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II. Foresight - Part A (13 pages)

5. Vision Statements
6. Plans and Studies
7. Cycles
8. Trends and Extrapolations

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Inputs were solicited in four topic areas: I. Industry Conditions, II. Forecasts, III. Issues and Questions, and IV. Problems and Indicators. These were divided into nineteen categories, from History to Progress Indicators. Each was also considered in three subcategories: A. Technology and Science, B. Business and Economics, or C. Social, Legal and Other domains. This is an adaptation of the Foresight Framework Model of Dr. Peter Bishop, chair of the Futures Studies masters program at the University of Houston.

Foresight frameworks call forth a broad set of future-relevant information, but do not fully address any category. For each input, category and subcategory assignments are arbitrary and arguable. Some contradict each other due to controversy, uncertainty, and the breadth of community perspective. Some original quotes remain, but most have been edited and interpreted by ASF staff in subsequent research. We apologize for any mistakes or misrepresentations, and hope you enjoy this rich source of community insight relevant to the future of the 3D-enabled web.

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5. Vision Statements. Concise visions for the promise of the 3D web.

5A. Vision Statements - Technology and Science

• The world wide web is a global read-write information space for digital resources, using hypertext, resource identifiers, resources, client-server computing, and a markup language to specify information structure and semantic meaning. Most simply metaverse development involves the addition of more read-write 3D graphical environments to the web, more unique sensor and effector resources to interface the 3D-enhanced web to our 3D geospatial world, and more ways for web users to generate, experience, and give feedback on this virtual and geospatial content.
• The metaverse is the next incarnation of the internet and the opening of a new informational dimension to physical space. It is a permanent new space that incorporates all previous informational dimensions (text, etc.) of physical space and goes increasingly beyond it, an immense reservoir of information that is constantly being updated, a platform for easy and intimate contact with others, a place whose future is very bright and hard to predict in its specifics, but less so in its general trends.
• Metaverse browser. We need a tool that allows us to do all our 3D access through one piece of software. Open standards will be particularly important for this, enabling avatars and other information to pass seamlessly between virtual world platforms running a broad range of proprietary hardware and software. Maybe Firefox 3.0?
• Metaverse operating system. 10 years from now our laptops should have a metaverse operating system [47] with enough power, virtualization, and modular plug ins to run WoW in an SL-style window. The leading platform probably won't come from Microsoft, it will likely come from a startup and be bought by Google. As a communication platform, the metaverse OS should be mass adopted very quickly, even faster than the web. 90% of households in 2016 should have at least one member, usually a child, using a virtual space. The metaverse OS may have a basic content development platform, but most importantly it should play well with the better content development systems of others. It might be developed open source, but that seems unlikely. There seems to be a first mover advantage to its development. Summit quote: "Microsoft historically has waited and then bought into markets. MS is risk averse, enters late (as a second mover) and then either pulls it off or not. That strategy very often works but hasn't succeeded where there are first mover advantages, as with Google."
• An open source metaverse. The development of an open source metaverse is one way we might see interoperability emerge. There is an attractive vision where the metaverse becomes as useful as the traditional web, by virtue of being an open platform on which people can share and create things, and navigation schemes that help you find worlds that are both parallel and orthogonal to your interests. As part of this vision we'd like "travatars," avatars that can travel between interoperable virtual worlds, a term coined by Katrina Glerum. But between here and that vision are a number of fundamental questions and obstacles.
• We don’t necessarily want continuity in our multiplicity of 3D worlds. What is most important are recommendation technologies that give us access to the right worlds at the appropriate times. Most individual worlds may be arranged by interest, not according to physical geographies. However, our most frequently used worlds will probably be geographically co-located.
Standards will be created which enable avatars and other information to pass seamlessly between virtual world platforms running a broad range of proprietary hardware and software. Just as the web is platform agnostic, a diverse population of end user systems on a variety of "metaverse browsers" will interact with the same information in virtual worlds. Functionality will depend on plug-in type as well as multiple flavors of "metaverse enabled" browsers, developed from all angles (ie: open source, corporate, nonprofit) just as we see open source web browsers, proprietary corporate browsers and free commercial offerings.
• Syndication may solve our interoperability problems, stepwise. In 10 years, virtual worlds should be deeply syndicated, with cross-sharing of limited graphical structures and content that provides some interoperability of avatars and common identity, but without a unified framework. There will be no unique identities, no single identities but there should be extensive syndication that allows increasing cross referencing and information exchange. This solution would continue the current consumer demand for disposable identities for different situations and contexts, and the work of the Higgins Trust Framework Project on identity persistence and interplatform reputation tracking.

• The world will be the metaverse. People often think of Stephenson’s metaverse as an “other” place, and the web as a window onto cyberspace, but as Paul Saffo and Mike Liebhold of Institute for the Future note, the best model for the metaverse of 2016 may be an information-drenched world, where the 3D web is just one particular instantiation. Mixed reality is likely to be the dominant user experience. You will use virtual worlds when they are an appropriate mode of interaction, but they are not your primary mode of communication – you have your chat, your email, your augmented reality, your 2D and 3D browser, etc. While people will continue to use online spaces and media centers for particularly high quality 3D content, the pervasiveness of information access and augmented reality will give world itself new layers of “metaverse-itivity.” The ubiquity of small, portable Sidekick-like and wearable devices will enable immediate access. Voice will be used for many basic queries, but text, even IM text, is private and unobtrusive, so it will not disappear.

• Our web connected devices are moving from dumb terminals to smart nodes on both local and global networks, generating their own content and serving their own local virtual communities. In a network society, the individual is increasingly empowered relative to the top nodes.

• Privacy law will be an increasingly important area of political and legal debate in the coming decade, where personal freedoms must be balanced with law enforcement and national security need to keep electronic communities transparent. As usual most of our legal and policy innovations will be reactionary, in response to new invasive technologies, security calamities, or landmark court decisions. See Spying with Maps: Surveillance Technologies and the Future of Privacy, Mark Monmonier, 2004 [51], for more on the invasive technologies ahead, which can be exploited more readily by hackers and corporations than the government, if history is precedent. Building immunity and respecting civil liberties in the metaverse will be a great challenge, but one we can meet.

• In 10 years, mobile handheld devices will bring us a billion new global users of the web, and significantly more 3D microcontent. As usual, some will use the web for entertainment and some will use it for work. Virtual worlds will be terrific game spaces, good places for instruction, and moderately useful for collaboration, but less pervasive than many think.

• In 2016, a handful of early adopters of wearable (most) and implantable (few) sensors [52] will be physiologically connected to the web, but this will be small scale and most implant work may not occur in the U.S. One can forsee research devices (cochlear implants, “brain ports” for spinal cord injury patients, etc.) that can send wireless telemetry, even update their software and hardware (FPGA) remotely. A few implantable sensors may be in use by pioneers, such as an implant that reports out your day-by-day biochemistry, perhaps even to a refrigerator, which in turn can make a custom electrolyte and vitamin mix, a customized diet that will be proven to extend vitality and longevity (in mice). We can imagine an implant that reminds you to exercise when your stress hormones rise, even suggests how long, and that talks with your wearable GPS/heart monitor. Implants in addiction medicine (alchohol, drug, obesity, etc.) that monitor blood levels and provide nausea after the inappropriate behavior to condition behavior change are another fascinating frontier for behavioral science research (again, unlikely to be seen first in litigious developed countries). It follows that if FDA approval for use of many such pioneering implantable internet interface devices is very unlikely to occur by 2016, early adopters of any such devices will be overseas or a handful of law-breakers here. And with regard to implants vs. wearables, even beyond 2016 the large majority of implant proposals are unlikely to make sense for experimentation beyond the laboratory, as their benefit is generally quite marginal relative to cost. In the long run, given broad stigmas against modifying the individual by invasive implants, and the ease with which we can modify our physical and virtual environment instead, humans are far more likely to be augmented by wearable devices and by adding "situational intelligence" around us than by adding hardware inside our body. For example, biometric interfaces for identity verification, security, etc. (eg., automatic identification by face, in a crowd) will develop far faster and see much greater global diffusion than implant technology in the foreseeable future, regardless of science fiction scripts. As the saying goes, "human nature doesn't change, but our houses [surroundings] get exponentially more intelligent every year."

