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II. Foresight - Part B (24 pages)

9. Predictions
10. Positive and Mixed Scenarios
11. Negative Scenarios
12. Wildcard Scenarios
13. Headlines

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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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9. Predictions. Brief predictive statements made about the future of the industry.

9A. Predictions - Technology and Science

• Social networks (in general) and browsers (in particular) will increasingly drive and manage our virtual world and 3D web experiences. As Web 2.0 (Participatory Web) technologies advance, and our social networks become increasingly central to our lives, we can expect our MMOs to evolve into specialized tools, where access, reputation, and interconnectedness occurs through a handful of our favorite participation platforms. As the number and purposes of virtual worlds proliferate, busy people will use them for limited context and goal-specific immersion (for entertainment, socializing, collaboration, education, exploration, etc.) managed through tomorrow's increasingly intelligent social software and 3D-enhanced browsing platforms. We can foresee social networks being incorporated in tomorrow's browsers, so that community is the foundation of online experience.

• The Carpal PC and Forearm PC, one of the next frontiers in wearable computing. These popular future wearable systems might consist of the following key components: 1) a very lightweight OLED touchscreen display that covers the dorsal metacarpals (back of the hand) carpals (back of the wrist), and a few inches of the distal forearm, in the same configuration as the top half of a carpal tunnel hand brace (picture left). The other side of the hand will be bare wrist and forearm, for maximum comfort. The Forearm PC, an alternative design, again wraps around just more than half of user's forearm (a slimmer and lighter version of Eurotech's Wrist-Worn PC, picture right). Both versions can be put on or removed quickly using a slap-bracelet mechanism, allowing easy use on the arm, at a table or in the lap. Advanced versions of these devices would interface wirelessly with additional wearable items, such as: 2) additional processors and batteries integrated in a standard-sized belt, worn around the user's waist, 3) a full-sized, touch-typeable keyboard and processor worn at the waist as a 1.75"x5" sized belt buckle (four interleaved pieces of keyboard). A touch of the buckle would de-interleave it into a standard 3.5"x10" laptop keyboard, allowing 50-80 wpm typing at the waist. Also, 4) a wearable mini-mouse, worn on the belt on the opposite side of the body from the Carpal/Forearm PC display would complete the system for those users who wanted an interface identical to their desktop ergonomic, requiring no retraining. Simply looking down anytime at the back of their hand, while typing or mousing would provide useful visual augmented reality information. In high end versions, the Carpal and Forearm PC's displays could fold out to twice their size for more visually intensive tasks. As miniaturization improves these systems will contain a cell phone, GPS, digital music player, camera, etc. The system could be connected through the cell phone to mainframe-based high-accuracy voice-recognition systems, to maximize the quality and range of verbal commands to the wearable PC. The keyboard will be used wherever verbal commands are insufficient or are less optimal, as they will be for many years to come, for some tasks. High end versions might be waterproof, and inductively charge themselves wirelessly when you are near a keyboard or are seated in your car. They will also contain fast-charging nanobatteries. An obvious accessory would be a detachable bluetooth cell phone earpiece that fits into the Carpal PC at the forearm or at the waist when not being worn, and which recharges off the Carpal PC's battery when not in use. Wherever you are, when you look down at your forearm you'll see a local geospatial map, have access to locally relevant video, audio, and text streams, and be able to query them orally. Verbal commands and keyboard shortcuts will give you access to both automated AI systems, like today's Free 411, and to human beings in various service centers you are subscribed to. All kinds of specific data on the objects in your vicinity will be immediately available, including histories, recommendations, annotations, etc. As the participatory web grows, no matter where you find yourself you'll be encourged to add your own feedback to the global database, at point of experience.

• Wristwatch cellphones. The Dick Tracy "two-way wristwatch radio" was first conceived in 1946. The wristwatch cell phone is an obvious developmental attractor for many of us. Why hunt for your cell phone when you can wear it on your wrist? Would you even take it off to shower if it was small and waterproof? It could even charge inductively when your hands are near a keyboard, as many of ours are every day. You'd want the ablity to swap in charged batteries and full SD chips as well.

• The Dynabook. Alan Kay's 1960's vision of a lightweight waterproof eBook reader. High res OLED touchscreen. Fully annotatable. Cradle or inductive charging. Many assisted reading modes (highlighted text, narrow-columned for fast reading, an audio book mode so you can continue "reading" (have the book read to you) while driving.
Ultraportable laptop/tablet remote for the open-standard Internet Television of 2016. Imagine your current TV remote being replaced by a lightweight laptop/tablet, with touchscreen and keyboard, that displays 100 Thumbnails (10 x 10) of TV channels, Video, Games, Virtual Worlds, Magazines, Newspapers, Books, etc., with small, high-res words below each graphical thumbnail giving (title, length, ratings, etc.). One tap down would be another 100 potential channels, and so on. Humans pick the best images/animation previews to represent the clips, as with DVD chaptering today. Open source standards for representation. People trade knowledge representation layouts. Such a system could easily give you organized access to thousands of your favorite media streams or media items, all competing to get to the top level, reorganizing based on your feedback and the collaborative filtering recommendations of your interest groups. For many of us, half of our video feeds would quickly become specialized microchannels on internet tv, not the common denominator fare available through today's one-to-many, one-size-fits-all broadcast model. Today's big media aggregators would be forced purchase the best of the proliferating independent channels and serve them as feeds. Independent pay-per-view and subscription media, supported by direct micropayments, would flourish. One could also read a book, magazine, or newspaper on the tablet. Whatever you read on the small screen could be mirrored on your large one with just a click.

Video Walls in 2016. Nielsen's law (see Constants - Sci-Tech, Nielsen's law) has charted a doubling of premium-access internet bandwidth every 21 months since 1983. This trend predicts that fiber-to-the-home initiatives, like today's Verizon FiOS (20/5 Mbps) will deliver over 300 megabits per second of wired bandwidth to typical premium users in 2016, allowing download of a 2 hour video in 2-3 minutes (impulse buy/on-demand). As today's mature (LCD) and newer (DLP, plasma, OLED) display technologies continue to drop in price and energy usage, we can forsee home and business users converting large portions of free walls in several rooms into video wall configurations. Video walls would allow parallel video multicasts (internet video, HD video, 3D worlds, etc.) to various areas of the wall. Such systems would also greatly improve multi-party videoconferencing, by delivering "spatial video" (see 8Bj) with cameras on consenting users as they wander through their rooms, delivering you their image to your nearest video wall, wherever you are in your own home/office. As with current internet browsers, users would likely have only a few sections of these walls displaying full motion and sound at any time, with the remaining displaying static images, slowly updating snapshots of other channels, menus, etc. These secondary images might be in still motion until the user "tunes" to them by pointing a remote or saying a verbal command, whereupon they would enlarge, animate, and move to center screen. As a video wall controller and wireless mobile accessory, a very light tablet remote, capable of displaying thumbnail pictures of your 100 favorite internet TV channels and virtual worlds on the top screen, and your next 100 only a tap away, etc., would for many be a very intuitive way to manage a large number of content specific 3D feeds. Collaborative filtering and multiple categorization systems could be used to manage this information, with thousands of ancillary channels and 3D experiences "competing" to migrate up to higher levels of the user interface, based on user feedback and public preference data. Once the internet's bandwidth can support them, video walls and tablet remotes seem likely convergence devices for many future users, as they would maximize the value of peripheral attention while minimizing distraction, and allow the intelligent filtering of vast quantities of video data. Their entertainment, educational, and collaboration value as tools in the participatory web would be immense, though issues of addiction, cocooning, narrowing of views, and other abuses will also be serious concerns, particularly with early versions of these systems.

