The Future will be Connected: Maps and the Metaverse

From the movie Time Bandits:

You see, to be quite frank, the fabric of the universe is far from perfect. It was a bit of botched job, you see. We only had seven days to make it.

And that’s where this comes in. This is the only map of all the holes. Well, why repair them? Why not use them to get stinking rich?

Or, you could use them to build a foundation for the future of Virtual Worlds.

Time Bandits is one of my favorite movies.  It’s a dark comedy full of rich visuals and memorable characters.  But my favorite concept from the movie is “The Map.”

The Map shows the locations of spacetime portals in the Universe.  By accessing these portals, you can travel instantly to other locations in time and space.  In the movie these portals are often found in weird locations, and the characters use them to explore and collect treasures from exotic places.

The idea of owning such a map is compelling.  I remember first watching the movie as a kid and getting a tingly feeling when I imagined the ability to travel the Universe like that.

And I got that same tingly feeling again when I recently started exploring the Hypergrid on OpenSim.

From the wiki on :

The hypergrid is an extension to opensim that allows you to link your opensim to other opensims on the internet, and that supports seamless agent transfers among those opensims.

The basic idea for the hypergrid is that region/grid administrations can place hyperlinks on their map to hypergrided regions run by others. Once those hyperlinks are established, users interact with those regions in exactly the same way as they interact with local regions. Specifically, users can choose to teleport there. Once the user reaches the region behind the hyperlink, she is automatically interacting with a different virtual world without having to logout from the world where she came from, and while still having access to her inventory.

Hypergrid technology has existed for only about a year.  But in that short time, it has evolved very quickly.

Maria Korolov from HypergridBusiness has created a whole directory of Hypergrid destinations called Hyperica.  You can use the directory to find Hypergrid teleport addresses between almost a hundred different OpenSim grids running around the world.


An inworld HyperGate


There’s also a Hypergrid Teleport Network system called The HyperGates.  Just rez a HyperGate object on your land and it will automatically connect to the HyperGate network, allowing visitors to click on the gate inworld and immediately begin exploring a wide range of locations on different OpenSim grids.

All of this is an evolving technology.  As such, sometimes thing simply don’t work.  But in my experience over the past few days, things work much more often than not.  Maria has also written a very helpful guide on How to Hypergrid for beginners.

I recently set up my own OpenSim region on jokaydiaGrid.  I named it “Pathlandia,” and one of the first things I did was rez a HyperGate and start exploring. Over the course of a few hours, I found myself jumping between different OpenSim grids, exploring strange new lands and finding lots of fun freebie items.

I felt like a kid again.  That same kid who fantasized about having a copy of The Map from Time Bandits.  When I finally returned to Pathlandia, I rezzed all my freebies on my own land and sat dumbfounded under a tree.

It’s one thing to theoretically understand the concept of a network of virtual worlds and the ability to carry your identity and inventory between them. It’s a completely different thing to actually do it.

Now, more than ever, I am convinced that the cornerstone of the future Metaverse will involve such connectivity.  Walled gardens will become stagnant tidal pools.  Interconnected gardens will flourish.  New Maps to discover and travel these locations will be the tools that tie it all together.

And the speed with which technology like OpenSim and Hypergrid is advancing along these lines is, in a single word, breathtaking.

Oh, in case you’re wondering who invented the whole Hypergrid technology, it was a someone named Crista Lopes (aka Diva Canto).

Professor Crista Lopes.

A pioneering academic and educator.

She’s an Associate Professor in the Department of Information at the University of California, Irvine.  And before that, she was a research scientist at a little place you might have heard of called Xerox PARC.

Crista is also an OpenSim core developer, and the main person behind the diva distribution of OpenSim that I recently used in my USB key project.

Educators and academics today are closely re-examining their strategies for using virtual worlds.  Large numbers of them are turning their attention for the first time to technologies like OpenSim, exploring its new affordances and quickly organizing in groups to coordinate their work.

I wonder what they’ll come up with next?

Whatever it is, I suspect it will be very clever.

And full of Maps.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester


Standing on my Viking ship in Pathlandia on jokaydiaGRID (photo by jokay Wollongong)


16 thoughts on “The Future will be Connected: Maps and the Metaverse

  1. I agree with Hyper grids however my main consern is that all policies for such system could allow content to be stolen and transfered from one grid to the next without anyone knowing.

    • Each grid owner sets their own policies. And content creators can set the permissions rights as usual on their items however they wish (free, copyable, no-copy etc.). As I was traveling to different grids, I noticed how some wouldn’t allow me to transfer any content I obtained from the grid to a different grid. On others, I could acquire freebie items and keep them with me in my inventory wherever I went.

      There are definitely challenges ahead in terms of setting up a trustworthy “universal currency” across these different grids, and making sure content creators can adequately protect their work and create viable businesses.

      But this all reminds me of the early days of the web, when many folks would exclaim “Online businesses will never work. Websites will never be trusted enough to keep credit card information safe. No one will be able to make a living if they put their stuff up on the Web.”

      Nature finds a way.

  2. This is what we have been waiting for. Some peeps I worked with developed inter-MOO protocols years back which allowed for just this, and ever since I started looking at SL, I’ve been waiting for HyperGrid. I can keep my SL sims for general public and now have our own grid for the heavy lifting in our lab. Great stuff. I’m happy you’re doing this now, so I can follow along 2 steps behind.

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  4. Something like the hypergrid is most likely the way to go in the future. Compared with it SL (and other grids like Blue Mars too) is closed up, but I think that if the hypergrid grows big enough it’s weight will drive the others to find ways to interconnect with it and the size of the market will create the possibility for profits that are bigger then the risks through theft. Now of course there are many things to be done along the way (including standarts to allow interoperability) but the bigger the hypergrid becomes the bigger the gravitation effect will become that will pull other worlds towards it.
    And I would love to see all virtual spaces to gain the possibility to share and interconnect.

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  8. imo, OpenSim will become something that we simply have on our own domains. like we have for Enclave Harbour, our server for also hosts our OpenSim server software no differently than it houses PHP, or WordPress, or video or anything else you do with a domain name and server

    things like Reaction Grid are not easily scalable (as mentioned to me by their CTO) but their “private grids” are more scalable

    to me, being part of any “grid” is a bit like having a geocities website or a ning network. it’s not really “yours”. having your own server is much closer to it being yours (although, none of it truly is yours, not even a registered domain name)

    being able to have an alternative to the walled garden of Second Life is great but only a step toward what “could be”. being fully on your own box is as close to freedom as we have now and hypergridding is analogous to HTTP in that case

  9. oh a note on trustworthy currency – my opinion is to use those things in place that are very solid, such as PayPal’s microtransactions

    yes, they don’t necessarily allow anonymity but i don’t have an issue with that in virtual worlds (even though i very much am only my avatar identity in-world)

    our DreamWalker has scripted a PayPal vendor that delivers your goods to you in-world when you pay – the same as does buying something in Second Life with Lindens – but it uses real money with the real protection afforded by someone like PayPal

    and if you think PauPal micropayments are not feasible for very small amounts, then maybe reevaluate the value of your talent! -)

    my virtual two cents . . .

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