 
 

5B. Vision Statements - Business and Economics

• A unified metaverse may never occur. Googleverse won't be a dominant world in the 2016 time frame. For the time being we can expect more boom and bust, and falling profit margins for virtual worlds. Increasing failure of the centralized content development and centralized distribution model. A "balkanization" of virtual world space, with a few common standards and a wide variety of creation platforms, the way websites are made today. The ubiquity and availability of creation tools will provide so much new content that specialty producers and value adders will gain new power and audience. In this "thousand flowers/long tail" environment (Chris Anderson, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, 2006 [50]), small producers will advance relative to the top companies. A new set of big companies that are successful aggregators will also emerge. Recall the diversity of DVD titles (40K of the 60K total inventory) that are rented on any particular day by the five million customers of Netflix, a current leading 3D content aggregator, in 2006. A significant minority of the population will be very interested in unique video and virtual world content personalized to their communities of interest. There will be some shared things – identities through syndication tools (RSS model) bridging a gap between environments. Larger commercial VR games will continue; existing VR worlds will be more about the infrastructure than the content provider. Companies providing content experiences will have turned to user-created content more than programmer-created stuff. Virtual worlds will continue to have differing currencies, so there will be a banking industry to help convert currencies. As liability law develops, at least one major VW operator will move operation overseas to dodge regulation. Bigger operators will tighten identity authentication and consequences for violating EULAs.

• 3D virtual office spaces will finally make sense by 2016. Ten years on, today's prototype virtual offices, like Microsoft Groove Virtual Office 2007, will be further along in living up to the 3D implications of their name. We want to take our computing machines beyond the cartoon 2D desktops of today, to the full paradigm of the virtual office. We aren’t expecting that people will spend a lot of time in the 3D space, except for specialized functions, like social collaboration in virtual meetings. In most cases, users will be sitting at their mostly 2D desks within the 3D space, for the same efficiency reasons that we find the 2D keyboard as our most efficient interface for applications software. But all the 3D advantages we have in physical space for intuitively arranging our mostly 2D workspaces (desktops, bookshelves, wall space, etc.) will exist in the virtual office and be used occasionally, with no overhead.
• The merger of telephony, IM and virtual worlds seems particularly likely. Avatar-based chatsites like IMVU are great for creative and entertainment purposes in the youth demographic. With regard to future productivity apps, one can immagine any realtime conversation being enhanced by the participants having the ability to watch an auto-generated "meme show" in the background. Meme shows would be visual information with some relevance to the topics of the conversation at hand, and much of that would work well in 3D. Some 3D chat users might want their conversations to be publicly accessible and browsable in realtime, giving friends or even the general public the ability to drop in add their chat to the conversation. The conversants might all see the same common space, and each user might have a portion of this public space they could control themselves.
• The PDA/cell phone hybrid will be the primary metaverse portal of 2016. This will involve a lot of absorbed people, and we'll see more state laws against driving while using a cell phone. Internet video and games will increasingly be an equal partner to TV and music industries. Windows Live will include a metaverse portal in 2016. The legacy media will still be strong, but they will only barely be the primary distribution channel, and they'll be getting more of their content from online aggregators. Digital content, including celebrity news, will increasingly appear first in the metaverse. MySpace launches new musicians today. In 2016, everybody will be a destination who wants to be a destination. Though still simple, your avatar, constantly modding and redressing to fit your mood, or graphically displaying your current status (eating, sleeping, exercising, working, partying, moviegoing, etc.) to the world, will leverage that process in new and interesting ways

• One of the biggest places we will see the impact of virtual worlds is education. Educational software continues to improve. The JumpStart programs of Knowledge Adventure are an excellent and affordable start on using 3D games for education. Second Life has a number of small scale educational projects [53] underway in world. There are a number of small independents like Learning Sites (archeological visualizations for educational and research). Our current educational system is so bad, particularly primary and secondary, that youth will desire to move to this space any chance they get. There is great promise ahead, though the software must be tied to good pedagogy and assessment. Another huge advance will come when large numbers of kids know how to use 3D software, and to plug their creations into virtual worlds. Dassault's new Cosmic Blobs, a kid-friendly 3D animation software platform, is the first major tool for what we may come to call "youth-created content" for the metaverse.

• The need for an editorial role for all types of content will increase and diversify, moving from today's portal content editors, to social, community-based search and aggregation. The more participatory the web becomes, the more we need to be able to choose our favorite editors for content filtering. Some of these will even be paid by us, on a micropayments system.

• The more virtual our lives become, and the greater the strength of the virtual economy, the more creativity will be the only capital needed to start new information services in virtual space. We'll see many innovative funding ideas, such as community voting on whose virtual construction idea should get marginal funding, day to day. All this will be supported by a multi billion dollar global virtual economy growing at a rate several times faster than our physical one.
 
 

