Virtual World Endgame: Collapsing the Metaphor

Mitch Wagner recently posted a piece on his blog titled “Why I hardly ever go on Second Life anymore.

I respect and value Mitch’s perspective a lot.  He’s been exploring virtual worlds for years, and it’s clear that he loves their potential.  But he’s frustrated by their lack of broad adoption and the multitude of barriers to entry for new users.

Those are sentiments shared by many.  But I have a slightly different perspective of the future.

In his recent blog post, Mitch said:

“But I think Second Life, and virtual worlds, may have gone as far as they can go, that maybe the whole avatar-in-an-imaginary landscape metaphor is the wrong metaphor to best achieve the benefits that Second Life provides, just as Usenet was the wrong metaphor for mass adoption of online discussions, and blogs turned out to be the right one.”

I disagree that the current metaphor is irrevocably flawed.  I believe there are near-term advances in user interface devices that will refine the metaphor and make it much more human.  Anyone who has used Kinect will know exactly what I mean.

But I believe there’s a longer-term advance in technology that will solve the problem completely.

What Virtual Worlds Are, and What they Are Not.

Lightweight social media today (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) is all about managing weak social ties in a way that is primarily asynchronous.  Quickly check on your friends.  Quickly update your status.  In and out.  Social network proprioception.

Virtual Worlds are a completely different experience.  It’s all about synchronous interactions and high emotional bandwidth.   Becoming part of an ongoing deeply immersive story that you both experience as well as create on your own.

Lightweight social media platforms are like magazines.  Virtual Worlds are like participatory theater.

The trick, of course, is for someone to make participatory theater a lot easier to jump into.

We’re already living in a virtual world that is partially collapsed into our physical world.  We just don’t notice it.

We have a long history of scoffing at and then eagerly embracing portable technology that expands our senses into the virtual.  50 years ago, nobody believed we would be walking around today with portable phones and music players, experiencing a significant part of our daily auditory reality as “virtual.”  Not too long ago, the idea of walking down the street talking to people who are not there, or driving one’s car while listening to a symphony seemed ludicrous.   Yet today, we can’t imagine living any other way.

The next big step for virtual worlds will involve augmented reality.  And I don’t mean the current “look at the world through a tiny screen in your hand” model.  That’s just where we are today.  The future won’t involve peering through keyholes.  It will involve simply looking at the world around you.

Imagine wearing everyday glasses that are enabled with augmented reality, overlaying the virtual with the physical.  To see and communicate with avatars integrated with our daily physical world.  To see virtual vistas through physical window frames.  To walk through a park downtown and see virtual landscapes stretching before us.

Sure, it will take a while for such technology to exist.  But as Wayne Gretsky put it, the smart thing is to skate to where the puck will be, not where it currently is. Current virtual world evangelists and developers, take note.

The next step is to completely dissolve the interface for virtual worlds into our daily perception of life.

That’s the endgame for virtual worlds.  And it will surely happen.

Because we’re already halfway there.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

UPDATE 2/15/11: Phil Marston posted a link to a concept video from HP about an augmented reality game.  Watch it, then imagine playing it without having to look through a handheld device.  I particularly like the use of audio cues to alert the player of a giant virtual boulder rolling after him.  ;)


42 thoughts on “Virtual World Endgame: Collapsing the Metaphor

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Virtual World Endgame: Collapsing the Metaphor | Be Cunning and Full of Tricks -- Topsy.com

  2. I completely agree with you Pathfinder. Twitter, Facebook etc cant and should not be compared to complex enviroments like virtual worlds. They each have their own merits and can in some instances be linked even (but thats another debate)
    I see virtual worlds future much like or similar to the Matrix, I belive ( or hope) in the future we will (of our own free will ;) ) conect to the virtual world and interact there much like we do in the physical world. To take it even one step further maybe even have our conciesness stored when we die and have ourselves live on in virtual reality. Now that would be a neat thing for our children and their children to have as a future.
    The only thing I do irk a bit about is your refernce to story and story participation. Maybe cos I see my virtuality as an extention to my physical self. but I also belive in to each their own :)
    (loveing your short story and cant wait till next chapeter, last one took me for a loop I tell ya :) )

