Gary Hazlitt, Gazlitt and me take a ‘break’ in over fifty worlds comprising the current metaverse, here is the holiday video…
I am doing a commercial report and curriculum development on the evolving range of social virtual worlds and have recently ventured into fifty of them to review and sample the culture, creative, business and educational potential. On my travels I got out my virtual camera and decided to capture a bunch of small vignettes which quickly turned into a body of audio visual delights – so decided to create a nice seven minute video for posterity.
I thought I would share the video publically as it demonstrates how ubiquitous, popular and streamlined many of these spaces are becoming across the intraweb / ‘cloud’. With over 300 million frequenting or registering for the non-game based worlds and millions of new investment in 2nd and 3rd generation services there seems to be no stopping them…Enjoy the video (UPDATE: now standing at over 55 000 views!)
A few immediate things that struck me on my travels:
That there are quite a few worlds now getting their balance on the shoulders of Second Life and really getting to grips with the social networking aspects vs the 3D’ness
There IS a balance between a social space and an ‘agreed’ advertorial world – “you give me valid experience, I accept a level of advertising”
A few new entrants realise that using a fully fledged, 3D game engine as the client for what is in the end a glamorous 3D facebook and requiring a high spec’d PC is not the best way. Second generation services like vSide have followed a good middle ground
As I reported a few days ago the ‘layered-over-the-2d-web’ version of these worlds such as RocketOn Exit Reality and Weblin show great usability and promise
Some worlds are demonstrating the precursor to photo realism and smooth motion while others have as much ‘immersion’ by providing intimacy with your friends in more cutesy environments
Many of these worlds operate without the hype we have seen with Second Life and have slowly been building up large communities. Beware any world that tries to launch on hype, as most of these worlds are still in adolescence and not ready for mainstream
The Metaverse is a world of connected worlds, how/when/if they are connected will be a real challenge from a technical and standardisation perspective. Especially as a few are starting to concentrate on themes, music, sport and probably in the end very defined niches – fly fishing social world anyone?
It is important for those who are supposedly representing or blogging about ‘the metaverse’ to get in there and try these services – beyond registering and wandering around for only 10 minutes (I could name several who haven’t a clue!) but…
There are not enough hours in the day to attempt to truly engage with each world but it is amazing how adept you become at spotting flaws and innovation when you put the effort in
lots more to follow from the official report in a future post…
KZero are turning out to be the best resource on the planet, tracking Social Virtual Worlds and their latent potential. They gave me permission to publish/post this great chart with a great stab at putting many of the worlds in the video across content sectors.
Here is a list of the worlds featured in my video in order of appearance:
Fed up with your avatar having to live inside a wall-garden world? Want to bring it out into the wider web to play? Well it seems a revolution is at hand, early days and a few notable services listed below, but keep your eyes peeled as virtual characters start to infiltrate our flat 2D web and turn web pages into a game, a veritable MMO. There are naturally several new and emergent marketing possibilities.
With the recent addition of Google Lively and a host of other character based browser enhancements what follows is a summary of applications or services that sit neatly between your traditional web 2.0 2D website (flickr, youtube, blogs etc) and a fully rendered ‘walk-around’ world. These are apps that mash game-like avatars with web pages, allow you to move inside pages or play with friends over the top of them. There have been many trials and false starts of these over the past decade but given the ‘game generations’ that are so used to being a toon/avatar/game character it seems a natural step to turn some, not all, web pages into something a little more ‘representational’ of our real social environments – for example why not gather around that cool YouTube video that has just come out, no not embed on a screen in second life, we all go to the YouTube page and hang out! Firstly though a reminder of where web 2.5 probably sits based on my oft cited diagram from a couple of years ago…we are looking at that point 2008 where the two way web merges with the live Web 3.0.
There have been quite a few early ‘avatars’ on a page services and games in the past and many successful ones using basic pandora/ALICE type AI technology to create talking heads that welcomed you or read the page or even recommended things for you to go and consumer. Then I recall way back when AI type pets Catz/Dogz for example, that ran amok across your computer desktop. Then there are the newer generation browser’creatures’ neopets/webkinz and others that allow an element of tracking outside the worlds. But this list below is about casual, social virtual environments layered or embedded into traditional social media websites with the specific purpose of stimulating ‘chat’, sharing and other emergent and natural behaviour alongside traditional web media.