5C. Vision Statements - Social, Legal and Other

• Perhaps the highest goal in metaverse development is the creation of virtual worlds that have better rules of conduct and tools for value creation than the current physical world. A subgoal would be user support that would level the playing field for all the participants, making virtual worlds a truly democratizing technology, in a long line of such technologies, from the Singer sewing machine to the world wide web. This will be a challenge in the short run, as anonymity and lack of accountability in some virtual spaces occasionally breeds social dysfunction. Yet the greater possibility for reputation, group formation, and transparency in virtual worlds holds the promise for better systems of governance and empowerment than we see in physical space. We would like to see virtual worlds emerge that are widely regarded as being better governed than the best countries and corporations today. In the longer run, virtual spaces may display such enhanced "situational intelligence" over physical space, by sensing the user's context and reconfiguring local features to maximize user goals, that whole new levels and kinds of social collaboration, civic discourse, public participation and individual empowerment will emerge.
• Making virtual space disappear. Our top challenge, as Mark Weiser of PARC once noted, is to make virtual worlds technology so ubiquitous, intelligent, and well-interfaced to us that it “disappears," and the strangeness of using virtual spaces to augment our physical life eventually fades. We need to accelerate the progression from geek-populated MUDS to MMOs to EQ to WoW to a future of common public 3D spaces that all of us know and use to some degree. With luck we will no longer even think of these spaces as separate from us. It will be a far richer and faster world when metaverse us is as common as the telephone.
• The growth of the metaverse, once it reaches a critical threshold of features and usability, should follow the social adoption of the internet, only faster. With current global internet usage at roughly 1 billion, 10 years from now we could see 1.5 billion of us using various forms of a 3D enabled web, and perhaps a 300 million of us spending time in virtual worlds every month. By 10 years out, even the most Luddite news editor will have experimented with virtual world platforms, and hopefully have found and be promoting specialty 3D spaces that appeal to them. As Daniel Terdiman said, "in 10 years, the metaverse may no longer be special." On the other hand, the metaverse may be in the boom phase around that time.
• Sharability and participation are even more fundamental attributes of the metaverse than dimensionality. Whether a “1D” text MUD, a 2D chat room, a 3D persistent world, or multi-D collaboration interface, all such interaction-based social environments are part of the metaversal developmental lineage. Collaborative filtering, social search, and other tools to develop community voice are early attempts at creating and mining shared experience on the web.
• By 2016, the metaverse comprises a multitude of modes and media, and is dominated by its use as a social technology. It serves such purposes as community building, education, personal development, monitoring of the planet and human rights, and most fundamentally, embedding information and communication into physical as well as virtual spaces. Few of the instantiations of the metaverse offer separate places of existence, and those that do, as in avatar-based 3D environments for work and play, are regarded as ephemeral, offering primarily another means of interaction rather than a wholly separate form of identity. Entertainment uses have grown, yet the most popular of these worlds reinforce one's identity in the physical world. 3D virtual worlds are *expensive* -- not of cash, but of time and of attention. Nevertheless, for the millennial and internet generations (b. 1980+) and beyond, the group and task management skills derived from avatar-based play are proving quite useful in the jobs that dominate the 2010s. The ability to coordinate diverse, distributed, changeable, and often temporary teams to accomplish tasks, while maintaining social cohesion and positive group dynamics, is a fundamental requirement for 2016 management positions. Remote organizations are a commonplace model for businesses and community organizations, and metaversal community stability is a buffer against environmental and political turmoil in emerging nations, as well as social isolation and family pathologies in the developed world. The increasing cost of long distance travel has caused a saturation in casual travel for business and leisure, and forced many to seek out and improve methods of virtual interaction. At the same time, the metaverse has shown its facility to overlay information about the world onto the world, to "augment" physical reality. Visualization and interaction tools are far more likely to be used today as part of one's daily errands and (local) travels, showing routes, product/service offerings, and other issues of locational and temporal importance. Few think of the metaverse of 2016 as a different space that they "inhabit;" for the majority of users it has become simply another nuance to their daily existence.
• The metaverse is best seen as an extension of Earth, not as another world. The way that we'll get the mass usage of the metaverse is when it can be understood and used by the common man. The issue today is that the metaverse attracts significant interest from the hardcore sci-fi and fantasy community, which is a niche in the overall marketplace. Once the tools and presentation have been set in place to make the metaverse usable and understandable by the masses, it surely will get adopted.

• Virtual worlds enhance play. As developmental psychologist Jean Piaget notes (Play, Dreams, and Imitation in Childhood, 1962) [55], playing is a fundamental component of human development. Our evolutionary psychology is wired to experience joy from play, and we are strongly motivated by it, particularly in youth. To the extent that playing in synthetic worlds can be richer and more unique than in the physical world, and our play can be done behind a wall of privacy when needed, these destinations can satisfy psychological needs in ways the physical world cannot. By 2016, developmental psychologists have teamed with the larger educational software companies to give us new virtual and kinesthetic play worlds, each integrated with the other. Kinesthetic play toys like Lego's Mindstorms NXT robotic construction kit are integrated with virtual preflighting environments, as well as virtual worlds with looser laws of physics where robots can be built, and used to fight and explore.

 
 

6. Plans and Studies. Strategic plans and foresight studies in metaverse-relevant domains.

6A. Plans and Studies - Technology and Science

• U.S. NIST, Industry and Technology Roadmaps and Workshops Database. Click "Technology Areas" for citations to technology roadmaps, forecasts, and strategic plans produced by private sector organizations, U.S. Federal agencies, trade associations, and other organizations.
• Communications. Vision 20/20 Future Scenarios (76 pages), 2005. Australian government. Five scenarios (pages 59-72), 10-15 year horizon. Designed to develop a greater understanding about the future of communications and the consequences for regulation.
• General computing. 2020 the Future of Computing (20 pages, highly recommended), 2006, Nature.com

• Scientific computing. Towards 2020 Science (86 pages, recommended), 2006, Microsoft Research.

• Semiconductor and Microprocessors. Platform 2015: Intel Processor and Platform Evolution for the Next Decade, Intel (12 pages), and the Platform 2015 website. Also, International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) Executive Summary, 2005 (101 pages) and ITRS website.
• Electric power infrastructure. Grid 2030: A National Vision for Electricity's Second 100 Years, U.S. Dept. of Energy, Jul 2003 (46 pages).
• Household technology. Building Technology Roadmaps, Building Technologies Program, U.S. Dept of Energy, 2002-2006 (eight roadmaps). Technology Roadmap for Intelligent Buildings, Continental Automated Buildings Association, Industry Canada, 2002 (66 pages).

• 'Virtual Reality' television. The Japanese Ministry of Communications has established a blue sky research group to develop plans to commercialize virtual reality television by 2020 [70]. The group is also investigating the potential of related technologies (haptics, etc.) to facilitate touch and other senses.

• Flat Panel and Organic LED displays. International OLED Technology Roadmap, 2001-2010 (29 pages). U.S. Display Consortium, U.S. Dept. of Energy. The Global FPD Industry, 2003: An In-Depth Overview and Roadmap (6 page overview is free). U.S. Display Consortium.
• Geospatial sensors, maps, and infrastructure. IT Roadmap to a Geospatial Future (119 pages), 2003. National Academy of Sciences.
Smart Internet 2010 is a product of Smart Internet Technology CRC, an Australian research consortium, examining what the internet might become by 2010 and implications for users. Four schools of thought. Aug 2005. (170 pages).
Virtual Worlds: A New Medium (5- to 10-year horizon) and Virtual Worlds: A Future Roadmap (longer-term horizon) by Daden Limited, a virtual worlds agency in Birmingham, UK. Well done.
 

6B. Plans and Studies - Business and Economics

• U.S. NIST, Industry and Technology Roadmaps and Workshops Database. Click "Industry Areas" for citations to industry roadmaps, forecasts, and strategic plans produced by private sector organizations, U.S. Federal agencies, trade associations, and other organizations.
• Global economic development. Foresight 2020 Report, 2006 (96 pages, highly recommended) of the Foresight 2020 Project of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in association with Cisco. Online global survey of the long-term forecasts and scenarios that are critical to understanding economic issues facing the future of global business. 15 year time horizon.
• Wireless and telcos. An overview of 3G WWAN cellular data network plans, in comparision to mobile Wi-Max (the IEEE 802.16e specification). Why Max?: A Wireless Primer and Discussion on Wireless Reality, Jeffrey Belk, Qualcomm, Sep 2005 (32 pages, highly recommended)[66]. While we certainly need a multiplicity of competitive approaches, 3G cellular data networks look substantially better than any other mobile wireless solution on the horizon (mobile Wi-Max, Mesh, etc.). See also Industrial Wireless Technology for the 21st Century, U.S. Dept. of Energy, Dec 2002. To 2010 and beyond (50 pages, recommended).
• Video industry strategic plan example. Video Software Dealers Association Strategic Plan, Oct 2005 (8 pages).
• Electronics industry strategic plan example. Electronics Industry Strategic Plan: 2005-2015, Australian Electronics Industry Assn (27 pages).
• Optics, photonics, optoelectronics industry development plan. Riding on Light: Optical Technology for Transportation Challenges, JAOP/OSA, 2004 (44 pages). An industry in search of problems to solve, ways to increase transportation and infrastructure efficiency.
• Web services development plan (SOAP, WSDL interoperability, etc.). The Emergence of Web Services, NetNumina, 2003 (12 pages).
• Medical imaging. Medical Imaging Technology Roadmap, Industry Canada, Oct 2005 (150 pages). Ten year horizon. Five working groups.
• RFID tagging, animal husbandry example. National Animal Identification System (NAIS) Implementation Plan (9 pages), 2006. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
 
 

6C. Plans and Studies - Social, Legal and Other

• Synthetic world research center development plan. The Arden Institute: A Center for the Study of Synthetic Worlds (28 pages, highly recommended), 2005. Edward Castronova, Indiana University.