• Finger and hand tracking and the longstanding dream of a gestural interface. A laptop user's finger movements and hand motions can be translated into amplified yet precise movements in 3D space, using high-precision gesture-recognizing cameras. This would allow one do gestural manipulation in the air, just above the keyboard, and then settle down onto the keyboard to do typing as well. One's gestures in the air, perhaps initiated by showing your fingers and open palm at your screen, which could eventually replace the need for a mouse in future laptop computers, as well as enable new gestural abilities. Possible scenario: Virtual Libraries. Imagine reaching for the image of a book sitting on a virtual bookshelf. Being able to pick the virtual book up, quickly flip to read its front and back covers, inside jacket pieces, table of contents, all scanned in from its original physcal form, with addtional virtual enhancements added to each of these over time. Then you drop your fingers to the keyboad and do a search inside the book to find something of interest. Then you annotate at the search point with color highlight and notes in the margin. Then you put a copy of the book in your personal virtual library, which you can organize simultaneously by author, subject, chronology, etc. Would this replace your physical library? Caveats: No tactile feedback might limit use, especially as wearable mice and keyboards become increasingly miniaturized.
• Wearable mouse and Tummy PC form factors will improve mobile access to 3D spaces in coming years. The Tummy PC form factor, providing a small, collapsible touch typeable keyboard and display at the waist, allows convenient wearable computing, without the need for complex augmented reality display technologies. A wearable mouse allows the user to maintain the same input behavior they use with their desktop machines. Combined with affordable broadband cellular modems (Verizon’s 3G VZ Access card is now $80/month), Toshiba’s fast-recharging nanobatteries (80% recharged in 60 seconds), always-on wearable access to social networks, 3D worlds and games will become affordable for the youth of the mid-2010’s in the developed nations, and somewhat later for the rest of the world. Collapsible keyboards and chording devices for text input will finally gain traction in some segment of society once we have wearable display and augmented reality platforms. Expect more fold out and projection screens as well.
• Eye and head tracker for virtual worlds navigation. Moving beyond today's first generation head tracking systems (see NaturalPoint), picture an eye- and head-tracking camera that translates your subtle eye or head movements in physical space into large shifts of view in gamespace for 3D orientation. No more need to do unintuitive keyboard movements to represent eye and head movements in virtual worlds. A more natural interface would also entice more older players to explore virtual worlds. Caveats: This may be disorienting if there is lag between physical world head movement and virtual head movement. Would have to be fast and tightly coupled. There are a number of early-adopter head tracking peripherals today that involve having to wear something on your head, but these will be outmoded by better imaging technology.

Networked shoes in personal area networks for virtual worlds navigation. Networked shoes may become a valuable interface for immersive virtual worlds. Feet pedals are already used in dictation systems and racing simulations. For virtual character steering and walking, minor shifts of your feet on the floor to change direction, slight tapping of the toes to move forward, tapping the heels to jump, etc. would allow a whole range of natural repertoires, and leaves your hands for hand activities. Kids would love peripherals like this, as they give them yet another excuse for kinesthetic activity. As personal area networking expands, shoes also represent a unique place to put electronics for wearable computing, so the first versions of multifunction shoes (sensing, recording, computing) might be emerge within the next 10 years.

• Early conversational avatars in 2016. Anthropologist Ray L. Birdwhistell, a pioneer of "kinesics" (nonverbal communication), estimated (Kinesics and Context, 1970) that about 65% of the information in a conversational message is conveyed by facial expressions and body language, and only 35% by spoken words. Once our computers are smart enough to speak to us in simple sentences via a primitive conversational interface (circa 2015-2025), to store primitive inferential, context-based personality and values models of their users (first generation personality capture), and to express those models using a facial action coding language, we predict avatar-mediated human-computer and human-human communication must emerge. For conversations that benefit from even crude kinsesics, avatars should be both more humanizing and more efficient than other communication modes. We forecast tomorrow's users will increasingly associate personal avatars (what we call a "digital twin" (DT) with their public personas, and as DT's grow in capacity, use them to mediate contact with the larger world in an attention-limited economy. Avatars-as-representatives, both of humans and of complex technological systems (cars, houses, computers, robots, tools) will become increasingly friendly, personalized, intelligent, and interactive relative to text, static images or linear narratives. Public data mining of user lifelogs will greatly improve context-sensitive DT values and personality modeling, and greatly enhance social networking, personalized education and online collaboration. Given trends in automated knowledge discovery and natural language processing, the DT's of early adopters and research users should be able to have very primitive yet useful natural conversation with inquiring humans by 2015, with performance improving significantly over the subsequent decade. This conversation will grow to include simple information about the user's background, interests, present location, availability status, and future plans, as well as the ability to schedule meetings with trusted parties, answer FAQs, manage e-commerce, and perform other simple transactions. Eventually, DT's seem likely to become the first-pass communication screeners ("trusted handshakes") to prequalify face-to-face interactions between individuals, an important element of future trust networks. See IMVU for a good example of today's avatar-mediated chat communities.

• 3D-based internet browsing is a “flying car” future. 3D and 2.5 D browsing and information archiving tools offer very little payback over 2D, yet are saddled with the additional visual complexity and cognitive overhead of navigating the third dimension. Initiatives like NTT’s SpaceBrowser are likely to remain research tools with regard to the general web. 3D "flying" in virtual worlds and GIS-based mirror worlds remains a useful navigation option, but even here 2D (frames) and 1D (search box/text-based) navigation is generally faster and more efficient. 3D makes sense for collaboration and social space, and for some (but certainly not most) kinds of data visualization. Randy Farmer: “3D is not an inherently better representation scheme for every purpose.” To understand this, it helps to realize that humans are not mentally living in the 3D world much of the time, even in the way they inhabit physical space. We are trying to simplify even our 3D activities into 2D "events," as happens when we read a book, or even play a boardgame on a mostly 2D surface. 3D makes sense in select environments, but all that additional data always comes at a cognitive price, slowing down our efficiency of thought and navigation. Many times, that price isn't worth paying, when we have the choice and can reduce the dimensionality of our mental spaces.
• Television and the metaverse will increasingly converge. The better internet television becomes, the more metaverse-like it will be. So too with online spaces that will increasingly embed interactive video.
• Wearable augmented reality bottleneck around microlaser technology patents. Arguably the most advanced technology for augmented reality displays that has yet been demonstrated is eyeglass-based microlasers that can paint an image onto the human retina. This technology is presently under the patent control of a single company, Microvision. It was the opinion of some summit participants that Microvision has been primarily deepening its patent portfolio around this key technology, and pursuing only government and military development contracts that do not provide sufficient capital or R&D expertise, rather than aggressively seeking commercial partnerships to advance the technology and bring it to the mass market in a reasonable time frame at an affordable price. Until such time as this currently underdeveloped technology is widely available for off-patent use (circa 2018) or until Microvision sees the value of partnering with well-capitalized commercial innovators or licensing at an affordable price, the wearable AR industry may continue to be held up by this bottleneck. Long patent lifespans and lack of the ability to challenge them when they aren't commercialized in a timely fasion can perversely delay rather than accelerate innovation, and are an issue for future IP reform. [2007 Update: Ben Averch of Microvision states that the company has prioritized commercial partnering as of mid-2006. Let's see what develops.]
• New miniaturized user interfaces. We can expect cell phone pieces that disappear behind the ear, and eventually, microlaser augmented reality devices. Almost all of these devices will be external, not implanted, as the interface technologies will be continually upgraded in the foreseeable future and the risks and invasiveness of surgery make it a poor choice in almost all applications.
• Larger, multiple, and dedicated monitors. As monitors drop in price and thickness, and become truly autoconfigurable on plug in we’ll see many larger and multi monitor setups. This, combined with faster processors, will allow people to permanently keep their favorite 3D web applications open, in favorite locations on their monitors. They'll be able to set operating system preferences so that on restart, applications will reopen and display in their favorite dedicated screen locations, which will be very efficient for multi-monitor setups.
Lifelog systems. Within the next ten years we’ll see the emergence of “lifelog” systems, wearable or ultraportable recording systems that capture and autotag the user’s audio, GPS, 3D visual, or other experience (travel, classes, work, private gatherings, etc.) and wirelessly uploads this life history to a web-accessible server for potential sharing among friends, archiving, and later selective examination. Such systems will be adopted particularly early and widely by youth in the more developed countries with technophilic cultures (Korea, Japan, etc.).