  3. I have, several times in my life, been ‘ahead of the game’ and seen people duck out too early. Technology seems to take forever to catch up to where we “could” be. This leaves a sort of vacuum which, at first glance looks like stagnation. It isn’t.
    Behind the scenes people are working on hologram TV, flexible screen, and illuminated clothing, to name just a few products that will, one day, be tools we will use everyday.
    It is not everyone’s mission or desire to be involved in that sort of development, but for those of us who are, Virtual Worlds have by no means “gone as far as they can go”, we are still at the start.
    I see no reason to wish that ‘everyone’ is onboard this early in the game, let them wait until it is irresistible, then we will see….

  4. Hi Path,

    I understand Wagner with his frustrations. I think a great part of them are SL-specific, though. SL is a place where all your community is in one place, and either you’re in, or you’re out. When you’re inworld, you’ll show as online to all your friends, and you feel (even though there’s no real pressure) that you need to participate somehow. And of course, the world goes on when you’re on there, and just like in real world people drift apart when they’re not seeing each other regularly.

    The same is true for facebook, twitter, etc. – it’s just easier to stay “in the loop” there, which is Wagner’s point, I think. However, I don’t see a reason why it needs to be one or the other. Obviously, the HGAC (as one example) stays in contact through google groups, twitter, irc, as well as inworld meetings. That’s not an isolated case; rather, it’s the normal way I deal with OpenSim and SL these days.

    I’m sure virtual worlds will merge with the “real” world more and more – as will twitter, facebook, etc. I don’t know if that’s the endgame, though. For many hardcore VW users, they serve as an escape from the real world; to have them merge with the real world doesn’t sound too appealing. On top of that, it will probably still take decades until anything remotely like it will gain widespread adoption. I’m not pessimistic about it, but there’s just too many people still, of all countries, age groups and societies, for which computers in general, and the internet in particular, are cryptic things that are more repulsive than attractive.

    Until then, we will probably for a long time have a small group of very immersed VW users, which will create this landscape of the mind and test its boundaries, a larger group of “casual” internet users who like to merge the virtual with the real, not knowing what to do with either of them, and a (hopefully) shrinking group of internet abstinents.

  5. I empathize with Mitch Wagner’s sentiments. However, I agree with Pathfinder. Facebook and Twitter are, indeed, like pamphlets. You flip through them very quickly, look at the pictures and put them in the little basket near your easy chair. Virtual Worlds require your attention and, as Mitch suggests, popping in for a few minutes just doesn’t work. Virtual worlds are like going to a jazz concert…you’re a part of a community of jazz lovers and you must participate.

    I have solved this apparent dilemma by becoming part of a community of people/avatars who like the same things I do. When they aren’t there, I leave messages and they do the same. If I confined my interactions in SL to teaching my classes or doing my academic research, it would be a desolate place and I can see how I’d be like Mitch…going there less and less. But I know that there will be a live jazz concert somewhere in SL almost every day and there will be folks there like me who are there to hear some phenomenal music.

    Pathfinder…you are right on point that virtual worlds have already infiltrated (?) our real lives…and that this future is closer than we think. I can imagine a time when I’ll have a device that allows me to interact with my friends in Australia and not be bound by a teeny tiny iPhone screen or my desktop computer. I doubt that I’ll have anything to do with developing it, but I’m sure looking forward to trying it out!

  6. Having been a theatrical stage manager in another incarnation, this metaphor resounds strongly for me. To enjoy theatre (or live music), one must actively CHOOSE to – whether as audience, cast or crew.

    The digital age has allowed performers and crew to work asynchronously – and audiences to share the performance – in real-time or time-shifted but it is not something you do (well) when standing in line at the grocery.

    The big picture/story changes for those who choose to engage. Yes – it’s beyond the comfort zone of many “walled gardens” but step-by-step there is hope…

    (oops – was that a beeper telling me to call into an office and step off the soapbox?)