A german friend in Second Life who knows the developers personally alerted me to Weblin a few months ago and they have gone from strength to strength. To quote from their own website
“Meet your friends and new people on every website! – Your personalized weblin avatar surfs the web with you, enabling you to see friends and meet new ones on the same site as you. Weblins can chat, move, show emotion, visit lounges, and trade stuff with other weblins.”
It has been PC only so far IE and Firefox with a weblin lite for mac and linux now in beta. I have ventured around a few media sites looking for the crowds gathering and chatting about the page they are walking around. The rich media sites work best of course and having yourself as a little character walking around the bottom of a web page takes a little getting used to and best done with a group of friends, touring the web together, remotely so to speak. Tremendous mash-up potential with Digg/Delicious and others. The point though with sharing a page with others is to have enough to talk about and even better in synch, so video sites are preferable to a single image on flickr for example. There is potential also for education use where a class of remote students and mentor travel the web and congregate around large text pages for discussion etc:
Much in the same ball park TechCrunch covers this Weblin clone-type start-up in a brief article based on their press release and quotes them – the company says
Ã¢Â€ÂœweÃ¢Â€Â™re not targeting kids. I know those initial avatars look very Club Penguinesque, but when you see the full system, it will become clear that weÃ¢Â€Â™re going for teens and up (15+).Ã¢Â€Â
This is currently in closed Alpha and it sounds like they are still raising funds from investors as their website is pretty thin but they have a lovely promo video below. This great article by Kirsten Nicole of Mashable (credit: linked image with Coke above) takes us on a step-by-step walk-through and leads to the most exciting but rather no-brainer element – as you surf around some ‘partner’ sites will have applications where your wandering avatar can interact with the page. So prizes for coming back, small games to play with others on the page and so on – marketers time to play! Another aspect that may make RocketOn more sucessful than Weblin is of course the fact that the avatars can roam around pages and build on them – well that’s the way it seems from the promo, in reality we shall see.
Unlike the two above ExitReality takes a slightly different approach to making flat boring 2D web pages more avatar friendly. They turn them into 3D worlds! Yes your heard correctly. The image below is me walking around a flickr page which almost instantaneously was converted into a 3D walk around gallery. Still very buggy on my souped up main PC with many sites not rendering at all, this has some real potential once they fine tune that dimensional converting widget. Keep an eye on these.
Text from their website:
What is ExitReality for?
View any webpage in 3D… every website is now a virtual world
Turn your standard 2D web page into your own unique 3D space
Meet and chat with people in 3D
Search and explore thousands of online 3D communities and meet new people!
What Can I Do?
Convert, decorate and share your Social Network Page in 3d
Collect cool objects to add to your 3d space or apartment
Create a 3d Avatar, chat with friends and meet new people
Invite people to your virtual space
Host real time parties and events at your online space
Well we all know about the new 500LB Gorilla in town, masquerading as a cutesy, half-baked 3D chat space. I have blogged about this a couple of times already and made a strong point that it is the ability to embed your small ‘lively’ window in ‘your’ sites as being its USP. I copy an extract from my post of a few weeks ago…
There is also a nod to PS3 Home given the strong create your own room using bits of found furniture (in fact very Habbo also), embed it in your blog etc and what looks like a catalog where 3rd parties can eventually come along and sell pixel products, virtual goods – which is where the real biz model is of course.
A new immersive web platform called Vivaty Scenes lets users create tiny virtual worlds and decorate them with content from around the internet. After adding Vivaty Scenes, which entered public beta Tuesday, to a Facebook or AOL Instant Messenger account, users can set up a customizable “room” where they can host chat sessions or small virtual gatherings within a web browser. The free service lets users pull content directly from some of the internet’s most popular sites. Scenes’ virtual televisions can be populated with any video from YouTube; virtual picture frames can be filled with any picture from a user’s Photobucket, Flickr or Facebook accounts.
Another quote from their site:
Vivaty’s vision is to make the Immersive Web a reality by transforming the flat web into a more visually rich and expressive experience that amplifies socialization and engagement. The company’s end-to-end web platform is designed to enable distributed virtual experiences anywhere on the web. Founded in 2007, Vivaty is led by a team of web, gaming, and graphics experts…
(Disclaimer: I do some work with these folk.) This is really a development of the old ‘talking head bots’ of the 90s and early 00s but with a twist. MyCyberTwin is you, well as close an approximation to your personality, wrapped in an AI text based engine which you train based on conversations people are having with you on yours or other’s web pages.