• International security and socioeconomic development. Mapping the Global Future, 2005 (123 pages, highly recommended). Report of the National Intelligence Council's 2020 Project.

• Ambient social intelligence. Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (ISPT), Scenarios for Ambient Intelligence in 2010, 2001 (58 pages, recommended, especially scenarios: "Dimitrios and the Digital Me", etc., p. 6-9.). European Commission community research on the user-friendly information society. Scenario timeframes are too accelerated but still quite useful.
• Educational futures. Visions 2020: Transforming Education and Training Through Advanced Technologies, 2002 (80 pages, recommended). National Science and Technology Council and the Office of Technology Policy, Technology Administration, U.S. Dept of Commerce. See also Plato Learning's Funding Opportunities in Educational Gaming Roadmap (5 pages), 2005.
• Federal government IT plan example. F.D.I.C. Information Technology Strategic Plan: 2004-2007, FDIC (15 pages).
• State government IT plan examples. California State Information Technology Strategic Plan: 2005-2009 , Nov 2005 (35 pages). New York State Information Technology Strategic Plan, Jun 2006 (36 pages).
• Educational IT plan example, U.S. secondary schools. Technology and Learning Implementation Plan, 2004-2007, Bellingham Public Schools, Bellingham, WA (111 pages).
• European lifestyle in 2020. Horizons 2020 is a Siemens foresight study. Two opposing scenarios. Aug 2006 (304 pages).
 
 

7. Cycles. Metaverse-relevant systems that fluctuate (regularly or irregularly).

7A. Cycles - Technology and Science

• Consolidation and proliferation of standards cycle. As mentioned in Current Conditions (2Te), there has been a long history of attempts at standardization of 3D protocols, languages, and rendering technologies, followed by the proliferation of new open, semi-open, and proprietary standards. This process will only continue and it is always a challenge trying to predict which of several competing standards will win out, in which market and application domain. Consider the current high definition DVD standard competition between HD DVD and Blu-Ray. HD DVD currently has more momentum as it has more business partnerships behind it, which tend to be more important than technical superiority, yet standards issues are far from settled during the proliferation phase.

• Open vs. proprietary 3D worlds cycle. There was much interest and buzz around the idea of the 3D-enabled Web in the mid- and late-1990's, at the time of the open standards VRML and VRML2. This was similar to the buzz we see emerging around virtual worlds like Second Life now, which are based on proprietary standards. Second Life is releasing APIs to encourage mashups and third party development, and has committed itself to eventually moving to open standards. Yet seems very likely that as virtual worlds continue to improve, new proprietary standards will be developed, by Second Life or a competitor, that will yield significant new VW functionality and thus be worth the effort of user migration to the new platform. At some point those standards will become open as well. In sum, a historical look at standards tells us that the move from proprietary to open is just one half of the development cycle, and when we focus only on that we see only half of the economic and technical picture.

• Avatar representational cycle. There has been a cyclic history representational accuracy in avatars concerning how cartoony, lifelike, useful, and playful they are, alternating between highly realistic and highly caricatured. The Uncanny Valley principle, which encompasses a wide range of human responses to the representation of humans in robots and animations, is one reason we may be seeing representational cycles. Represented objects need to be able to avoid the valley of human distaste for "almost human" likenesses and responses, and either retreat in to caricatures or make the avatars so highly realistic that they don't trigger an unpleasant response. So far, caricature is the most accepted, though there are continual attempts at making lifelike avatars. Haptek's avatars, such as Baba Dim Sun, are one example of avatars that have been said to be "in the valley." Perhaps this has been one reason they have had much less market adoption than more cartoony alternatives. Such cycles also exist in behavioral representation. We've made NPC avatars that have too much or too little interactivity and chattiness relative to the sophistication of their AI. In general, caricature is preferred, although there are constant attempts to move beyond this into highly realistic simulation for specialized purposes.

 
 

7B. Cycles - Business and Economics

• Virtual worlds and geospatial web hype cycles. Like other potentially disruptive new technologies, all metaverse/3D web related technologies can be expected to follow a hype cycle, as described in Gartner's five phase technology hype cycle model [8], with the following components:
  1. Technology Trigger
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations
  3. Trough of Disillusionment
  4. Slope of Enlightenment
  5. Plateau of Productivity.
Virtual reality technology, first generation web-based virtual reality (VRML), the geospatial web, location-based services, artificial intelligence, and others have all been through one or more such peaks and troughs in their media coverage, and most have been through them in their investment history as well. A dot.com-style investment peak, with Web 2.0 virtual worlds companies basing their business models on inflated expectations for metaverse technology, followed by a trough, will almost certainly be one dynamic we see in the next ten years. In the VRML days in the mid-1990's, many of the questions being asked about virtual worlds (Will there be one metaverse or many? Will the metaverse be independent from real world law?) were identical to questions being asked today. That was the first time anyone used the term "3D Web." Cycles repeat themselves, so we can learn much by revisiting the past, looking at other examples of natural cycles, and understanding how human psychology generates and maintains cyclic socieconomic dynamics.
• Entertainment cycles. Like all entertainment franchises, even today’s leading theme-based virtual worlds, like World of Warcraft, eventually reach a point where novelty or quality begin to decline and users start leaving the world for other venues, and only a small and loyal fanbase remains. Open-ended virtual worlds like Second Life may be more immune to this cyclic peak and decline effect. Nevertheless, they may still be outmoded by competing enterprise and technology innovations, and they are slower to build subscribers, as their benefits and premise are less clear to users.

• Game revenue model and content development cycles. We have seen a regular 7-10 year cycle in the MMO industry regarding how users pay to play and how game content is generated. We may be due for another such major shift in either revenue model or content development, or both. One such potential shift, involving game aggregation services, is outlined in Ideas and Proposals (15Ba). Raph Koster quote: "In 1997 there was an apocalyptic event that killed almost all the existing MMO providers. It was the shift to a subscription-based business model paired with game level production values. The thing was the dinosaurs that got killed off were the heirs of an earlier apocalypse in 1989, which was the shift in earlier business models to an hourly closed service model, who in turn were heirs to a shift in 1982 from academic VWs with no business models. In all those shifts, the existing companies pretty much all died. And we're due for another shift. The last explosion was 1996, 1997 (Dark Sun, Ultima, Lineage, Asheron's Call, Active Worlds, and others). I think there will be a production shift married to a business shift and the Blizzards of the world will face a new round of mammals. EA seems a particularly good Goliath candidate, to my mind."