Head mounted displays (HMDs) are likely to remain niche applications for virtual reality. Other than for specialty competitive gaming, the marginal benefit to HMDs and Spatially Immersive Displays (SIDs) beyond the standard Keyboard Mouse Monitor (KMM) interface do not seem compelling. There are severe drawbacks to using HMDs while navigating physical space around the home (eating food, interacting with friends in the same room, etc.). SIDs, by contrast, seem likely to gain modest adoption as prices drop in coming years, because they will be natural outgrowths of HD home theatre installations (eg., more screens going on more walls, either projection or wall mounted). A low cost SID that covers three walls of the living room seems an archetypal advance for immersive gaming and virtual worlds, one that might achieve minority market adoption by 2016.

• Immersive virtual world walking and running interfaces seem likely to remain only military and research devices over the next ten years. A notable exception is two degree of freedom treadmills (speed and elevation tilt) which might be combined with large display screens and virtual competitors and coaches (via videoconference) in a system that could emerge a small fraction of high-end home, corporate, and commercial gyms, and military and institutional training environments as part of the growing exergame market. But higher DOF and "unrestricted" walking systems like the VirtuSphere currently have such drawbacks as high complexity, cost, noise level, space requirement, user injury, and the promotion of unnatural walking behavior. Even such clever near-omni-directional treadmills as those of Virtual Space Devices (see video) are presently $1M systems, hoping to develop $30K systems in coming years. R&D programs like the European Commission's Cyberwalk Project are seeking to develop systems for "natural unrestricted 3D motion" in virtual space, but that long-dreamed-for objective continues to look out of reach beyond the lab, with all technologies presently on the horizon.

Sensory substitution technology in augmented reality seems unlikely to have a significant social effect for the forseeable future. Sensory substitution is a rudimentary interface that has been touted by some futurists as an additional channel to provide augmented reality sense data to the human. There are research devices available that use a wearable camera and a transducer on a subject's tongue, palm, or back of the torso, allowing the brain of unsighted individuals to interpret the touch patterns as a crude form of vision. Some have suggested that such tools are ways we will be able to increasingly augment our normal senses through unobtrusive secondary channels in coming years. Imagine, for example, permanently gaining the ability to see in 3D behind you, with a wearable camera and using areas on your back as retinas, and having a part of your brain learn to adapt itself from birth to interpreting such information. Or using that same subliminal system to be able to continuously and surreptitiously "read" incoming text and graphics from a 3D augmented reality display linked to the web, while your eyes are enaged in something else. The problem with this vision is that this interface strategy appears to be very limited and poor by compared to our existing forms of sensing, and is subject to all the same limitations of divided attention that we find today when humans try to do more than one thing at a time (e.g., drive a car and talk on the cell phone). Developmental biology and animal studies also argue it would work better in human youth than in adults, particularly if used from birth with no interruption (e.g., as some form of implant). But such use would raise serious ethical concerns, require extensive testing, and be very slow to emerge. Even when perfected it would remain subject to sensory substitution's decreased effectiveness relative to the naturally evolved senses. An alternative to trying to open new sensory channels to the brain would be a form of "sensory specialization," to permanently assign a part of your existing visual field to your AR display, as with glasses or implants in early adulthood. But again, while such tools mayl be extensively experimented with in future subcultures, they all seem likely to give only minor benefit, and would come with significant problems. In the few cases where early benefit might accrue, as with soccer players that have the ability to "see through their backs," including a topsight view of the game, relayed to them by remote camera, the social stigma involved with early and elitist use would be significant. Such players would for a very long time be relegated to playing in minor, "enhanced" leagues, the way professional bodybuilding now has minor competitions for those who admit to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. For the forseeable future, simply increasing the miniaturization, affordabilty, performance, and bandwidth of our wearable computing systems, as well as the quality of the artificial and human intelligence connected to them, seems to be a far more productive and socially acceptable prescription for progress in augmented reality.

• Whoever comes out with the first "normalization engine," a system that allows each participating developer to translate their virtual asset database into an common framework, will be able to create the world's leading interoperable metaverse alliance, assuming their politics are appropriately transparent and fair enough to elicit wide participation..
• Online dating (eHarmony, Match.com, etc.) is a killer app for next gen virtual worlds (2010?), ones that are able to map our digital photos and even realtime facial features to the avatar using web cameras. Such tools will increasingly improve the emotional quality of virtual space. We should be allowed to express a desire for something intimate and then go into a 3D space and see others who've exposed that desire as well. Hopefully the trust networks will be in place.
• Physical objects will increasingly be metatagged. As more and more of them gain a "media wrapper," we will have grown a useful data overlay to our digital geospatial world.
• The next billion people joining the internet will come from “BRIC” countries like Brazil, Russia, India, and China, and a smattering from other developing nations. They will continue to access the internet primarily through phone and mobile devices, rather than desktops. Investors are flocking to this area where they are not in other VR. Whatever metaverse we see in the next decade must be accessible by these “thin client ” devices and voice interface.
• Persistent online social worlds are an extraordinary tool and platform likely to be subject to real network effects, like instant messaging. There will be a very small number of very large virtual worlds, like there is a small number of IM networks today. Already we see pressure at the second-tier world level for common standards. They start banding together and then there is pressure for even the most popular worlds to allow interoperability. Given human psychology, the desire for consistency, and market factors we can expect just a few, not hundreds or thousands to capture the majority of the market.
• Summit quote: "Second Life's architecture is going to split as it continues to grow and diversify. Eventually you'll log into your island like a web page. Navigation to virtual worlds/cities/games from that point will be a series of choices, not a continuous geography. You'll see fragmentation down to the API level."

• Avatar-based videophones and the limits of videophone utility. Within the next 2-5 years we'll see high-end avatars that can accurately mimic your facial expressions as you sit in front of the screen. A low-level version of this has already occurred, with Logitech's latest Orbit MP QuickCam webcam, which adds mixed reality features to webcam images and supports gesture-driven avatars. Something like this might make the videophone usable for folks who don’t want their entire personal environment accessible to the caller. Still, even these kinds of videophones will likely be used only very selectively. They make sense for family, dating, early stages of business contacts, and some forms of collaboration, but audio will continue to be more efficient for most conversations and allows more privacy and multitasking for the users. In a curious way, less is often more in communication. Video often shatters the intimacy of an audio conversation.

• 4GLs, user generated content, and the business model. If graphics programs and programming languages continue to abstract themselves, we may see the emergence of specification driven fourth-generation languages (4GL's) for virtual content creation that allow programming at the level of concepts, not code, the same way we have seen such languages emerge for data management (SAS, SPSS, etc.). Such a technical advance would allow rapid scaling of user-generated content, and greatly reduce barriers to entry for open, collaborative virtual worlds. Small businesses may one day build out unique virtual worlds the same way garage bands creeate unique music today.
• The future of the computer display. Most of us want a simple visual interface with a lot of intelligence behind it (think Google). The big push will be to put more processing behind intelligent filters. Avatars will be able to do a very limited amount of filtering in 2016, mostly in narrow domains, like communication media (email, etc.). But at the same time as we elder folk strive for simplicity, there will be many people, particularly youth, who want to push the limits, who will experiment with 20 windows open at the same time, with both simple and complex things (asynchronous chat, browsing, video, wikipedia, 3D worlds) going on in each. A fraction of user's desktops will be totally immersive, the way a quantitative stock trader’s multi-monitor desktop often is today. 3D displays will remain as research projects and niche markets in advertising for the coming decade. Resolutions are fuzzy even in the best current systems, and even the most aggressive plans (Japan’s VR TV by 2020 initiative) have longer time horizons.
 