  7. Pingback: Why Virtual Worlds (like Second Life) Have More Value Then Twitter & Facebook | Sand Castle Studios

  8. Revised version follows
    Path,
    Strangely I don’t agree with either Mitch or you. I think you are both missing the point as are those who are into Kinect or Wii solutions or even 3D glasses or other peripherals perhaps such as Stroker Serpentine’s haptic suits.
    Possibly Time, the magazine, almost got it right on last week’s cover with the picture of a human with a canula in the back of his neck… but not quite. He or she still had the umbilical cord connection back to the computer. That will go.
    And augmented reality (labelling), although it has its uses, is also for the birds. How many of us today tour an art gallery/museum with the gallery supplied playback device and earplug or enjoy watching a movie with a running commentary/review in our ear – not many. We do, however, as tourists, read guidebooks like the Lonely Planet but only vidiots exclude the real world by placing them between ourselves and the experience.
    Virtual worlds, in their limited fashion, work now, but depend very much on the suspension of disbelief and the immersibility (which can be acquired) of the virtual traveller (ever been in love in a virtual world?). They are also limited by the necessity of using keyboards, headsets, and screen displays, and the lack of engagement of all senses – but no more so than a tourist experiences watching the world go by through the windows of an air-conditioned bus or car. In fact, the experience without engagement – even the shared experience – can be much the same as the bus tour. And I dare say that sometimes (as the hitchhiker, as opposed to the bus traveller, out in the environment and weather experiences the world) the difficulties of stepping out of the “bus” into full immersibility in a virtual world (when one forgets the keyboard, the screen, and the headset and “lives” within the virtual world) can create problems of both a software, hardware and emotional nature, which are not just limited to screen “crashes” and “freezing.”
    Given recent developments in headset technology for gaming (the helmets are still primitive, and the nature of the feedback can probably be viewed as psychologically dangerous) I believe that we are on the cusp of experiencing virtual worlds not through having to move about physically (Kinect or Wii) or tap keys but through direct brain connection.
    This will be more like “lucid dreaming” where you will be able to feel the wind in your mind and your hair, smell the roses, and feel the road beneath your feet, while say, lying in a bed, or reclining in a couch. You will really experience it in your mind as one does under hypnosis. And you will be able to share these dreams and emotions with others across time and space in worlds created by others (or yourself) believing while you are connected (by wireless or?) that you are really there.
    One also will be able to walk through that park you talk about Path, but it might not be real or then again it might be and it wont need labels because you will know the dew on the grass is making your feet wet.
    As alluded to in the film Inception the creation of the shared architecture in these worlds will be interesting.
    But as Kurzweil forecast in his 2005 timeline we are very close to the time when we will not be able to distinguish between reality and this virtual reality when we are fully immersed.
    Then you will not need to create transmedia stories. You will be immersed in your own dramas, and they will be as boring or as exciting as you choose. But then again for those like Mitch – and the teenagers who always have nothing to do in their hometowns – perhaps the stories will have to be created for them.
    But the real beneficiaries of lucid dreaming will be those who have imagination, nerve and interpersonal communication skills in both real life and virtual life: they will not get bored as they don’t get bored in real life now – and they will also be the creators of the stories through their interactions (good or bad, love or hate) as they are in Second Life even today.
    For the Mitch Wagners of this world, I believe, virtual life will still offer them as little as real life does now – it will just remain a medium where they will expect the entertainment/drugs, the stories, to be provided by others for better or worse.
    And they will remain armchair critics.

  9. I can totally relate to what Mitch is saying – it’s my experience too – but I think John is right with augmented reality.
    I’ve been particularly struck with how we didn’t anticipate the coming of large screen mobile phones as ‘windows on the digital universe’. Before all the the alternative reality stuff seemed to be focused on head-mounted units with HUDs, but no one seemed to foresee things like wikitude or layar (or google earth for that matter) on mobile phones.
    With those things and OpenSim everything is in place to ‘dissolve the interface for virtual worlds into our daily perception of life’ as John puts it.
    Charles Stross with ‘Halting State’ doesn’t seem to be far off the mark!

  10. Loving the discussion here.

    I see eyeglass-mounted VR as certainly possibly, but not inevitable.