• Game migration cycles and the "Virtual Gold Rush." Historically, when online virtual worlds achieved a mass audience, their popularity often chased out the early adopters, who went looking for new virtual frontiers. But the ability for users to make money in virtual spaces like Second Life is altering this cycle to some degree. Instead of leaving, the early adopters are learning to stay and offer goods and services to the newbies. In the same way that the folks who made the most money during the California Gold Rush were the folks (Levi-Strauss, etc.) who sold supplies to the prospectors, we are seeing individuals come early to colonize a virtual frontier, then stay to make money off the later arrivals. The most profitable of these virtual prospectors are selling clothes and a wide variety of other objects on websites like SLBoutique, or developing and selling plots of land, sometimes in zoned communities, as virtual land barons. As new virtual economy platforms emerge in coming years, some of these early entrants will pick up and move to the new worlds, or extend their operations, starting the "gold rush" cycle again.

 
 

7C. Cycles - Social, Legal and Other

• The social overestimation of the effect of a new technology in short run, and its underestimation in the long run is a predictable cycle. The hype associated with transformative technologies is easy to forget without historical perspective. At the dawn of commercial aviation in the 1920’s and 30’s in Europe and the U.S., its promise led to a broad public fascination with air flight, in the same way we are fascinated with the internet today. Proponents coined new words for this fascination: “airminded” in the U.K. and Europe, and “the winged gospel” in the U.S. (see also The Winged Gospel: America's Romance with Aviation, Joseph Corn, 2002). Futurists and the general public widely believed that air transport would soon transform, democratize, and deliver a borderless world. Common folk were expected to soon have their own airplane, and world peace would invariably emerge, as no nation would henceforth risk having its citizens so easily and indefensibly attacked from the sky. In short, the airplane's benefits were significantly oversold in the short run, and many of the economically unifying and innovation-accelerating effects underestimated in the long run. The 2005 debut of Google Earth as a harbinger of the geospatial web, and of Second Life as a creativity-respecting virtual economy hold similar transformative promise. We can again expect an unjustified overselling of the short-term benefits of such technologies, as well as an underestimation of their mid-term profitability and long-term power and pervasiveness.

• Fear of the new, followed by acceptance, is a predictable cycle. People have historically feared that new technology and media will dumb us down and cause us to lose touch with with history, our values, and our humanity. One finds this with technologies as old as writing, which was widely feared to cause us to lose our memory, to technologies as new as virtual worlds, which have been blamed for causing us to become alienated from and inexperienced in physical reality. But new technology is always adapted to serve age old human needs. To date we have always learned to use ever more sophisticated computing and communication technologies in the reexploration and attempted solution of our ongoing human problems. Summit quote: "I'll give you my polemic here. Entertainment is education. [Medieval MMOGs and] TV sitcoms are renaissance morality plays. There's no difference."

 
 

8. Trends and Extrapolations. Trend histories and any extrapolations.

8A. Trends and Extrapolations - Technology and Science

• 3D GPS navigation will continue to drive augmented reality development. Usability studies have shown that having simplified but accurate 3D landmarks increases the value of navigation systems over exclusively 2D maps. Too much 3D detail for auto navigation may be distracting if displayed continuously during a drive, but it becomes particularly useful as one gets close to a turn or to the destination, to match landmarks. Similar preferences also apply for airplane and boat navigation. 3D car navigation systems like Sony’s Linux-based XYZ 3D Auto Nav System, available only in Japan, provide detailed 3D simulations throughout the drive. This may be more graphical information than the driver needs, but not the passenger. We can expect 3D enabled systems to become increasingly detailed augmented reality interfaces, both in cars and on tomorrows cell phones and wearable mobile devices.
• Internet of things. In this 2006 podcast, and in his latest book, Shaping Things, 2005 [73], Bruce Sterling notes that we are slowly moving to a world of "spimes," physical world objects whose life history is trackable in space and time, through the geospatial web and other digital interfaces. In the process, he feels the kinds of artificial intelligence we will build in the near term will have little to do with thinking and everything to do with linking, ranking, sorting, sharing, tagging, commenting, collaborative filtering, and other activities. This is a good introduction to issues involved in building out the early participatory geospatial web over the coming decade, one of the major technological trends of Web 2.0 (the participatory web). Space-time life histories ("lifelogs") for objects are an obvious key component of the coming metaverse, bringing the fourth dimension (time) and all the higher dimensions of information to today's 2D and early 3D online environments.

The Conversational Interface (CI). Exponential growth in web-based Natural Language Processing (NLP) may create a Conversational Interface circa 2015. In 1998 the average query length to AltaVista was 1.3 words, at a volume of a few million a day. In 2005 the average query length to Google was 2.6 words, at a volume of half a billion queries a day. This doubling of query length occurred in seven years. If the future growth in query length follows the classic logistic curve of codebreaking (treating NLP as a process of collaborative filtering of useful seach queries by internet users in each language), and if we are in the growth phase of the logistic, we can project 5.2 word query averages (possibly including hidden context-sensitive words in this number) by 2012, and 10.4 words by 2019. Human-to-human spoken queries average 11 words. It is reasonable to expect that when our query lengths start approaching normal human sentences in length and sophistication (after 2012 and before 2019), talking to our avatars, using simple "pidgin" emergent grammars will become the preferred way to search the web, as well as a very efficient way to further prune the lexicon. Similarly, prosody analysis (emotional intonation, rhythm, lexical stress) would lead to increasingly natura-sounding conversation. This emergence has been called a conversational interface, or CI, and can be expected to enable a plethora of new developments. One might be an increasing desire to communicate with our devices through a helpful avatar ("Digital Butler") interface, rather than to converse with a disembodied machine. Avatars would have the ability to look quizzical when they don't understand us, to motivate us with their expressions, etc. Nonverbal interaction occuring in parallel with the conversation stream makes communication more efficient in the world of human-to-human communication, and at some point this must hold for computer-to-human communication as well. Furthermore, once our avatars possess crude personality models of the users they are interfacing with, we can use them as interfaces to all our complex technology, as well as proxies when we do not wish to speak in person. But these developments seem likely to come beyond the ten year horizon of this map.