 

9B. Predictions - Business and Economics

• In 2016, interactive, internet-accessing, 3D visual environments (video, virtual, or mixed reality) are likely to be used for at least each of the following commercial activities. All of these already represent healthy, growing markets in 2006:
  A. Solo Entertainment (ex: solo IPTV or internet video and solo 3D games and environments viewed on the cellphone/PDA/laptop/desktop/home media center, etc.)
  B. Social Entertainment and Communication (ex: non-solo IPTV, MMOGs, 3D video viewing or virtual home page navigation on community sites, video or avatar-based teleconference/chat/dating, 3D video and 3D virtual games, location-based 3D games)
  C. Income Production (ex: paid work in virtual worlds, remote videoconference work, collaboration in virtual, videocomposite, or 3D mixed reality online offices)
  D. e-Commerce and e-Barter (ex: viewing 3D images or video of physical or virtual items for purchase/swap, remote shopping using 3D video, virtual, or mixed reality worlds)
  E. Education and Creativity (ex: 3D distance learning and job training, 3D virtual object construction, online homework collaboration in 3D environments)
  F. Assessment (ex: 3D remote job interviewing, 3D remote assessment/testing)
  G. Exercise (ex: videoconferenced remote exercise, 3D virtual or 3D mixed reality active video games on home exercise mats, treadmills, stationary cycles, gym machines, etc.)
  H. Navigation (examples: auto, laptop, or PDA-based 3D navigation systems).
• 3D version of the Virtual Town Square (VTS). A "killer app" for virtual business and community. Within five years, some major virtual world maker will build out a virtual downtown that resembles some real downtown to a reasonable approximation, ideally in a young and highly wired urban community. If designed right, this will become a most efficient multihop that young urbanites use when deciding "what to tonight." Cruising the virtual streets early Friday evening will tell you 1) who in your local community is also trying to figure out what to do (chat options), 2) who in your community is already down there doing things (their GPS-driven avatar will be present, available for you to contact by IM 3) what the options are for entertainment (2d lists in 3D, and webcam updated feeds of real world downtown storefronts and events). Registration for events, parking, etc. can all be negotiated through the virtual world. The first VTS's will drive significant traffic to those who build them, spurring copycats across the world. Participating VTS's will eventually be linked in a common network, with traveling avatars ("travatars") to visit them all. In sum, the virtual recreation of real world urban centers and neighborhoods can become the most efficient multihop for "what to do tonight" as well as a new tool for world browsing and socializing. Physical and social availability options can be toggled on and off, connecting the avatar with it's controller. Active and GPS-driven avatars can follow the real world locations of people. Local businesses can use the system for virtual shopping and "location ad words" that bring you to other similar virtual recreations, which will create new economic relationships between the virtual network and physical places.
• Smart cell phones (some of them wearable) will be the leading platform for augmented reality devices in 2016. Location-based cellular data and radio delivered to these cellphones is likely to be the next major infrastructure development in the augmented reality space. By comparison to cellular, mobile Wi-Max, mesh, and other network options will have only minor market share. Disagree? Read Why Max?: A Wireless Primer and Discussion on Wireless Reality, Jeffrey Belk, Qualcomm, Sep 2005 [66] and see if your view is changed. Nothing is going to surpass the highly motivated and competitive 3G WWAN data networks, whose buildout is now being subsidized by 127 billion minutes of voice use per month. Smart 3G cell phones that can access open standard, Virtual Earth / Google Earth environments, which can be be updated by anyone and which are capable of streaming location based audio, images, and minor video to mobile users, will be the next major breakthrough in virtual mirror worlds. When mobile users can use their cellphones just a few years from now to "geobrowse" data overlays on the leading virtual maps of their local environment as they travel, to gain tourist information, local news, entertainment options, etc, there will be the predictable early proliferation and then a later consolidation of these virtual worlds. In each category (All-Inclusive, Events, Entertainment & Dining, Local News, Weather, Traffic, Local History, etc.), after consolidation, we can expect just one or two virtual worlds to receive the vast majority of user traffic. Browsing these worlds will provide a rich set of potential experiences, all just a click away from webcams that peer in to these buildings in realtime, 2D websites, streaming audio, and even video. Local community members looking at all this geodata will see new potentials for alliances, co-branding of events, etc, continually reshaping the local virtual real estate. The most interesting of these worlds will be perused constantly by users with mobile navigation systems, providing a set of ever-changing options and interfaces to physical space.

• Location-Based Cellular Radio. LBCR will be a multibillion dollar market for autos and mobile devices by 2016. Local wireless infrastructure will support streaming internet audio in the car and over the cell phone within two to three years (2008-9) for premium customers, and four to six years for the mass market. This may be one of the biggest coming new media industries currently below the pundit's radar. Tomorrow's GPS-equipped cell phones and handheld and in-car navigation systems will support the playing of short location-based images and video, and location-based audio delivered over cellular radio (and HD radio to a significantly more limited extent). Combine this with basic 3D virtual maps and you have a handheld information and entertainment device with compelling new abilities. Motorola's iRadio is a leading company in this still very early space, though there are a number of other entrants [60]. Cooper's law tells us that the spectrum efficiency of radio communication (both voice and data) has doubled every two and a half years, over 104 years, since radio waves were first used for communication. As a result, we are on track for this functionality being possible at the premium end very shortly. In late 2007, Qualcomm will release CDMA EV-DO Revision B data modem and cellphone chips to card makers, which will provide up to 14.7 megabits per second peak on downlink (something closer to 1/4 of this for real world average rates). When these emerge in 2008 they will enable such mobile features as television, and internet browsing while making VoIP calls, and the enough extra bandwidth to support location-based streaming radio in the car [26]. Imagine being able to receive cellular internet radio, as you drive, that offers you such channels as: 1) Educational and historical information for the landmarks you are passing, 2) Highly local, up to the minute news, politics, weather, and traffic, 3) Reviews and info on local restaurants, shopping specials, and entertainment events, as you are passing them. On the navigation and cell phone screen, location-based advertisements can pop up as clickable graphics, or audio headlines in a radio stream, and if you click on them you can hear ordinary or "breaking ads," i.e., the big special going on right now in the restaurant you are just passing, for the next 20 customers that wallk in the door. Over time, store owners will be able to update their ads in realtime from web interfaces, using their own automated and manual systems ("Only two of these left in stock, hurry!"). Such ads are likely to create commercial and civic institution-driven flash mobs increasingly in coming years. When you venture outside of your home zone, you can set your filters to let you know interesting tourist information, or when you pass a favorite type of restaurant, bookstore, coffeeshop, etc. For the radio shows, most of this programming can be auto-assembled digitally, without need of a radio DJ. Much of the local video, as well as the less changeable audio, might be updated daily by Wi-Max to the auto while it is parked, to be served up later as one drives through the local area. In a more advertising-unobtrusive mode, cell phone users and auto passengers will be able to click on visual ads appearing on their device's navigation screen, as you approach a location, which will trigger audio and video location-based advertising, entertainment, and educational content. Such ads will of course be able to hand off GPS coordinates of the event back to the device, which can then provide turn-by-turn directions to the driver. Such a platform will make weekend and evening "cruising" of ones favorite areas of the city a much more enjoyable experience for both tourists and locals. One of the obvious longer-run implications here is that within a decade, satellite radio's national-level programming (XM, Sirius, etc.) will be on the path to becoming a niche player role in the radiosphere, the way satellite television is beginning to become a niche provider in the television space. Another is that regulations will have to be drafted for the use of ads and video on navigation screens while the car is in motion, so that driver-initiated accidents don't increase. Handheld GPS devices, like Garmin, who have 50% of the U.S. handheld GPS market, may be first with this service. But telcos deploying smart cell phones are likely to be the major provider, as with Sprint Nextel's partnership with TeleNav GPS Navigation Systems to provide turn-by-turn GPS navigation for $10/month [65]. As a final piece of this prediction, once the telcos have built out the complex infrastructure for superior entertainment and news content based on voice subscriptions, and have trained up millions in how to use their cell phones and in-car navigation/cell radio systems as mobile entertainment platforms, the market will be ready to support open source versions of this geographic web. Or perhaps the open source versions will be competitive from the very beginning. These are interesting and uncertain issues for the future.

• Internet 3D content feeds to the home. The coming decade will bring an influx of both independent film and machinima (video animation rendered with virtual world engines) to the home. Leading platforms for amateur and independent video and machinima publishing, like YouTube and Google Video are poised to greatly democratize access to 3D visual stories, as soon as these can be autosubcribed by our home media systems. In 2005 Tivo announced a deal with Yahoo! TV, allowing users of the latter service to program their Tivo's through Yahoo's interface. But what is needed to open up this market would be allowing PVR users to automatically download internet video via RSS feeds, giving them keyword driven, ad-minimized content to view at home each evening, and an effectively infinite number of independent TV channels. Perhaps a future iTunes hack will allow this. Windows Media Center plug ins like Streamalicious allow you to subscribe to YouTube, Google Video, and other feeds with your computer, so it can't be long before we see this in our TVs as well. When videocasting equivalents to OhMyNews (Korea’s citizen-journalist newspaper) begin to pay the best amateur content providers for the right to display their work, an explosion of amateur video content will occur. As authoring tools for producing machinima and recording public events within 3D worlds improve, and as leading virtual worlds make these tools available to their residents, we will see more 3D animation downloaded to the home as well. The increasing popularity of all-animation movies makes it clear that discrimination between 3D and film is blurring. "Good stories not yet told" are becoming the primary currency, and niche audiences are increasingly accessible in the networked world. Netflix, for example, pays premiums to independent filmmakers for good social documentaries to add to their 65,000 titles, and Netflix customers rent as many as 40,000 of these titles each week, diving deeply into the long tail of content diversity.