    What seems far more likely to me are cheap, big displays. I’m already looking at a 27″ computer display, and a 52″ television is considered modest in size. What happens when your entire wall is a computer display, all of your walls? You’d have at-home telepresence. You could sit and visit with your friends thousands of miles away, like Isaac Asimov’s “The Naked Sun.” That’s just the beginning.

    • Never underestimate the power of cheap, big displays. I totally agree. I think we’ll see ubiquitous tech like that long before augmented reality glasses are commonplace.

      Just the other day I noticed how all the billboards along a stretch of highway here in Boston have been replaced by giant video screens. It’s fascinating how things like this slowly creep into the commonplace. I think we’re already halfway there to the idea of “computer display walls” in our homes.

  11. I don’t see that vision of augmented reality as a good endgame because I think it misses perhaps the key strength of virtual worlds like Second Life and OpenSim — the ability to create the environment around you collaboratively. I can’t picture how you build a beautiful shared immersive space if it’s based on just an enhanced version of what you already see around you. I must be missing something.

    • It’s not just about enhancing or simply embellishing the physical world around us, although that’s definitely a big part of the current affordances of augmented reality. I think it’s also about *extending* reality.

      Imagine being able to call up a space that you see through a blank physical wall. A fully virtual space within which you see avatars and can interact with them. You could collaborate with them on cooperatively building something virtual, too.

      Enhancing, augmenting, and extending reality. That’s how I see the future of virtual worlds.

  12. I think a big part of the dichotomy here is that in order to enjoy a virtual world, you have to be jacked in. That is, you must tune out the actual world in favor of the virtual one, and while the virtual can be rich and meaningful, the actual still needs you.

    This idea that you can throw a lasso around augmented reality and say it’s also a virtual world is a little too much. Virtual worlds are immersive, augmented reality is augmentative. You could, for instance, put Second Life name bubbles over people’s heads when viewed through your iPhone screen, but that wouldn’t make it Second Life.

    VW like Second Life and OpenSimulator are a platform for… something. I think of them as being similar in position to usenet. People who understand what it can give them will stick around, but people who don’t will be thrown off by the rough edges. At some point in the future, however, you’ll spin up a VW on your computer just like you spin up file sharing now. You’ll have a little playground on your laptop. Someone could hop around and visit you on your own little island. But not everyone will, because it’s really not something everyone’s into.

  13. I loved the post and the one that inspired it, but I fear that I side with Mitch Wagner here.

    New technologies would help everyone enjoy these spaces, but we need to make the path to immersion very easy, John. Very easy. Here I’m speaking for the age cohort I teach. For other demographics, it will be different. But the Millennial Generation is important, economically. So I often ask them what they’d like to see.

    “Easy” rules the roost: as easy as sending a text and using hardware no more bulky than something that fits into a pocket. Each layer of difficulty will repel them; they are an impatient crew. So, “fast,” too. I’ll finish the familiar trinity with “fun.” Millennials will, thank God, do things that are not so fun if they are motivated. We all admit that we’d rather be sleeping at 9am. But we go to class together. They find their fun, however, from augmentation or casual immersion.

    My students would also disagree with your portrayal of FB as for “managing weak social ties.” They report that yes, many of their FB friends are only acquaintances, but they also keep up with dear friends and relatives with social media.

    The Millennials–naively so, I believe–keep telling me that they value real-life transparency that virtual worlds don’t offer. Immersive games to them are different: they are escapist and it’s okay to be a Mario or a dragon or a zombie-killer. But I suspect that your mixed-reality glasses would repel them. A “dock the phone in a holodeck room to have some fun” might not.

    And of course, we don’t know what the youngest Millennials will be like. Will they give up Habbo and Club Penguin for Facebook, in their teens? Or will they continue to want immersion?

    A lot of corporate profit hinges on the answers to those questions.

    I’ll close with my neo-luddite’s and Peak-Oiler’s reaction to augmented reality, but I’m in the minority among the techno-utopians who tend to use virtual worlds. I actually suspect that the transhumanist dreams will hit a wall as the world’s supply of crude oil begins to fall behind demand, and our great dreams of new sources of energy fall short of what we’d hope. And we’ll be spending time, energy, and, increasingly, blood mitigating and adapting to rapid climate change.