• The cost of ubiquitous sensors, such as RFID and cameras, and to a lesser degree effectors such as motors, actuators and their energy systems will continue to drop exponentially in coming years. Ubiquitous sensor networks, followed later by effector networks (actuation, robotics), will increasingly permeate our environments [4].
• We are seeing an increasing convergence of graphical production and and video production technologies in virtual worlds. Modern portable digital video systems can increasingly virtualize, tag, model, and objectify what they see. Virtual worlds can export video streams of their activity, and their engines used to produce quality CGI "machinima." Coming 3D virtual worlds will seamlessly incorporate physical world video input streams as well as be able to insert graphical simulations (augmented reality projections), onto the real world through transparent displays, and onto video streams as with TV popups.
• Character animation is becoming increasingly automated. Natural Motion’s Endorphin dynamic motion synthesis software is the beginning of a new class of character animation systems that use both artificial neural networks and detailed human biometrics to create and guide characters. Endorphin's characters are both scripted and user-trained to do complex behaviors. Such systems are automation bridges between manual keyframing and human motion capture, and greatly decrease the cost and complexity of simulation and previsualization.
• Acoustical transparency networks are becoming another type of persistent virtual world. Distributed sensors with fast processing and good networking can model and record acoustical reality easier than visual reality. For security purposes, acoustical is often enough to serve as an early warning system. Acoustical gunshot location systems already exist as deployable networks for military and law enforcement applications, and one, Shotspotter, is permanently installed in high-crime areas in 12 U.S. cities. Acoustic networks are also used in many home security systems involving remote patrolling of a home when the occupants are away. Acoustical transparency along national borders, for example, might be significantly easier and cheaper to achieve than other forms of transparency, and may emerge for homeland security in some nations.
• AI for human interaction is developing particularly rapidly in synthetic worlds. The most popular synthetic worlds are places designed to provide social rewards that are better than the real world. As game designer David Rickey notes, by simple mathematics, most people are not able to perform in the top percentile of their area of interest, whatever it may be. Yet in a synthetic world, nonplayer characters (NPCs), animated by game AI, can easily allow users this kind of player notoriety, and offer unique challenges not available in physical world social interaction [1]. In this process, game AI can be employed in strong service to human psychological desires. This kind of human-centric symbiosis is likely to be significantly more evident in the application of AI in the game world vs. the physical world, as so many other constraining factors must be addressed (navigation, energy, safety, etc.) for autonomous AI's operating through robots in the embodied world.
• Academic, military, and medical industries will continue to play a role in basic R&D in 3D web technology, but are trending down in relative importance vs. commercial R&D in the 3D participatory web. Where the Entertainment industry does most applied R&D in the 3D enabled web, academic, military, and medical industries will continue to drive basic R&D. Academic groups do basic R&D with technology, algorithms, and system capabilities, including distance education and collaborative learning. The military has long commissioned basic research and prototype development, such as USC’s Heracles Constraint-Based Hierarchical Planner, which has been integrated with 3D satellite maps on a research basis. The government-supported medical industry has a long history of remote diagnostics, telemedicine, and training, even telesurgery R&D. The Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference, for example, is in its 14th year. But as participatory web/Web 2.0 platforms take off and become increasingly 3D (video, graphical, geospatial), we are seeing a natural shift to the private sector (including private sector medical) for most 3D web innovation. This pattern has repeated itself in other industries, such as artificial intelligence, which was primarily government funded until a healthy commercial market emerged in the mid-1990's. In 1993, global AI industry revenues were only $1B in 1993, mostly defense funded, but had become a $12B industry by 2002, mostly commercially funded [72].
• Networked and Localizable Weapons (NLWs). As locator systems, lifelogging technologies, and network access get steadily cheaper, smaller, and more ubiquitous, it seems a natural transparency trend that various pioneering security-conscious countries (Singapore, Israel, South Africa, etc.) will mandate the use of these systems on small arms, light weapons, explosives, certain biologicals and other potentially mass lethal technologies. Perhaps the earliest version impacting the ordinary consumer might be a handgun that includes an embedded GPS chip and miniature solid state "black box" recorder, much like flight recorders on airlines today. Such a device would add significant accountability to global gun use, and might eventually be mandated in several countries for all new weapons sold, possibly first by the military, which has a history of early security technology innovation in several countries. Next (post 2020?) we might see embedded cell-phones-on-a-chip with pushbutton 911 dialers and detachable earpieces, for military, law enforcement, private security, and consumer use in home defense. Such guns could also be actively localized, but only when the consumer chooses to engage the network. Once small arms have such wireless networks, we could see audio and video lifelogs that stream automatically from the gun to a secure server whenever the safety is disengaged, and speakerphones that would allow authorities to talk to both parties while seeing the gun holder's POV. Such advances would add a new level of social accountability to gun use, and might turn guns from an offensive into an intrinsically defensive social asset. Misuse could be carefully reviewed, and the gun user appropriately penalized, in a fine-grained response by comparison to today's legal systems. There could be insurance and other incentives for the voluntary use of these networks, and of course offline recording options for those distrustful of giving the government the ability to localize their weapons. Given global transparency trends, it seems reasonable to expect all social democracies to mandate versions of NLWs in coming years. But as with any controversial topic, we can expect many varieties of technical solutions, many unique applications, and both early and late adopters.
 
 

8B. Trends and Extrapolations - Business and Economics

• From 1996 to 2006, total internet users have gone from 36 million to over 1 billion, or from 1% to 16% of the world's population. We've still got a lot of user growth ahead of us. [10]
• From 1996 to 2006, U.S. online retail e-commerce (business to consumer), perhaps a useful proxy for the growth of virtual world economies, has grown from from 0.5 million to a projected $95 Billion for 2006, with a current projected marginal growth rate of 12% per year [11].
• The number of synthetic worlds is doubling approximately every 2 years, in synch with Moore's law [1]. The market for virtual goods and services, and the amount of money made by enterprising individuals in virtual worlds will continue to grow, at a more modest annual rate.
• Interdependencies between nations and organizations will grow dramatically as the world continues to 'flatten.' Collaboration through the metaverse, the 3D participatory web, will accelerate this trend [5].

User-generated content. As another great tool of the participatory web, business models will move, at least to some degree, from prefabricated content to user-created content in a society of increasingly creatively empowered and networked individual users. We see this in the classic social software applications today, and in the rise of collaborative content like Wikipedia and "citizen journalism." A standout example of the latter is OhMyNews which is now the fifth largest news source in South Korea, has expanded into print from online, and has developed a syndication service (like AP or Reuters). It achieved this distinction in just six years (2000-2005) by aggregating the contributions of over 40,000 individual journalists, an example of the power of the coming 3D participatory web. Google Earth as a 3D wiki, with content creators aided by SketchUp and future tools, holds a similar promise, perhaps five years from now when we all can access both proprietary and open geospatial maps on our cellphones and navigation systems. Companies like Second Life know that as user-creation increases companies get new content without significant additional cost, and players invest themselves more fully in the world, which creates mutually reinforcing benefits.

• Virtual spaces and social networks will marry each other and merge services, with the social networks coming out on top. Companies like GaiaX in Japan are indicators that the natural leader in such a merger is the social network, not the virtual world, as immersive 3D interaction is only one of many social collaboration possibilities desired by users.
• A metatrend of 3D web space is the movement of average user hours from isolated and time-bounded online games in fantasy environments to shared, persistent worlds with increasingly higher physical world context. The former markets don't go away, they just shrink in size relative to the whole.
• Online market and virtual microjob growth. As online databases and human resources systems continue to improve, job markets will expand for free agents, as catalogued in Dan Pink’s Free Agent Nation, 2002 [74]. Amazon’s MTurk.com is an early entry into online piecework from home, paying independent contractors using a micropayments system for a range of simple “Human Intelligence Tasks.” eBay today has more than 300,000 Power Sellers, most home-based, many able to support themselves entirely off this income. As online worlds that promote virtual economies, like Second Life, grow in popularity, we can expect a profusion of online marketplaces and virtual microjobs to emerge.