MyCyberTwin is a website that allows you to quickly create compelling virtual personalities called CyberTwins. These virtual beings live and breathe on the web and chat to your friends, family, colleagues or customers on your behalf.
OK how is that a LSVW (Layered Social Virtual World) I hear you ask? Well as they say “MyCyberTwin is a website that allows you to create virtual personalities that can chat for you online.” So this backend persona can be plugged into any client – we have done it with Second Life but their real model is having MyCyberTwins have ‘social’ conversations on blogs or marketing sites and so on. It is really you being able to chat non-real time, asynchronously to friends or interested parties 24/7- it is you digital proxy.
At both ends of the rather off-line talking at you continuum we have a free to use AI backend that allows you to run customised chat mash-ups over your web site in Pandora (1) and then the most commercial example of the same thing in SitePal (2). There are many in-between.
2 SitePal provides a number of powerful, yet easy-to-use features for designing, scripting and publishing your animated speaking characters.
1 Pandorabots is the place where you can create and unleash virtual personalities. Pandorabots is an experimental software robot hosting service based on the work of Dr. Richard Wallace and the A.L.I.C.E./AIML free software community.
From any browser, you may create, design and publish your own software robots Ã¢Â€Â“ and make them available to anyone via the Internet. Sign-up for an Account to begin creating your own virtual robots.
Otherwise known as Passively Multiplayer Online Gaming with a catch phrase ‘play the web’ and more about playing as groups across web pages rather than ‘real’ avatars layered on or in your web browser. PMOG’ers are given or create quests, missions (hundreds of them!) and most importantly set traps or goodies for each other and can literally bury treasure or mines or other clues on specific URLs that other players are likely to ‘stumble’ across – all managed from a “World of Warcraft’ type plug-in, bottom bar for Firefox. They earn points travelling around that can be spent at a ‘Shoppe’ – which I have yet to find myself!
There is a link between PMOG and a site called GameLayers who have a large team and advisors including Cory Doctorow. They are lead by Merci Victoria Grace as CCO whose bio reads:
“a creative force in the field of immersive entertainment design. A writer and artist…At GameLayers, Hammon envisions a game built on top of the entire internets and works with creative people to materialize that vision.”
OK a quick round-up of a few new services currently enabling a new way to browse the web. There are many important implications that come out of this collision mainly around the investment of time people usually put into their avatars in self-contained world could be stimulated in some of the examples above – loyalty for browsing and tracking as your avatar automatically gains extra powers (game speak for reward for completing goals) as it visits ‘enhanced’ sites. There is also the possibility of interoperability with your other 10-40 avatars in other worlds that could receive some of the characteristics of the ‘web’ wanderer. The list goes on and I have to get back to good ole traditional web browsing. If you know of other examples of the above please meet me on this page regularly at 10pm AEST 🙂 Or just comment!
Although this new soon to be ubiquitous virtual world is not as vastly customisable as Second Life it has some nice useful, linear machinima features such as the rather quaint preset animations and its obvious cartoon aesthetic. I just put together a quick sequence of some of the ‘solo’ animations of the toons up onto the LAMP YouTube channel and after that the couple anims which are quite compelling with more to come from 3rd party developers. With the unlimited ‘viewfinder’ camera positioning and mild set and avatar customisation alongside already thousands of ‘room/environments’ it does offer rapid machinima potential. It won’t be as ‘unique’ as some of the Second Life ones I (now at 200 000 views!) and others have made for example…But Google Lively has some nice off the shelf story environments (my wikipedia entry) which mean less set up as in ‘green field’ social virtual worlds and already story ideas are rearing their ‘lovely/lively’ heads 🙂
Google Lively – Solo Animations
A sequence of animations for individual characters in Google Lively (filmed as Gazlitt in Windmill Forest)…full list in sequence…angry, applaud, bow, buzzoff, cheer, confused, cry, dance1, dance2, drums, evilaugh, fear, fidget, flirt, foottwirl, haricomb, happy, headphones, hearnoevil, laugh, love, no, peace, plead, point, puke, raisehand, rofl, sad, seenoevil, shrug, shy, sit, sleep, speakno evil, stickouttongue, strut, surprise, tada, taunt, walk, wave, what, wink, yawn, yeah, yes
Google Lively – Couple Animations
A sequence of couple animations for avatars in the Social Virtual World, Google Lively (filmed as Gazlitt and SilkCharm in a Windmill Forest)…full list in two short sequences…