    It would be good to be wrong about this, but evidence suggests that economic sadness and retraction lie ahead of us, as a global economy built upon consumerism morphs into one of needs met locally. We already have a global food crisis that no advanced technology seems to be able to quite address. Our fiddling with GM foods may only create super-weeds and enrich Monsanto. Soils all over the planet are failing because Borlaug’s “Green Revolution” is failing. As an organic gardener, I’ve seen what more chemicals (many derived from or produced with fossil fuels) do to topsoil: we grow a lot of food, for a while. Then soil chemistry bites back.

    In the future, we’ll use our toys and our tools to entertain and mitigate the worst problems, but I don’t think the “desert of the real” will ever recede behind a pair of glasses. Sure, with my wife’s forthcoming iPhone we’ll check the weather and get directions. But The Singularity? It’s the current version of the space-cities NASA promised right up to 1969. I recall how that seemed so likely, as rockets were scaling up to the mighty and, truth be told, beautiful Saturn V with almost the impetus that Moore’s Law now brings to microprocessors.

    Our earlier technotopian dreams were shattered by events beyond our control. Energy shortages and new resource wars will, I fear, do to the transhuman movement what energy crises and economic malaise did to NASA in the 7os.

    Anyhow, even if I’m wrong about future restraints from external problems, I’ll remain a holdout, given my philosophical objection to overlaying the virtual on the real too heavily. I might go so far as to take an smart-phone app with me when I am working on my garden (or I may just go consult one of my books in the study or on the porch). But glasses with overlays? I’m with my class, there.

    • You said: “My students would also disagree with your portrayal of FB as for “managing weak social ties.” They report that yes, many of their FB friends are only acquaintances, but they also keep up with dear friends and relatives with social media.”

      Very true. But I’d argue that the vast majority of their use of FB is with weak social ties, and that most of their communication with strong social ties is of the “maintenance” type (checking in to see what Dad is doing, seeing new pics of sister’s kids, etc.).

      And to be clear, I’m not using “weak social ties” pejoratively. It’s just a type of social network defined by sociologists when classifying interpersonal ties.

  14. Trying to imagine the real world augmented with a virtual world is difficult, but Charles Stross has done a very good job in his book ‘Halting State’ – if you’re interested in getting your head round this idea I can’t recommend it enough.

    I think there are two angles to this – one is whether you create a whole new physical environment (or borrow the one you’re in) for your virtual experience – the other is whether the augmentation is social, that is, you interact with people playing a role/character or even interact with computer generated NPCs (non-player characters).

    In many ways ARGs are already offering a vision of the alternate social reality that could be. As for borrowing the physical landscape … imagine using sketchup to populate an alternate building layer in GoogleEarth then imagine being able to view that layer superimposed over the real world through your mobile device (no need for glasses). It could be a historical version of a town on a history field trip, or a planners vision of what the future might look like …. or you could create a mythical version and even add game play.

    I know it’s hard to imagine, but this might help http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUOHfVXkUaI

    • That “Roku’s Reward” video is outstanding. I’m going to embed it in my blog post so folks definitely see it. Thank you for posting it!

      Stross’ vision in “Halting State” is a great example. I love his work.

      I also highly recommend “Daemon” and “Freedom(tm)” by Daniel Suarez. The power of Augmented Reality really kicks in by the end of the second book. Suarez’s storyline starts out as very dystopic, but I really like how things resolve by the end of “Freedom(tm).”

      • Cool – I’ll check those out. :-)

        I was also thinking about Millennials’ engagement with tech and their tech literacy. While they may be building webpages left right and center I doubt many of them know anything about html. I think that when the tech savviness of Millennials is celebrated this is something that is often forgotten. It was only when the likes of myspace and bebo came along and allowed webpage construction via tick box and radio button that ‘everyone’ had access to a web-presence, but not necessarily the equivalent skills.