• Global computer helpers (GCH), aka "global geek brother." Online computer tech support gets cheaper and more powerful every year. Today’s tech support centers in India and elsewhere, developed large organizations like Dell, Tata Consultancy, Infosys, Wipro, etc., are becoming increasingly helpful and affordable. Commercial service organizations like Best Buy's Geek Squad are waiting to discover the efficiencies of very inexpensive and technically proficient global online tech support using educated and specialized youth in emerging nations. Such support can be organized by intelligent call routing and human resources evaluation systems, to provide feedback, accountability, and bonus pay to the best helpers based on customer satisfaction. With today's powerful computers, the ability for the GCH to take over the local user’s computer (moving the mouse, etc.) using virtualization software (the remote access features in Windows Vista, standalone programs like GotoMyPC, etc.) offers a fantastic opportunity to provide affordable, accountable expert remote assistance for every computer problem, a global "geek brother" that you can give extensive access to your computer system, using a trust network. Such helpers would have access to recent histories of our computer use, would perform all specialized housekeeping (backups to remote sites, optmization, etc.), and could give us "just in time" learning, ten minute lessons every morning on just the computer software and procedures that would be most useful for us based on the mistakes, inefficiencies, and repetitive behaviors the remote teacher has observed us recently doing. This kind of high personal transparency and continuous learning approach to our technology, while it will be avoided by many adults and corporations with low trust and high liability levels, will significantly shorten technology adoption and learning curves for those users the developed nations who choose to pay for such support. A time may be reached where those who opt for GCH use (individual users, small offices) will gain significant competitive learning and adoption advantages over the larger corporations who resist such change. If this occurs, it would be a repeat of other technology adoption cycles we have seen before, as in the advent of the personal computer in the 1980's, which was adopted later in large vs. small companies and was responsible for significantly flattening of large company hierarchies, empowering of the individual relative to the institution.

• Videoconferencing trends. Convergence of 3D virtual offices with immersive videoconferencing platforms. Immersive videoconference systems, with large screens, and mobile spatial video and spatial audio (capable of visually and aurally tracking the mobile speaker, and assigning a consistent audio and video directionality to all the participating speakers), collaborative whiteboards and cobrowsing interfaces will increasingly be accessible to small office/home office users. In addition to their use for telemeetings (business first, then consumer), such systems will greatly enhance service and educational activities in 3D videoconferencing, and such platforms will merge seamlessly with tomorrow's virtual worlds. According to BusinessWeek, dedicated high end "whole room" videoconferencing systems (Polycom, Cisco, HP) sold 164,000 units in 2006, up 21% from 2005 [87]. Yet few of these systems have spatial audio, their spatial video is nonmobile, and the cost ($40K-300K per installation) remains prohibitive. Furthermore, few small business or SOHO users today have reasonably decent fiber optic bandwidth (Like Verizon's FiOS, 20Mbps download, 5Mbps upload), so they can't support jerk-free, high resolution images. As fiber-to-home expands, look for major growth in the low end of these systems (eg., LifeSize Communications). Looking back on the roots of this trend, we can note that the early videophone is a curiously instructive flop. When AT&T launched the Picturephone in Pittsburgh in 1970 they predicted 1 million users by 1980. They ended up withdrawing it because of high monthly cost ($125 and $21/minute) and lack of interest in the low functionality (see picture right). Given current trends in high-end videoconferencing systems, we'll probably hit the 1 million mark around 2010, just forty years after AT&T's prediction. And only then will you and I start buying them. Why the long delay? We are going to require a high degree of functionality, automation, and performance as a trade-off for the increased invasiveness of this new medium, and making such hassle-free functionality affordable is a challenge. If you have to be chained to the desk to have a conversation then it's a step back from the wearable cordless handsets we already use. A mobile spatial video and audio system capable of tracking you around your entire office/home and displaying the other participants wherever you are (see Video Walls, 9Tf) would be a compelling new level of function. Sharing documents and media, collaborative whiteboarding, and voice-driven queries of search engines and other websites needs to be a whole lot easier and more affordable before ubiquitous home videoconferencing becomes an economic, educational, social, and entertainment necessity.
• 3D surveying automation is coming of age. GPS and other more precise technologies like ultrasound and RF can be used to automate surveying, turning physical spaces in to 3D virtual models. In 2005, Amazon’s A9 used GPS-aided trucks to generate street-level pictures of storefronts in “Block View” on merchant websites for the online Yellow Pages for millions of US businesses in two dozen US cities. In a project at U.C. Berkeley, fast 3D city models have been generated using cameras and laser scanners. A few companies, like the Israeli firm EZ2CAD, are pioneering surveying systems that autogenerate useable CAD files. Some research projects, like UCSD’s RealityFlythrough [63], stitch 3D worlds out of videocamera surveys. Realviz has created ImageModeler, a plug in for the leading 3D graphics programs (Maya, 3DSMax, etc.) that creates measured 3D scenes from a number of 2D photographs. One of the most advanced portable automated surveying system is 3rdTech's DeltaSphere 3000 laser digitizer and SceneVision 3D visualization and analysis software. Automatic virtualizing of spaces for tourism, real estate, architecture, design, security, forensics, and other applications is a multi-billion dollar growth industry.
• Casual gaming will continue to grow as we create a collaborative 3D web. On a typical day in 2006, 178,000 users are playing one another at Yahoo! Games, and 148,000 at MSN Games [1]. These numbers are likely to go much higher in coming years. There is also a proposed relation for the adoption rate of new users of casual vs. non-casual virtual games: total time played until reward is inversely proportional to the growth rate in the adoption phase. Boredom and burnout with casual games may be many times higher as well, with the exception of a few favorites.
• PC Graphics Hardware Consolidation. From the mid '90s to the mid '00s, the PC graphics hardware industry has gone from 56 players down to two, ATI and Nvidia, and some smaller players. [9] In Jul 2004, ATI announced a plan to merge with microprocessor leader AMD, which has led to speculation that Nvidia may also be purchased.
• Look to the Asian market to see pieces of the wider virtual world future. Summit quote: "The South Koreans are almost a decade ahead of us."
• Virtualization of a society leads to a number of significant energy efficiencies. Transportation is an obvious one, but there are others. If we expect that virtual business, education, and entertainment systems will be much more common and useful over the next ten years, then we can project an associated reduction in our use of fossil fuels per person. Energy intensity, the amount of energy per capita that people use, has been flat in the U.S. and other MDC's for thirty years. Virtual economy efficiencies will add to other efficiencies in the energy infrastructure. Together with increasing sustainability values in all developed countries, we should see a continuation of this flat energy intensity trend across the developed world.
• Marketing is going through a social network driven transformation. Viral marketing is rising: subtle inducements to buy are increasing because friends or opinion leaders that we trust point to, write about, or use things. This kind of community-based recommendation will become increasingly effective by comparison to conventional ads.
• Advertising in video games willl increase. There is presently a huge gap between the amount of time people spend playing video games vs. the amount of money spent on in-game ads. Themed worlds must limit the nature and extent of ads to protect the player experience, but as major advertisers take note of the increasing time spent in these spaces, they will propose brand penetration and product placement that is consistent with each world's theme, even if it means coming up with new things to sell. Massive Inc., acquired by Microsoft in 2006, is an early effort in this space.
• 3D security systems will advance. Smart software in CCTV systems is bringing 3D to security displays, combining graphics, map and sensor data, and combining different camera views into one composite image. To deal with information overload and provide intelligent monitoring, companies like Praetorian Surveillance Solutions are integrating multiple sensors into a single 3D display.
• 3D for medical rehabilitation will gain wider usage. Immersive and socially shared virtual worlds can provide a controlled and motivating environment for rehabilitation that is much more cost effective than physical world therapy. We already see great early proofs of concept, as in USC's VR haptics [62] for stroke patient rehabilitation, and the use of virtual scenarios for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), phobia, and social anxiety therapy.
• 3D scientific visualization will make modest advances. Projects like the Millennium Run, an international scientific simulation of the 13 billion year history of the cosmos started in 2005, show the potential of 3D models to uncover structure-function relationships in complex systems. Similar models in chemistry, biology, and social systems will increasingly yield new insights into physical systems.
• 3D sports visualization will greatly improve. Recording sporting events in a way that allows fans and judges to replay them from multiple angles will be a huge growth industry in coming years, and a major addition to high definition interactive television sets. As an early effort in this space, IBM’s On Demand computing group developed “Shot Tracker” website feature allowing virtual replay of tennis rallys for the 2005 Wimbledon Championships website. Having the ability to replay a sports move through the assembling and interpolating of multiple high speed camera angles would be highly desirable to the future sports fan.
• 3D community planning. Community planning initiatives, a locally collaborative civic activity that has grown steadily over the last 40 years [75], will get a significant boost from the use of massively viewable and annotatable 3D spaces, visualizing planned developments, and serving as a space in which to solicit public ideas and feedback. This in turn should increase civic interest and local participatory democracy.
• Growth in non-geospatial 3D information organization and social analytics tools (visualization and simulation). The use of non-geospatial 2+D map-based organizing tools like MindJet’s MindManager, and business intelligence organizational tools like ADVISOR make sense today only for specialized applications, and for that small subset of individuals who intuitively “think spatially.” But being able to increasingly model at least some business processes as 3D strategic/serious games will grow the size of the business simulation market, at least for business training purposes. Also, the increasing familiarity of business users with 3D worlds in entertainment, and the increasing ability to use business intelligence tools in collaborative 3D “war rooms” in physical space, and use such environments as "dashboards" to filter and interpret exponentiating information streams will also guarantee robust growth in this market. It seems likley that for many years to come however the ROI benefits of such tools will significantly lag the marketing hype.
• The pornography industry is a significant systems innovator in using graphical internet technology. The larger this economic sector becomes, the greater the pressure we'll see to ensure adequate protection of minors, and tools for the appropriate segregation of web content.
 
