December 22, 2011

IBMs technology predictions and virtual worlds

Posted in Hypergrid, Metaverse, Second Life, User Experience tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 2:18 pm by SarahAndrea Royce

IBM recently published five technology predictions for the next five years and they do this regularly, so five years ago there have been some, too.

And one of that was the idea, that 3D Internet (with the example of Second Life) becomes as common, as the 2D version. Maybe this was even the start of the mediahype around Second Life.

At an article of MSN News from the time you can read the one point about it:

‘• The 3-D Internet: Pohle said this technology is “about translating the user experience on the Internet from being almost a replication of a piece of paper – a Web ‘page’ – to almost a three-dimensional experience on the Internet.” Basically, a virtual world a la Second Life, with open borders.

IBM has been experimenting with virtual environments for locales ranging from Eternal Egypt and Russia’s Hermitage Museum (open now) to China’s Forbidden City (due in 2008). Just this month, the company announced a deal with Circuit City for an experiment in Second Life retailing.

As the 3-D Internet develops, IBM says it will be aiming for the integration of virtual environments into a seamless whole.

“Instead of separate islands of virtual worlds, where you cannot cross over from one to the other in a consistent way, IBM’s vision is to allow your virtual personal to cross over from one world to another, much in the same way you can go from one page to another on the Internet without losing any consistence, enabling all sorts of new applications of the technology,” the company says in a 3-D Internet fact sheet.

Pohle said “we’re not sure where this is going to lead, but the experience you get going to a 3-D site is a very different experience from what you get using the traditional Internet or a messaging tool.”‘

Other articles often emphasized the idea to experience Real Life products in such a world and then being able to purchase them there, even todays reviews in context of the new predictions.

But how should that work? The key element for the user of 3D worlds to become immersed are mirrorneurons. You see something and it is set in context with previous experiences which then am felt again, as if they were part of the action.

Lets have a look at one project that tried exactly that. The now gone motorcompany Pontiac tried it with their car “Solstice” and the result was this car, which is still wide spread as a freebie:
2006 Pontiac Solstice

Its a very good work for its time, which in Second Life terms is actually from another age completly, and Pontiac spent quite some money in that built, yet its only an oversimplified model of the design. You could not really  judge the looks from it, if you compare it with a good ol`2D photography of the actual product:

2006 Pontiac Solstice

But when you have seen the Solstice, you can see it in the 3D Version. It even gets worse when think of actually touching the car or how it feels sitting in it. Can you judge it by seeing how your Avatar fits in? No, you won’t, with the exception that you once sat in the car and renember that while your minds alligns your experiences with that of your avatar.
And let alone the drive scripts, in Second Life those are far from a realistic driving experiencing let alone one that represents the car. In simulation games like Forza this is actually a feature. Yet even the best simulation can’t simulate the sense that rallydriver Walter Röhrl once called “Popometer” (could be translated to buttsensor), an amalagan of all sensoric impulses. I actually made the experience that good RL drivers often suck in games, because the lack of the “Popometer” leaves them somewhat blind.

So the 3D Pontiac Solstice can’t tell you anything, and somehow you only really can experience it as an Solstice, if you had at least one RL-testdrive with the car, completely turning around the idea of presenting products in a 3D world to test them there.

So if you, as a potential buyer, want to buy a product, your still left with 2D photos and information sheets and a real life experienced testdrive (our testseating on a couch, e.g.) while 3D only has shortcomings, at least as long as there is no metaverse available with the simulationquality of the (movie-)Matrix.

Its quite similar with other tasks. You can write your emails in Second Life or OpenSim, or even do quite some more “work” of that kind in case its available as online application with the option of viewing websites inworld, but why should you, when the very desktop or notebook you use to access the virtual world is by far better suited for the task. Information is often presented in 2D because another dimension adds no value to it.

So what is really missing to make 3D internet is a killer application, something everyone needs to do and that is (almost) only possible in an immersive, shared, 3D envirenment.

I was suggested to me that learning and meetings / presentations could be that, but in my opinion it fails on the fact that you have to be already immersed into a virtual world, before it becomes beneficial, lacking the easy access that is needed to make it into a killer application. Another area, where 3D Internet can be very beneficial is the health sector, yet it is to hope that we are never in a situation where nearly everyone needs this.

I really don’t see how 3D Internet would ever be as common as the 2D Internet, and I don’t think it will ever reach a high penetration, while often those who found their use of it, like me, hold it very dearly.

Yet one prediction of IBM came true, that there will be a more indipendent approach and that virtual worlds would be not really seperated anymore. This technology is here with Open Simulator and the Hypergrid.