Sony's PS3 game console will lose market share to the XBox 360 and possibly the Nintendo Wii. Sony has made a major mistake focusing on hardware superiority for the multicore PS3, but not realizing that ease of game development (tools and support) will be much more important to the future of the new platform. Meanwhile Microsoft's Xbox 360, a less impressive multicore platform, is significantly easier to program for, and Microsoft has been leveraging this advantage by building a much better set of game developer tools and support. The XBox 360 has also been faster to market, and perhaps most importantly, has built an impressive centralized online community, XBox Live, not yet matched by Sony or Nintendo. Live makes online extensions to standalone games an easy addition for XBox developers, and makes online access easy for players, with a pay-once centralized system. If history is any guide, the PS3's superior hardware, if not matched by better partnership and support of game developers and Live-quality community features will be less impressive to gamers than many in the media presently expect. Software and story have always been more important than hardware in PC games, even more so the older PCs get. Hardware still plays a significant differentiating role in the pre-consolidation phase of the industry, as with consoles (Sony PS3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii) and portables (e.g., Sony PSP, Nintendo DS), but even here a case can be made that hardware is becoming steadily less important.
Chat/IMing will still be the killer app of the metaverse in 2016 in the U.S.. We’ll see very incremental change from the perspective of user behavior. We’ll have richer 3D smileys (oh the sarcasm!), but not much else that has been uniformly adopted. Multicolored discussion threads for different speakers. Easier ability to filter our communities and eject griefers. But basically the same general user paradigm we see today. Why? Because much of this is bandwidth limited, and the U.S. will be dragging its heels just getting everyone serious bandwidth over the next 10 years. Fortunately this won't be true in other regions, like Europe and Asia. Early innovation there might cause a "Sputnik effect" (reactive scientific and technological advance) in the U.S., but it is doubtful.
• Virtual worlds/MMOGs that enable and encourage user-created content, ownership, and exchange will become increasingly successful relative to economically closed worlds. Korea is a bellweather for this kind of content development. High bandwidth penetration and social cohesion have led to massive user-generated sites such as Cyworld, and Daum (which purchased Lycos in 2004). Citizen-journalist news services like OhMyNews are perhaps the best example of this new trend. OhMyNews is now the 5th largest news company in Korea, and the largest citizen-journalist international news service, with its submissions doubling every 3 months in 2006. OhMyNews International is very likely to become a respected international newswire like Reuters or AP. They pay US $200 for lead stories, and $100 for section header stories. By the same token, citizen-developer networks, aggregating the best producers of interesting new spaces in virtual worlds will be a highly valuable complement to commercial ventures.
• Underemployed youth in emerging nations that offer low-cost internet access (China, India, Costa Rica, etc.) may be the most aggressive VW colonizers and employees of virtual businesses, in the coming decade. Information cascades/network effects may drive large numbers of emerging nations users to dominate particular sites, the way Brazilians have become the main users (65% in 2006) of Orkut, a Google-developed social networking site.
• Customized avatar services growth. Some denizens of Second Life make a good incomes taking digital pictures of new residents and creating avatars for them. There is even a (brave) startup working on ways to insert the avatars of children players into educational and entertainment online games and worlds. In the future, we can expect this to be a common feature of most games.

• Mirror worlds (virtual worlds that are closely tied to either physical space or the acquisition of physical-world skills, like the geospatial web and serious games) will one day gain equal economic strength to today's mostly fictional virtual worlds. Unlike fantasy worlds, the information learned in mirror worlds can be used in both the virtual and the physical. Embedded sensors and effectors, ubiquitous computing, and augmented reality are all virtualizing the physical world as well. Such trends promise future mirror world platforms with great economic value. Virtual worlds that don’t correlate to the physical world will, to a rough approximation only be able to grow as large as the entertainment sector of world society. But online social, educational, training, shopping, entertainment, and collaboration spaces that link directly and extensively to real world physical locations promise new social benefits. Modern large bookstores have 45-55% of their sales in the nonfiction category. Likewise we can expect tomorrow's "nonfiction" games and virtual educational platforms to grow to represent at least parity in the virtual economy. Today such games and systems are a small minority in virtual space.

• In 2016, management interviews at some companies with extensive online presence may include clan and guild management questions for those who spent extensive time as youth in virtual worlds. What experiences did you learn managing or working within a distributed group? What was your financial, social, and other success? What failures did you have and what did you learn from them?
• 3D travel management systems. Trip planning platforms like GoogleMaps and MapQuest provide 2D overlays of driving directions. Companies like Beat the Traffic provide 3D traffic visualization and "traffic forecasting" (travel time forecasts and recommendations based on historical traffic patterns). Being able to preplan or display realtime traffic data for a trip in 3D offers the superior situational intelligence of seeing known physical locations, potential side trips, rest stops, etc. Until processing and bandwidth are much better, 2D versions of such systems will remain more efficient for many years to come, however.

• Non-GIS 2D+ and 3D visualization applications will find a niche (example, TouchGraph, The Brain, MindManager, etc.). For most users, such tools are likely to continue to represent unnecessary complexity and cognitive overhead, but a minority of visually-oriented users find them useful even today. In coming years, as it becomes easier to add data sets into such frameworks, and maintain persistent relationships between objects, their niche value may grow. They might become valuable, for some, for visualizing social network relationships, teaching ontologies, systems education, data archiving, etc.

Wi-Max applications for the car. Wi-Max downloads of podcasts from your home PC to your car, as long as it is parked within a few miles of your home, will ensure you always have the latest audiobooks, music, etc. in the car, where you have the free time to listen. Driving directions looked up on your home PC during trip planning will download to your car navigation system with a click on your way out the door.

• 3G wireless platforms for rich video will enable persistent 3D access. High-end 3G communications networks like Qualcomm's CDMA EV-DO Revision B in the US, and DoCoMo’s Foma in Japan, in combination with new mobile processors will provide platforms for mobile always accessible 3D. ABI Research analyst Ken Hyers predicts: "Once the digital broadcast networks come on board, you'll see 10 to 12 percent of [U.S.] wireless customers signing up by 2010," he said. They'll pay $10 to $15 a month for all-you-can-eat video.” In addition to broadcast video, this platform will also enable access to 3D social worlds, and augmented reality infospaces.