 

8C. Trends and Extrapolations - Social, Legal and Other

• The world being is turned “outside in” (the physical is being represented in virtual), and the metaverse is going "inside out" (virtually-controlled sensors are permeating the physical world). Persistent intelligent virtual spaces are a way to make everything we care about in the physical world representable better, faster, and more compellingly with every new iteration. The metavers is a place to interrogate physical space and parameterize its possibilities. It increasingly melds with, exceeds and directs the events that occur in physical space.
• As an amplifying technology, like other digital communications media, virtual worlds may act primarily to reinforce the preexisting proclivities of the user. Thus those who want more collaboration, open critique, and consensus-seeking will use the participatory web for this purpose. On the other hand, those who seek to reinforce their own perspective rather than broaden their horizons will be able to uise the blogosphere and VWs to increase balkanization, cocooning, and the “echo chamber effect” in social space.

• Many children will have their first web experience through a cartoony virtual world, and such worlds will be increasingly fascinating, and the exploration they do and problems they solve will be increasingly rewarding in the most successful of these worlds. Summit quote: "Apparently when the San Jose Tech Museum installed Second Life access in their children's area, it was the first exhibit they had to put a time limit on." It is possible that children growing up with virtual worlds today will expect to access the web through them as they get older. Finding them particularly rewarding for exploration, they'll want to do serious work through these spaces as well.

• Inner and outer worlds are in competition. As Edward Castronova notes, compared to the fantasy worlds of inner space, the outer world doesn’t look all that attractive for many people today. As emerging nations youth plug into early metaverse economies in coming years, we can expect they will find the money and opportunities available to them in virtual businesses to be significantly more attractive than their much more slowly changing and politically restrictive outer space worlds.
• The virtual world will continue to create new jobs we can't predict. As Rodney Brooks reminds us, many of the information service jobs we have today weren't on the horizon twenty years ago. Information and service sector jobs in the participatory web and metaverse economies are going to be increasingly high level, creative, and abstract. Virginia Postrel documents part of this trend, from the consumer perspective, in The Substance of Style, 2004. Even if we can't predict the particulars we can expect more of the same general skills, building and annotating digital media, finding information, customer service, measuring performance, contracting global expertise, innovating, managing increasingly virtual creative teams, etc.
• Mirror worlds and the public geodata, location-specific GIS data that can be obtained free, are rapidly expanding. People have begun to build their own maps of places they care about, and some are using portable GPS systems to tie this precisely to the physical world. Google Earth (2005) is the canonical example at present, but we can expect mirror worlds for a wide range of activities (tourism, real estate, birdwatching, etc.). Another eexample is the Green Map System, a collaborative mapmaking tool that allows environmentally minded individuals to create maps that identify, promote and link local ecological and cultural resources. Democratizing access to geodata tools allows people to identify, visualize, and collaborate on a broad range of issues. Only a few leading worlds can be expected for each unique application, due to the limitations of human choice models, as described in the emerging science of neuroeconomics.
• Increasing transparency of personal lives on the web. Summit quote: "You see a lot of younger users who are leaving so much more of their lives open online, without the privacy issues solved." The implicit assumption, which may be a sound one for the coming generation, is that social norms with regard to this public information will change. As just one implication, youthful indiscretions will likely be a lot more forgivable, and even humanizing, for future political candidates, CEOs, and other social leaders.
• More cross-game and virtual world communication from the outside. Summit quote: "We're seeing external communcation systems like Xfire [generic IM service and simple social network for online gamers] now and players who've played through many guilds together. I wonder if we'll see more cross-platform things allowing players to sustain themselves."
• Mass social phenomena, fads, rating systems, and filters will only be more powerful in coming years. Cyworld, a Korean social networking platform, offers three dimensional mini homepages ("minihompy") which can be decorated by virtual furniture, art, and music, all purchasable with virtual currency. Cyworld had over 15 million users in 2005, 1/3 of South Korea’s population. As BusinessWeek notes [61]: “One feature that has helped Cyworld take off is "wave riding." It works like this: When you're reading posts on bulletin boards or looking at photo files, you can click on the name of someone who has added a remark or photo you find interesting and you'll be transported to that person's digital room. If you like the art or music, you can introduce yourself and put in a request to become a "cybuddy." If accepted, you can use your buddy's goodies -- from art to photos -- on your own page. The chain of wave-riding visits creates communities on the Net, which often develop into clubs of common interest in the real world: clubs for fishing, bike riding, and going to jazz performances, among others.”
• Emergence of universal connectivity (mobile phones, metaverse) changes the nature of social plans to a JIT (just in time) framework. Plans in the networked world become much more flexible and last minute, a phenomenon once endemic to "socially opportunistic" Southern California but increasingly seen elsewhere as well. As choice increases there is less need or reward for planning ahead, and greater risk of passing over better opportunities. Things remain uncertain because there is value in last minute optimization. Just-in time manufacturing and just-in time social calendars are both innovations of a highly networked culture. Both have productivity advantages, but come with new costs, such as increased uncertainty, shallower relationships, and a general reduction of foresight within the culture, including less top-down planning.
• Collaborative/collective computing, the power of small to large numbers of individuals to produce information within competitive and cooperative online platforms, is in its early stages here at the beginning of the participatory web. This trend will grow strongly in coming years. For an interesting early example, see the ESP Game, designed to make the collaborative labeling of online images fun. It was developed by MacArthur Foundation grant winner and serious games producer Luis von Ahn. von Ahn notes it took 50,000 individuals to deliver the NASA Apollo program, and that we'll soon be able to connect 400 million of us online. What could we produce collaboratively with such vast numbers? For one thing, a web that will finally become a conversational interface. What else? We're just beginning to ask these fascinating questions.
 
 

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