much value."
• Many of us assume that the metaverse is "where the internet was in the early/mid 90's," that it will boom soon. Summit quote: "Where it went from being a very small community of white nerds who knew each other to being a very large community with a whole lot of interesting spaces."
• False assumption (myth): "70% of the network traffic on the internet is pornography." This mistaken assumption has been around since a 1995 Time magazine Cyberporn cover story, but it doesn't hold up to analysis. Less than half of one percent of searchable web pages contain hard-core porn, in Cecil Adam's 2005 estimate [43]. Music, travel, shopping, and other subjects take a higher share of internet traffic. As YouTube and other internet video sites gain traction, we should expect relative porn volume to subside further still. Summit quite: "People get porned out."
 
 

4C. Assumptions - Social, Legal and Other

• The metaverse is a shared social space that needs 3D capacity, but there are many instances where it will not be 3D. If we try to define the metaverse in shorthand as "the 3D web," we communicate a mistaken assumption that the metaverse will be all 3D, or even 3D most of the time, to most users. But our most efficient and valuable interfaces for many types of communication will long remain 1D and 2D abstractions of a 3D world. Using a row of file cabinets in 3D would for many be a reduction of efficiency versus a navigating a 2D filing space. People are drawn to many 2D games, like Tetris or Puzzle Pirates. Not just for nostalgia, but because the simplicity is elegant, focusing, and efficient. 2D online collaboration environments, like WebEx, could continue to be more efficient than anything we can create in 3D. 3D videoconferencing, which is easily available in many work environments, is used today only for special occasions, such as meetings. It would be too distracting and disruptive to have on all the time, unless constant visual collaboration were necessary. In most cases, certainly in its early years, we will probably want to keep Metaversal 3D hidden but available. We’ll use it only if it doesn’t take too much of our system’s computing resources, and adds significant additional value to the social space. Computing resource load was a primary reason that VRML, a 1990’s 3D web protocol, was not able to scale beyond a small number of early adopters. More accurately then, we might refer to the metaverse as "the 3D enhanced web," and this roadmap is about discovering and forecasting opportunities and challenges to some of the enhancement paths.

• There is a growing assumption that we gravitate to 3D spaces primarily to satisfy our physical world social instincts, not for cutting edge virtual realism. If the social content is powerful enough, and the interface simple enough, we don’t care that the graphics are primitive. After a half hour in World of Warcraft or even Second Life, you feel you are “in” the space. As a related observation, we note that cartoons with low graphical resolution are compelling even for many adults, if the story is interesting. Some of the benefits of social spaces are the ability to talk to friends, trade stories, learn, explore, create, and engage in economic transactions. In short, a complex and changing set of motivations.
• We assume that there won't be a significant social backlash to people spending increasing amounts of time in virtual spaces, and reorganizing their lives to do so. Summit quote: "How much time do we expect people to spend in the metaverse? When you look at WoW or SL the most interesting stuff comes from people who are almost living in the game, and I partly think that's because these worlds are persistent. If you don't stay in with your fellow gamers you feel like they're racing ahead." Even if national productivity is not significantly enhanced by virtual worlds in the short term, as long is it isn't hurt significantly it may be reasonable to assume that social backlash won't slow down the spread of the participatory web.
• "Universal game theory" and the promise and limits of 3D games. Some social theorists, philosophers, economists, and game theorists, like Herbert Gintis (Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life, 2005 [46]) contend that every role humans engage in, from social roles, to political roles, to athletic roles, to business roles, are in fact best understood in the context of games. All the elaborate social structures we participate in (stock market, the value of our fiat currency, custom, tradition, law) can be formalized as games. If this assumption is correct, we may also observe why many types of games are best played primarily in "real space" today, as opposed to virtual space. It is tempting to believe that many of our current virtual cooperative activities (e.g., Wikipedia development, online community, etc.) may better engaged in within the immersive environment of a 3D virtual world. But such games will be in competition with our existing physical world, and our current 1D and 2D internet communication technologies. In most cases, given the limitations of today's online worlds, including their current non-physicality, we can see why non-virtual games will continue to outcompete virtual space for most social games for the forseeable future. At the same time, synthetic worlds hold the potential, for some, to be more compelling games than those we play in the physical world. As we increasingly spend our time there, there's a growing responsibility to ensure the rules are fair, the lessons learned are helpful, and the result of play is personal empowerment, not addiction and diminishment.
• The Sports Paradigm may be a good model for the future of many virtual worlds. Sports are an analog for life, with clear rules, circumscribed conflict immediate if temporary resolutions, highly transparent interactions, swift punishment of cheaters, and disproportionate economic and social rewards for the victors. In short, a perfect place to amplify the lessons learned in conflict and competition as a social game.
• The Frontier Paradigm is an analogy we assume has strong applicability to the future of virtual worlds [1]. History tells us that the initial migration to geographic frontiers is often led by those who are less enfranchised in their prior environment and thus have less to risk and more to gain. There is an initial period of wild and lawless experimentation, of seeing what can be done with new tools and freedoms in the new environment, followed by eras of increasing acclimatization and civilization. Diversity and deviant and mildly antisocial behavior can persist and even increase in the civilized world, but the effects of this behavior on the whole become increasingly circumscribed. You will know a particular metaverse will have arrived when it has healthy commercial endeavors, marketing, taxation, and crime. Currently there is an early economy (in a few worlds), and minor crime (griefing, farming).
• Unless otherwise informed, we assume an equivalent permanency, consistency, and fairness to the virtual world that we find in the real world. Violation of this assumption causes very real mental and emotional effects.
• There is an assumption among some that the people currently at the helm of metaverse sectors "see the future" better than others. But without adequate diversity, repetition, and depth, we may easily be deluding ourselves with our early forays in metaverse foresight development. Summit quote: "Our metaverse concepts [in the current foresight community] are ethnocentric. Right now it's a small group of people imposing their thinking on a culture not yet engaged with these ideas. Right now it's an early adopter culture with a lot of geeks in it." Getting beyond science fiction myths to the real dynamics is going to take humility, systematic breadth, and a lot more repetitive publicity, analysis, and critique.
 
 

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