• Videoshopping, an interactive 3D e-commerce application. By 2016 live videoshopping (v-shopping) will be available through a few of the larger retailers in the most wired nations globally. Big Box stores like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and high end grocery chains will eventually offer it, perhaps first as a fee-based feature for shoppers desiring 3D video of their product. Most obviously, online catalogs will increasingly include prerecorded video and 3D simulations where helpful. Some stores will also offer live views of merchandise on aisles from fixed aisle-mounted cameras, allowing online local customers to videoshop the store, and to remotely reserve store merchandise for pickup or shipping. Some will offer a dedicated attendant who can walk the aisles for you with a wireless videophone, show you the products (in stock and orderable), answer questions about them, and reserves them for pickup or shipping. Small independents will also be able to walk their aisles with their wireless videophones as their time permits, as a courtesy for calling customers. In addition to the prerequisite of mass consumer adoption of high-quality home videophones and hands-free wearable wireless videophones for merchants, the main block to this vision is ubiquitous 100+ Mbps broadband. Given present leadership history, countries like the U.S. are unlikely to see significant videoshopping adoption within this timeframe.
• Incumbent media disadvantage: Perhaps the biggest loser in the early metaverse era may be other forms of media. The way newspapers have lost ground to television, we can see MMOs already stealing time from television and physical gatherings, within early adopter demographics.
• A broad-based launcher/browser for multiple virtual worlds may emerge within the next 10 years. Multiverse is one company presently working on delivering this vision, giving small developers access to an MMOG delivery network using a free-upfront, revenue sharing model. Steam, Valve’s proprietary content delivery system, is a downloader/ patcher/ launcher that allows continuous updating of virtual worlds (Half Life, etc.). Making the browser/updater platform truly background (Steam is invasive in current implementation) is a present challenge.
• Better virtual workplaces by 2016. People presently doing eLearning and eWorking are often only marginally invested in today’s early online platforms, as they are both unecessarily complex (too much clicking around and waiting) and missing many of the realtime social aspects of physical space. Such systems need more social accountability. If you don’t show up to the space, you need to be missed, as you are in physical space. If you are there, your presence needs to affect others in a tangible way, not just as an icon or name on the screen. In 2016 most of us will still be working most of the time in physical workplaces away from home, but we’ll see a lot of people coming in to the physical office less than five days a week. There will be an increasing number of people who work mostly at home, and more opportunities will exist for virtual community, but this style of work still requires more self motivation and direction than many workers presently have, so even with its cost efficiencies it will remain the minority of jobs. At the same time, talented people don’t want to be closely surveilled remotely, so highly transparent virtual workplaces will remain a distinct minority, at least in leading companies.
• Virtual world bear market ahead. Summit quote: "There may be a coming crash in the virtual world market. Does this not look like a bubble? I think it's safe to say we'll see a shakeout at least. Certainly the big game MMOs have gotten to be too expensive. World of Warcraft may be the last increase in production budgets we see for a while. The expenses are killing everyone. Easy money is flowing in right now, but it's like the tide. In 2-5 years it'll wash back out."
• Virtual world economies will become subject to financial oversight organizations. As virtual worlds become means for transferring funds from one country another, government agencies will want regulation. We can expect threshold transactions requiring reporting, and other restrictions.
• The metaverse will accelerate the transition to a knowledge economy (after Peter Drucker), where the creativity of individuals and groups become a much more important form of capital.
• Portions of the richly graphic background of concerts can be increasingly be controlled by audience members, both those online and those physically present, through their cellphones. Increasing numbers of musicians will be fully animated themselves. Think Gorillaz.

 

 

9C. Predictions - Social, Legal and Other

• The great promise of the metaverse as a platform for rehabilitation - the rise of the Symbiont Network [76]. Socially marginalized groups and individuals are those who presently stand to gain the greatest benefit from interaction in today's first generation online worlds like Second Life. Even the "cartoon versions" of social interactions presently available in such worlds can be greatly beneficial to individuals who don't have even that level of social normalcy and support available to them. We are talking here about people living in repressive cultures or social situations, the poor and disenfranchised, those with social phobias, mental illness, and criminal histories. Imagine the power of these worlds to help juvenile offenders while they are incarcerated, by getting them into a virtual world and allowing them to form healthy relationships, anonymous or otherwise, with a larger community of online do-gooders and role models, all supervised lightly by a small staff of psychologists, social workers and corrections professionals. There are some great studies waiting to be done here on whether having that kind of social interaction and post-release support, especially if it is persistent and ubiquitously available (e.g., the ability to shout out at any time to your support community of avatars through your cellphone/PDA) would impact recidivism, self esteem, ability to get and hold a job after release, etc. I predict such "Symbiont Networks" will have a profoundly empowering effect.
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• The next 10 years will see only small steps towards a globally interoperable metaverse. Summit quote: "We need baby steps because people aren't ready. There's not going to be a collective authority over and interoperability between even the largest metaverse environments. For example, China is going to do their own thing. If you leave a world you will be able to take the value of your virtual property by real-money trading through third parties, but not the things themselves."
• The same way computer games split between themed (most), casual (many), and nondirective (a few) games, virtual worlds may split between worlds themed for entertainment, work, investment, education, socialization and other purposes, places for ritualized casual interactions (chatrooms, etc.), and a few open-ended spaces where anything may occur.
• Social and legal issues (individual and group attitudes, behavior, and standards including hacker activity, user adoption, policy, law), not technological issues, will be the primary roadblocks to metaverse development over the next ten years.
• Realtime fact checking surge. By 2016, those with high-end wearables and persistent wireless access to good databases will be able to easily fact check anything of interest throughout the day and during conversations with their natural language mobile devices. Some individuals with access to fast web connections today are already using such tools during business and personal telephone conversations to gain social and competitive advantages.

• Networked exercise, active video games (AVGs)/exergames, and online gyms. As inexpensive videoconferencing hits the home, people will use this shared virtual space to conduct home exercise routines. Imagine your yoga or aerobics instructor leading a small group of clients, all showing in split screen, through their paces, with everyone seeing each other on the home video wall. Active video games like Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) are already used for weight loss in some groups. Networked home mats for the gym floor and cameras will allow much more extensive versions of such exergames in coming years. Picture tomorrow's home exerciser networked in an augmented reality fighting game (see Nintendo's Wii). Home-based exercisers will be able to enter virtual foot and bike races against others in their city, on simulated or videotaped terrains of real destinations, using their networked home machines (treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, climbers, and other equipment). The leading gyms of 2016, in the same way that they offer aerobics classes today, may employ trainers who lead virtual home workouts in conjunction with occasional trips to the physical gym, and sponsor weekend workouts and competitions that bring together closely-matched virtual partners first found in the virtual world. Climb the Matterhorn (high-def actual video, overlaid with digital avatars of the climbers). Run the Grand Canyon. Bike Napa Valley. Meet new folks in the process, and have an experience that almost feels like you are there. Your online coach/trainer/guide keeps track of your improvement, and you are rewarded by the environment, the social activities, the game structure, and of course the exercise itself. Imagine a networked DDR carpet that can be rolled out over the entire living room floor. With tomorrow’s eyetoy descendants, people can be transported into virtual space for danceoffs, they can use their whole living room floor for the dance area, and the best footage will be shared globally overnight. Fun and empowering.

• 3D authoring tools will become usable by amateurs. This will be necessary for user-annotated 3D worlds to emerge. Google’s 2006 purchase of SketchUp, one of the easiest to use 3D authoring systems available today, is a good example of this. Free and widely adopted 3D creation tools for children using laptops will be another prerequisite. We see early examples of 3D creation products aimed at childen in Takeo Igarashi’s early Magical Sketch 2 (2005). More advanced products, like eFrontier's 2D Anime Studio and 3D Poser and Shade (2006), are also bringing more artistically oriented youth into the 3D authoring space
• Taxation in virtual worlds. "Eventually, there's going to be a portfolio of these synthetic currencies," says virtual space scholar Edward Castronova. Journalist Daniel Terdiman writes, "cyberspace nations that are issuing these currencies are going to be under legal obligation to report sales and volumes and transactions, because in worlds where those currencies can be freely liquidated into dollars, there are clear tax implications..." [77,78].

Virtual world foyers on personal home pages will emerge in some future call screening systems. As standards emerge for shared virtual spaces, and as avatar and VoIP telephony improves, within ten years we may see the proliferation of virtual foyers on the virtual home pages used by tomorrow's youth. Some people may prefer to look out from their computer screen at an avatar knocking on their virtual door as their favorite way to screen their potential realtime voice conversations. For those using such systems, one of the default views on our monitors will be looking out through the front door of our "virtual house." In addition to emailing, IMing or calling, any individual will be able to walk up to our virtual house and knock on the door. We'll be able to see the public face and online profile of who is knocking, what they want to talk about, and decide if we want to open the door. Once opened, we may have a text or voice, video or avatar conversation, per our preference. More intimate friends will get higher bandwidth. If we decide not to answer and a verbal message is left by the caller, being able to scan the autotranslated text of a voicemail, in half the time it would have taken to listen to it, will further increase our efficiency, but with downsides as well, including growing social isolation and alienation from natural human contact. The temptation to be a hikikomori must be guarded against in our increasingly electronically insulated culture.

