Aug 052008

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!)

75MB MP4 Download available at

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.

Social VIrtual Worlds Logos - End 2008

Here is a list of the worlds featured in my video in order of appearance:

Video details:

The ‘Social Virtual’ World’s A Stage
A Film by Gary Hayes © Personalizemedia 2008

“This is not a Game” – Music composed and performed by
Gary Hayes

Mar 202008

I don’t often do the press release thing but given this is a great metaverse platform company from my neck of the woods (Melbourne and Brisbane – Australia) and this is beyond the vapourware we have seen from other players hoping to topple Linden and Second Life off their perch, I will make an exception. The key thing here is the marrying of a distributed Virtual World network (NICTA) with a very accessible, promising client I have been trying out (Vastpark). Things do look on track for end of 2008 which is not as bullish as predecessors, but still it will be 2009/10 before there is a significant community to rival Second Life who of course have their own distributed server plans. Anyway over to the PR release.


VastPark licences NICTA’s Distributed Network Engine technology

(20 March 2008) NICTA, Australia’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Research Centre of Excellence, has signed a commercial license agreement with VastPark, a leading virtual worlds platform provider.

Researchers at NICTA have developed a decentralised network engine for virtual worlds that can scale to millions of users, thereby enabling creators to develop and deploy online games and virtual worlds more efficiently and cost effectively.

Massively multiplayer online (MMO) applications, such as large multiplayer games and on-line virtual worlds, have attracted an enormous user population on the Internet. In fact, thousands of users can be on-line simultaneously in the same virtual world. This creates a significant challenge for the creators of virtual worlds.

The traditional client-server approach does not scale affordably as server capacity needs to be upgraded to meet the anticipated demand for a service; rich media content requires the underlying network to be upgraded to handle the expected network traffic; and central servers are a single point of failure and require constant maintenance.

“This is great for VastPark as we want to make it easier for anyone to create and deploy their own virtual worlds and games without the headache of centralised server infrastructure. We also want to provide a unique user experience on our platform: we want users to know they can turn up at a location and no matter how many people are there, they should be able to see their friends rather than find out they’ve been stuck on separate servers as often happens in games today,” said Bruce Joy, CEO of VastPark.

Craig Presti, Lead Developer of VastPark said: “If we want virtual worlds to become a standard way of interacting online then we want to enable a better user experience. What’s great about NICTA’s Distributed Network Engine is how well it integrates with the VastPark platform and that it allows VastPark be the first to solve some of the elusive problems for virtual worlds platforms such as how to make them extremely economic to run and how to handle the “flash mob” problem (where suddenly a massive crowd appears on one world). This really makes the VastPark solution a complete and elegant system.”

NICTA’s agreement with VastPark will provide VastPark with access to the Distributed Network Engine and the team behind it. The agreement also provides the NICTA team with a commercial platform to conduct a large-scale trial, and a commercialisation path with VastPark as an industry collaborator.

“NICTA’s technology will reduce the cost of maintaining expensive game servers by delegating data processing to individual participants,” NICTA P2P project leader Dr Santosh Kulkarni said. “This will also improve resilience to failures by removing the single point of failure and reduce game traffic in the core network, improving system performance.”

“VastPark has a mature platform that has received excellent reviews from the industry pundits,” he added. “When you combine such a platform with cutting edge technology from NICTA, it has the potential to shake the virtual world space.”

“This is the beginning of what we expect to be a long-term relationship with VastPark as a partner in the development and commercialisation of the virtual world technology coming out of NICTA,” Dr Kulkarni said.

VastPark’s CEO, Bruce Joy said: “VastPark is about making virtual worlds useful and convenient to create and deliver and NICTA’s technology helps extend VastPark by allowing thousands of simultaneous users to meet each other without creators needing to pre-invest in expensive infrastructure. This is potentially revolutionary stuff.”

“This engine will complement our existing VastServer network engine that is designed using a traditional client server architecture. NICTA’s engine will mean that we can offer our world creators a level of low-cost scalability that is just not achievable otherwise. I can’t wait to see the impact this has on the market when it is released,” adds Joy.

“I am delighted that NICTA is entering into this agreement with VastPark,” NICTA Victoria Research Laboratory Director Professor Rob Evans said.

The new networking technology is now being integrated into VastPark and there will be an announcement later this year about when the beta testing will commence. Testing is expected to begin towards the end of 2008.

About VastPark
VastPark is a virtual worlds platform supporting an ecosystem of creators, consumers and user generated worlds. Built on five years of research and development and focussed on effective open standards, VastPark features free tools that enable users to create and publish 3D virtual worlds quickly and easily. Communities can create and monetize their own highly interactive worlds and empower their users creativity.