        I think this is one of SL’s & VW’s biggest problems for wide scale adoption at the moment. However, outside the VW movement I think something parallel is going on with GE & sketchup. It is incredibly easy to use (certainly in comparison to SL) and I can imagine a day not far off when kids will take the time to build (or download from a repository) a castle or space ship or whatever to plonk in GE where their house is, just for the delight of out doing each other as to who ‘lives in’ the coolest house on the street – as viewed through an alternative ‘street view’ layer on their phones.

        In my view SL or VWs just doesn’t seem relevant or meaningful to many people (maybe it’s actually their dislocated nature), but augmenting reality can be personally meaningful, immediate and social in a way that VWs aren’t.

  15. The more I think of your comments and Mitch’s about portable devices and virtual worlds I think everyone is missing the point of devices and their possiblities. Portable (hand size) devices are designed to live on batteries and be small so by definition they are not designed for imersion. Immersion needs lots of resolution in your face and done well needs healthy computing power with always takes more battery power.

    Everyone wants virtual collective environments moved to hand held devices but never think really of what they are asking. We have already seen that in order to use cloud servers and stream the content to a device client takes more bandwith than any cellphone carrier is willing to let us have.

    The only way I see VWs on portables every being a real thing is if we get Glasses we can use as displays (high res displays that offer real immersion) and a new method is come up with for connectivity. Speed of the handhelds is being addressed and will be fast enough in a few years.

    There is a good reason why you only see Facebook/Twitter web apps on handhelds. Its what they can handle. Its not a matter of programming, its a matter of good enough handhelds.

    • Good point about power consumption.

      At the same time, we often forget how much battery technology has advanced in just the past few years. And the tech continues to improve.

      Not too long ago, our mobile devices were mostly giant batteries we lugged around with a small bit of technology added to them.

      Case in point:

    • I’m not convinced by the long running argument for higher resolution for higher immersion.

      We developed a simulation that was delivered by SMS and the participants experienced a degree of immersion that can’t be accounted for by resolution.

      What seemed to be more important was emotional engagement – this has been found in other studies too Immersion and Emotion: Their Impact on the Sense of Presence.

      I think people engage with things that are meaningful to them rather than visually realistic … after all video games would never have taken off otherwise.

  16. These youtube clips are pretty thought provoking and mind bending too:

    This one reminds me of a scene from Halting State
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJItdmumxYY

    These two are a bit ‘Minority Report’
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSfKlCmYcLc
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TL80ScTLlM

    But you can see aspects of this coming soon in tech like ‘Sixth Sense’
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzKmGTVmqJs

    And finally this is a nice example of what could be done with a video wall
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig2RSID-kn8

  17. Pingback: Augmented / Reality : Three Guides In Byzantium

  18. The problem with Mitch’s post is that he has one paragraph that is out of place:

    “But I think Second Life, and virtual worlds, may have gone as far as they can go, that maybe the whole avatar-in-an-imaginary landscape metaphor is the wrong metaphor to best achieve the benefits that Second Life provides, just as Usenet was the wrong metaphor for mass adoption of online discussions, and blogs turned out to be the right one. ”

    The rest of the blog post has to do with ease-of-use, accessibility, and collaboration with other media. But the whole “Hey, this all may be wrong” is just plain sour grapes. It has nothing to do with the rest of the issues. He makes no specific connection between his conclusion and his premises, and he makes no additional arguments to independently support his conclusion.

  19. You disagreed with Mitch’s premise but then stated the same in your conclusion:

    “Lightweight social media platforms are like magazines. Virtual Worlds are like participatory theater.”

    Magazines are far more mainstream that participatory theatre.

    Virtual worlds are great for some uses and certainly can be far richer, but like participatory theatre, they are niche and even this form of theatre has more spectators than participants.

    There will likely always be creators and consumers and the latter will always outnumber the former.

    • Hiya Ener! The primary thing I disagreed with was the idea that the metaphor of Virtual Worlds is the “wrong metaphor.” I believe the metaphor can be refined a great deal, and with augmented reality I believe the metaphor can be collapsed with the physical world.