• Shared wireless data structures. In the same way Palm pioneered the infrared beaming of virtual business cards in 2000 using mobile devices, we can forsee a future set of standard data structures for wireless local proximity social networking (home page address, vCards, Linked In contacts, etc.) and feeds (newsletters, blog subscriptions, podcast and video links) shared one to one and one to many at meetings, conventions, etc. RSS output of text, audio, and video data types should be detectable as local transmissions, identifiable by source, and available as a one click subscription option.
Presence management and continuous partial attention will both improve. Two parent incomes, flextime, home offices, and the array of digital media and communications options available to us have created a new social ecosystem. People with too much access (IM, cellphone, texting) to them already don’t get enough work done. There will be an increasing need for fine grained presence management and for the ability for webcams to automatically detect our presence, ask if we want to be available, and indicate our status to the outside world.
• LARP. or Live Action Roleplaying, will be enabled by geospatial and augmented reality (AR) technologies. Having the computing environment increasingly able to keep track of rules and performance frees to the players to make complex choices in physical space. Sony’s Eye of Judgment EyeToy augmented reality card game is a modest early version of this, monitoring the user's card motions in physical space. Guild members in World of Warcraft gain social and management skills, and one can expect even more of this in AR LARPs that occur in physical space. A mature LARP market will include not just today's fiction games, but general educational games and "serious" training games in such fields as security, investigation, business, etc. Also expect updated, augmented reality versions of well-known classics like Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders.

• The adult entertainment sector of the 3D web community will be increasingly differentiated in 2016. We'll see some unusual new products and behaviors among the user community, like avatar swapping, virtual sex machines, and functional teledildonics. Summit quote: "We'll see much more virtual sex, mutivestites, and the "skankification" of American youth. That would be defined as having less sex but being more obsessed with it – skanky but not really getting laid."

• Preservation of privacy but the end of anonymity [the inability to track an online user, even given a compelling social need]. "Human societies rely so much on reputation for their basic functioning that online anonymity seems unlikely to persist in any significant way." -- Edward Castronova [1].
Virtual currencies, increasingly understood as real stores of value, will be regulated within countries by the same rules that govern existing foreign exchange markets. The first politically stable synthetic worlds whose robust virtual economies are connected to physical world capital exchanges are likely to enjoy a significant first mover capital influx, similar to that seen in the developing markets of emerging nations.
The Valuecosm. Some time after 2015 (the expected emergence of a functional Conversational Interface), it will be easy to construct automated preference and values maps of all consenting metaverse users, simply by archiving their public conversations with the system. This data, when combined with mirror world models of physical space, will allow the emergence of the Valuecosm, an environment where powerful economic, environmental, and political actors will regularly check with the public values maps of a geographic or virtual community before taking any major action (new store, new laws, etc.) within it. Likewise, individuals seeking to find geographic and virtual communities of shared values (including cognitive diversity) will be able to co-locate in neighborhoods, both physical and virtual, with others of similar mind. The Valuecosm, and the automated preference expression tools that will emerge around it (voting, boycotting, information filters, other social action systems) will greatly empower individual actors relative to today's most powerful actors. They will also enable the discovery of new positive sum strategies and processes that would be likely to be desired by members of both geographic and virtual social networks. Personal and neighborhood diversity will likely increase substantially due to the Valuecosm's effect, with meaningful cultural differences being maintained, neighborhood by neighborhood in physical and virtual space, while global rights and entitlements become more standardized. For an outline of the Valuecosm concept and a visualization of it operating in the longer term future, see "The Valuecosm" in "Human Performance Enhancement in 2032," John Smart, 2005.

• Legal issues will take years to play out because of the speed of the system. Summit quote: "If litigation started tomorrow on any major metaverse issue, it wouldn't be settled for several years. So I think in 5 years will be struggling with the same questions. By 2016 virtual intellectual property law will be better than today but still a work in progress. How do we get there? Lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits. DRM will be well crafted for business, and fair use will invove more than we had in the pre-digital age but still be circumscribed, the way Apple's iTunes today has a "7-burn limit" on playlists We'll still see privacy but a lot less anonymity. Digital shredding of certain messages after reading will be supported but rarely used. There will still be “offshore” facilities for storing private data but few who use them, as the penalties will be much stiffer for those who encrypt while breaking the law vs. those who simply break the law. While serious felonies may not be worse than today, with regard to misdemeanors, the gap between our legal system and what people are actually doing will likely stay the same or grow larger rather than smaller.

• The force of the bonds formed in virtual worlds is strong enough to keep these communities together if a world closes. There are historical examples of that. So you will continue to have communities traveling together from world to world as some of them wink out.
• Much of the money coming into the metaverse won't be spent wisely. Summit quote: "You're starting to see money pay attention to this space. It won't be spent wisely. But it never is. Look at Web 2.0. There's 20+ companies in every category and if all of them are banking on an exit to Yahoo, Google, or MS, there are gonna be a lot of losers."
• The metaverse tipping point will occur with the delivery of free, interesting, community-created content, like we see in YouTube or MySpace. Social networks will migrate into virtual worlds as soon as it becomes feasible. Summit quote: "You have millions of people treading water in MySpace waiting for a virtual space where they can do more, have a heightened level of interaction. That VW doesn't exist now. SL doesn't do it as well as a flat social space on the web." Summit quote: "Metaverse entertainment will take off when it looks good, is cheap, and you don't have to pay $20 for parking."
• Summit quote: "In the future, everyone becomes a destination." This is a nice extension of the 1991 observation of the Scottish artist Momus, "In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people." The more fractionated our tastes get, and the better the web becomes at connecting us to others with similar tastes, the more we all become each other's microcelebrities. Summit quote: "I think the key idea of the metaverse is a communication space. Think of SL as a node, like the AOL of the net. What's going to happen is that everyone becomes a living, 3D web page. I want to be a place that you want to go to."
• Contrary to the prediction that the metaverse will encourage social unity, Institute for the Future expects people will hold more tightly to their beliefs and at least in the short to medium run there may be more ideological polarization and conflict. The metaverse will not prevent "bad globalization." For better or worse, people will be able to connect with others with strongly similar likes and viewpoints, and insulate themselves from those with dissenting perspectives, even more than they do today. When VoIP (Skype, etc.) started, people would just talk to strangers comparing rigs because that is where the tech was – now it works like telephone, a tool to talk almost exclusively to people you know. MMOs already show a strong predisposition to affiliating with already known groups, rather than strangers. 10 years out from now, the current sociability we see in virtual spaces might just be an artifact of their present immaturity. Most of tommorrow's MMOs may be places for interacting with only those who you chose intentionally, versus someone you meet "in public." At least the use of avatars may encourage more diversity in age, social classes, gender and other non-ideological factors than we otherwise would.

• The next generation that grows up with the persistent mobile internet will have very different cultural concepts and social norms. In general, they'll be significantly more informal and transparent and collaborative than we've seen to date. Expect a lot more pajamas in public.

• We'll start to see more and different versions of virtual worlds popping up at a greater rate than we have seen the past 10 years. The metaverse Cambrian Explosion is near. You're going to see people chasing these pots of gold and trying to create killer open ended and specialty virtual worlds. Second Life may already have enough momentum to remain a generalist leader, but there's plenty of room for more non-fantasy specialty worlds.

• The major parties may have virtual campaign HQ's in Second Life in 2008. A famous politician (2008?) will make a campaign stop in a virtual world. At least one city politician has set up virtual campaign headquarters there (2006).

• Fantasies will continue to be tied to leading real world locations. There will be multiple high-res virtual iterations of New York and other leading cities in cyberspace, as people want to be tycoons, stars, laureates, or social butterflies in the most interesting places.

• By 2015 at least one significant new metaverse-based religious group will emerge. This won't just be an online variant of an existing physical world religion but a new faith that practices regular spiritual activities first in virtual space, and later and less centrally in physical space.
• Today's synthetic worlds, where the user views themself as "external" to the virtual world, may be seen in hindsight as intermediate environments, forerunners of virtual space as a persistent, intimate visual and linguistic representation of the user's mental and emotional state. In other worlds, one's local virtual environment may become as personal as one's house, and as intimate as one's clothes [2]
 

 

10. Positive (Opportunity) and Mixed (Alternative) Scenarios. Positive or mixed vignettes about the future of 3D web related technologies.