National ICT Australia Limited (NICTA) is a national research institute with a charter to build Australia’s pre-eminent Centre of Excellence for information and communications technology (ICT). NICTA is building capabilities in ICT research, research training and commercialization in the ICT sector for the generation of national benefit.

National ICT Australia is funded by the Australian Government as represented by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and the Australian Research Council through the ICT Centre of Excellence program.

NICTA was established and is supported by its members: The Australian Capital Territory Government; The Australian National University; NSW Department of State and Regional Development; and The University of New South Wales. NICTA is also supported by its partners: the University of Sydney; University of Melbourne; the Victorian Government; the Queensland Government; Griffith University; Queensland University of Technology; and The University of Queensland.

For further information:
Liz Chung
Marketing manager,

Feb 132008

1 Mixed Reality Killer App

OK a ‘give us your comment’ competition. Below an oldie but goody clip from CeBit 2006 but what do you think is the main killer application for this particular synchronous interface? – (no sneaking ideas by reading the hundreds of comments on it’s YouTube page!).

2 iPhone Home

iPhone browsing

Above ‘me browsing the lamp site on me lil’iPhone (I have big fingers BTW).

I am beginning to love (read, depend) on my little iPhone (when I don’t unintentionally brick it adding alpha level apps) and one of it’s coolest features of course is web browsing (including YouTube video watching etc:) over WiFi. So although this is old’ish news from December it’s worth posting about. The iPhone browsing market share is huge compared with all the other mobile devices out there. Net Applications last quarter of 07 report showed that it had nearly 0.1% of the total share of browser platforms used to view the web. That is a significant number firstly as it is the most used browser platform after computer screens (coming in at 10th place) and when you think it had been out in the US for around 5 months vs 10 years of the millions of Windows CE and Palm devices – who could only muster about 2/3 of iPhones share. Very significant.

If like me you have been browsing the web on a mobile phone or my last favourite a Palm TX you do have to ask yourself why the sudden dominance? Seamless integration with Firefox or Safari when you doc your phone to a mac (all the bookmarks just fly across)? The wonderful two finger zoom feature, making the experience much more tactile and fun? The nice chunky keyboard that pops up when you are entering urls, especially in landscape mode with its large screen? The fact that the most popular sites like YouTube actually work!? Perhaps because you can actually fill in forms and ‘do’ your social networks? We would be interested in other reasons we all think the iPhone is such a great mobile browsing device?

Here is a quick snapshot of the top 11 of the list, again pointing out iPhone is the next top browser after larger screen computer based systems:

1. View Trend Windows XP – 78.37%
2. View Trend Windows Vista – 9.19%
3. View Trend MacIntel – 3.59%
4. View Trend Mac OS – 3.22%
5. View Trend Windows 2000 – 2.97%
6. View Trend Windows 98 – 0.76%
7. View Trend Windows NT – 0.63%
8. View Trend Linux – 0.57%
9. View Trend Windows ME – 0.43%
10. View Trend iPhone – 0.09%
11. View Trend Windows CE – 0.06%

3 Mirror Mirror

There are a whole bunch of ‘customisable’ Social Virtual World engines/services springing up that are trying to knock good ole Second Life of it’s pretty prim perch. Most fall into the ‘create anything and do what you want camp’ such as Metaplace, Vastpark, OpenLife, HiPiHi or Multiverse etc: Quite a few fall into the ‘fixed and/or branded’ space such as, Habbo, Nictropolis or Webkinz. Incidentally Raph Koster’s Metaplace went public a few days ago.

So it is going to be interesting how the beta Mirror World will fare given it is very focused on being a precise duplicate of key icons, cities, tourist and business hubs from our physical real world. I can see the attraction of this environment running on top of say Google maps and Google are pushing into this area too, but I wonder if this may be yet another proprietary virtual dead end. To make it really attractive to tourist and business, like any social network, it’s going to need the social part – lots ofpeople and as we know the likes of Habbo and SL (which has itself lots of real world locations within it) have a heck of a start over these, well, start-ups. Of course I will be beta testing this and many others! Some press release blurb…

Mirror World

“From key tourism destinations, places of interest , historical sites to realistic full scale 3-Dimensional replicas of entire cities. This mirror world of our existing planet – âÄúMirror WorldâÄù allows end users to journey through âÄúvirtual wordsâÄù in the comfort of their homes âÄ“ creating a brand new exciting marketing tool for tourism industry players like tourism destination operators, Hoteliers, Shopping Malls, Retail Outlets and more to showcase and sell their destinations and facilities to key markets around the world.”