      Participatory Theater is definitely a niche endeavor, compared to magazines. But, as I said, the trick is to make participatory theater very easy to “jump into.” And that’s where the future of augmented reality comes into play. With ubiquitous access to virtual environments that extend and augment one’s perception of the physical world, you can be part of a participatory theater experience *all the time.* :)

    • “Magazines are far more mainstream that participatory theatre.”

      The way I see it, magazines have been closing down and losing subscribers, while things like Rock Band, Minecraft, flash mobs, and revolutions in countries have become quite popular. And if the latter set are not examples of modern participatory theater, I don’t know what is.

  20. Agreed, Ener. My overly long original reply (blame my weekly dip into Jim Kunstler’s Podcast) might have just said this: VWs are great for immersive simulations. I don’t need an avatar to watch a video online. And I sure don’t want Path’s magic glasses :)

    For some simulations, you will need avatars-in-a-landscape. For others, no. SL tends to privilege the former.

    • Imagine wearing magic glasses. Forgetting they are even on your face (as current eyeglass wearers do).

      You want to watch a video. No need to walk over to a computer or pull a handheld device out of your pocket.

      You just *see* it. Right there, floating in front of you in a virtual screen.

      C’mon. You know you want it. ;)

      • John, what I want is to wave my hand and a holo-screen slips down from nowhere. It’s not really immersion I mind, it’s the rig I’d have to wear. I don’t even like my bifocals…yet I do wear them to use a computer or to read a book. In a couple of years, after Lasik on my right eye, no more goggles :)

        Anyway, it’s the concept of “overlay all the time” that makes me fret…I can see using a holodeck to leave quotidian reality behind, for fun. I sorta did that the other night, going to a theater (2D) to see the magnificent The King’s Speech. Except for some lunkhead who took a phone call on his smart phone, I felt that I was in the 1930s.

        I’m just leery of the effects of having a display in one corner of my vision as I go hiking or biking or gardening. Could I leave the glasses at home? Sure…unless M.T. Anderson’s YA novel Feed is a good predictor of what a merged world might be like.

        Do you think your rig would be any different from the Bluetooth ear-phones that seem to have about zero uptake by college students?

  21. Pingback: Fascinating Dialog About the Future of Virtual Worlds from User’s Perspectives | Virtual Navigator

  22. Path,
    I shouldn’t probably mention this but the closest I’ve ever got to “total immersion” in a virtual world – albeit in my own mind, but the experience was shared – was during the days when hallucinogenics (LSD aka acid, psilocibin, and mescalin) were in vogue.
    With those drugs… for better or worse … one could experience “a separate reality” and a “reality” which one could believe one was interacting with as one does in “lucid dreaming”.
    I was fortunate all my experiences were positive, although the same cannot be said for others who attempted to combine the virtuality of the hallucinogenics with reality. In those drug-induced, music-driven states a kiss from a princess was really a kiss from a princess not something on a screen, a cowboy bar really that.
    In a similar fashion the fabled pleasure palace of Xanadu, imagined by Coleridge in his opium-induced dreams, would have been just as real to him as this real world we live in.
    I am not suggesting that we go back to drugs or Huxley’s “soma” – “…there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East..” – to experience the “separate reality” of virtual worlds but I believe the technology we are moving towards will allow us to experience exactly the same – allow us to “live in ” or “escape to” a world (loop) of our choosing or even our own creation, just as Charles Yu’s mother does in the novel “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” without the interface getting in the way.
    The augmented reality interfaces, the Kinects, Wiis, the haptic suits, the augmented reality machines are just a dead end.
    The virtual world as envisaged by Phillip Rosedale is a beginning but only that: Just a toe in the water. We probably take the next step into deeper water at our peril, but I for one am willing to take it.

  23. Pingback: A bit of a virtual world conundrum « Through stories

  24. Pingback: Augmented Cities and Dreaming Wisely | Be Cunning and Full of Tricks

  25. Unfortunately, the rrveese journey does not seem possible. I was not able to TP from Gateway 1 to Jokadia. I got an unable to verify avatar error message. Either something is not set up right there or you don’t want riff-raff from the higher regions(OSGrid) visiting

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