Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Virtual Worlds conference 2007

This is one of three on the vwc. Number two is here. And three is here.

Virtual Worlds conference 2007 began this morning in New York with a convocation from Philip Rosedale, virtual world god of Second Life. It’s not the technology (stupid), it’s the people. “People are the new medium,” as John Maeda
had quipped when I met with him in January. Difficulties of many sorts persist across the various virtual world platforms, such as UI, concurrency, lag, uncanny graphics…the list goes on. Nonetheless, group wisdom from the podium reached an accord on the idea that the tech solutions are not magic (they are known and, now, need to be applied). The magic rests with the delightful prospect of building out co-creation platforms. The analogy with an Internet experience of 1994 pervaded (I’ve made it myself). Conjure your own User Created Content (UCC) image of deep user experience across a broad and nurturing virtual world platform. And in the case of
Multiverse, it would be platforms.

Some of in the audience wondered why fairly serious, as in game killer, impediments to a lower user threshold or better advanced-building tools were not fixed, if there’s no magic in that. Grumbling, though, was balanced with a great deal of curiosity, friendly predisposition, and strong desire not to miss the next important platform in Internet development. The 600 some media planners, marketing experts, entertainment and IT industry professionals who crowed into the new Jewish Museum for the conference certainly attested to that. Come back later for a deeper discussion of the technical evolution of virtual worlds. Here, let me give a run down of some of the high points.

(Btw, this is not the first virtual worlds conference. I believe that honor goes to the
1998 gathering in Paris of the same title. But that was a computer science conference not industry…so perhaps two firsts? If you have any info other virtual world conference “firsts” let me know.)

Matt Bostwick’s virtual MTV keynote brought us the term 4D TV. The fourth dimension is social interaction (one-through-three are TV, Internet, and UCC). This fit into a larger picture of media and marketing professionals and a few technologists reflecting on the coming of 3Di (that’s 3D internet or 3D interactivity). The debate still rages around the importance of realistic 3D graphics versus 2D cartoony worlds or 2D Internet usability. Reuben Steiger of Millions of Us very wisely asks his corporate clients if there is an existing Web format in which they might build their projects. If the answer is “yes,” he tells them to do so. He also said that Second Life’s first generation of users have shown a “utopian ideal that is at it’s heart capitalistic. With the homegrown brands [the one’s originating in-world], there’s lots of marketing.” In a conversation earlier that week with Cory Doctorow, he reminded me that bohemianism and money are not mutually exclusive endeavors. In any case, the fate of out-world brands in virtual worlds is still being sorted out. The rule of thumb is the same as that which applies to embedded ads in games: get content right for the context right and don’t disrupt users.

More on the conference to come: numbers that people are kicking around, aspirations, and the look of an emergent network industry.


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