10A. Positive and Mixed Scenarios - Technology and Science

• Gmail 2016, lifelogs, friendfinder, and the talent marketplace. Every Google Gmail or other mass-storage online email user today, and any email user who currently archives their past emails, is a blogger who doesn't know it. They are preserving for posterity a text-based record, or lifelog, of all their written memes, the topics and ideas they care about. Such lifelogs will continue to incorporate increasing numbers of data categories (audio, pictures, video, websites surfed, places visited with your GPS phone, etc.). Flock, a Web2.0 browser, is developing a lifelog of all previous websites visited, and using this as a basis for context-sensitive internet search queries initiated by the user, displayed preferentially at the top of the list in the manner of Google Desktop. Since the Gmail's 2004 advent, Google has been steadily upgrading the storage available to every user, with 2.6Gb available per user as of June 2006. Within the next ten years, as the participatory web emerges, Google can be expected to introduce a suite of permission-based, database-backed collaboration tools to mine this data, tools that that will be accessible to any user who consents to the indexing of their database, without revealing its particular contents, and the spidering of their online publications. These tools will give users profound new abilities to meet others based on their search criteria, and to find global online talent ideal for their virtual or physical enterprises. In addition to early abuse, tremendous new positive-sum economic, political, and social interactions can be expected to occur.

• Nanoscale simulation. Modeling can give new intuition with regard to how physical properties operate at small scales. This is important because miniaturization has been a massive driver of accelerating change for the last century. Subtle forces (eg,Van der Waals) become important at the nanoscale, and a subset of properties and ratios (eg, surface area to volume ratio) become very prominent. Being able to play with reasonably high fidelity physics models at this scale will allow designers to discover and develop intuitions for stunning new miniaturization and manufacturing efficiencies in the way that today’s equations and noninteractive 2D models don’t allow. Much of this will come from bionics/biomimicry (modeling how properties work in biological nanosystems and applying them in technological systems) but much will also come from experimentation with the special properties of the micro and nanocosms.

• 3D captures 2D, with no appreciable performance loss. With sufficient hardware capacity, todays online 3D worlds will subsume the browser world, perhaps running as emulations on virtual machines. This is beginning to happen with browsers in virtual worlds like Second Life and There, geo browsers like Google Earth, and the Opera browser planned for the Nintendo Wii. This development would make it so those who spend many hours in 3D wouldn't have to leave in order to get access to all their normal 2D web experiences, which would make 3D even more immersive and sticky. Of course this will require sufficient local processing and bandwidth for there to be no significant performance loss to be running an immersive 3D world simultaneous to intensive 2D tasks. At the present time, a significant performance cost might be noticed by most users running the emulation.
• Internet television, independent video, and the democratization of information. Besides the coming long-awaited ability to download video RSS feeds from the net to your home PVR, a technical advance that, combined with fiber to the home (FTTH), should be a national right for the 21st century citizen, another key enabling technology will be the OLED tablet remote. Picture having up to to 100 video channels/items/games, etc. displayed in thumbnail on the top level of a lightweight tablet/TV remote on your lap. Tap any one and you get 100 more like on the next level down. That's (100)^5 or ten billion visual items within five taps of your finger. That's a categorization system we could use. Using a favorites filter, your top level will be your 100 favorite video channels. For many viewers, 80% of these might be IPTV narrowcasts, many from independent sites, and only 20% would be network broadcasts, a significant advance beyond cable for democratization of the media. Click under any video and you get up to 100 other videos with similar features, all competing to make it up to the next directory level, based on your and others ratings and viewing habits. As you watch a movie or play a game, "more information" links, clips, related vids/sims, are generated. Such a platform would greatly improve our access to quality information. Here is a promising scenario for Democracy 2016: Imagine watching a political campaign speech or State of the Union address, relegated it to a corner of your large screen display with the sound turned off (closed captioned). As the politician makes his claims you can see immediately, on the right hand side, analysis from your favorite respected NGOs feeds, like the Center for Public Integrity, evaluating media content for factual accuracy, bias, spin, etc. Such tools might even lead to a resurgence of citizen political involvement. Certainly today's blogs and proliferating independent video are promising early steps in that direction.
• SLooglebox (Second Life/Google/Xbox-style convergence of web and console platforms): Next-gen console systems are no-longer stand-alone gaming devices, but powerfully networked computers geared towards gaming but capable of running any web app. Parallelized hardware like the Xbox 360 (3 3.2 Ghz processors) and the PS3 (8 Cell processors) should eventually be able to deliver the advanced features we are going to need in 3D web collaboration in coming years. An affilate player like Apple might also be the first to create the open-standards supercomputer-in-a-box that woudl function not just as a game device or home media device but also as a tool for online networking and collaboration through persistent online worlds.

• The Display Table (aka Game Table, etc.). This is a new social interaction device that seems like an inevitable addition to kitchen of every home. Remember that scene in Total Recall or Running Man (or one of those Schwarznegger sci-fi movies) where he talks to his parents through an adjacent video wall while at the breakfast table. The Display Table takes that concept one step further by recognizing that our tables themselves will soon be both cheap and smart enough to display graphics, and track physical objects (our fingers, etc.) moved on its surface. Think of the mulit-touch interface of Microsoft Surface (pictured here, interacting with Zunes) but without the under-table projection technology and delivered at an affordable price. The affordable (under $1,000) Game Table will likely need at least the following to become an overnight success in the homes of the 2010's and 2020's: 1) a horizontal touchscreen display (OLED?) as the table surface, with a computer hidden under the table and a wire going to power and internet 2) slimline under-table slideout wireless keyboards and game controllers/wands for the users, 3) flatscreen wall displays (on at least one and ideally two adjacent walls) that are wire-networked to the table, and 4) optional individual wearable AR displays (either small personal screens at the table edge or wearable eyeglasses) that will display personalized, secretive information to each user/player. The table will track physical game pieces and cards that are placed on the table surface for games and group collaborative/work activities. Wall and ceiling-mounted EyeToy-type cameras and wireless surround speakers would be additional options. The R&D departments of several major companies (Mitsubishi, Toshiba, and Microsoft among others) are working on game table prototypes. Mitsubishi's DiamondTouch table is an innovative (but still early) example in this space. DiamondTouch users sit on conductive seat pads, so that each individual user's touching of the table is identified by capacitive coupling. Stanford's Terry Winograd and colleagues explore the potential of such tables for group dynamics in a 2006 IEEE paper, which outlines such motivating educational (serious) games as MatchingTable and ClassificationTable. Such a table would not only be a preferred space for videoconferencing and other work activities, it would be a major new entertainment device and social enabler, bringing casual and MMO gaming to the main social room (kitchen or living room) in the household, classroom, and conference room. For home use, it would be a platform on which many of the classic family games (Monopoly, Life, Risk, etc.) will clearly be reinvented, as well as a conduit for a constellation of fascinating new family and participatory educational games. Affordable OLED displays for the table and the flatscreen on the adjacent wall may be an enabling technology that will create acceptable table portability and performance. Look for the first very high end versions of this some time after 2008 (five years? eight?), with mass market versions to follow a few years later. Game Tables that are lower to the ground, like coffeetables, also seem inevitable for the living room environment, and would be a central peripheral to accompany wireless game controllers in the living room, hiding the console in the coffee table. Nevertheless, sitting in hard chairs in the kitchen, at school, or at work, with good lighting, near the refrigerator, seems like it may become another very popular configuration for extended multiperson table-based gaming in coming years, creating a permanent new set of social dynamics, opportunities, and challenges that need to be considered. Social psychologists, are you game?

 

 

10B. Positive and Mixed Scenarios - Business and Economics

• Mixed reality cardgames and boardgames. Sony will be launching their innovative new Eye of Judgment (EOJ) mixed reality card game in 2007 for the PS3. EOJ is a card game you play under an EyeToy in front of a television, and the cards you lay down project animated characters onto the screen in front of you. The EyeToy recognizes the cards via a visual "cybercode." This should be a hit with kids who already play intricate card-based strategy games like Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh. It is hard to keep track of all the rules of play in such games, and also to dramatically tell the story that the card battles represent. Mixed reality allows visual drama to be inserted easily, and the computer keeps track of the rules and points. As collectibles, cardgames have tremendous market appeal (Wizards of the Coast, the company behind Magic: the Gathering, used the popularity of this franchise revenue to buy a number of older gaming companies, like TSR (D&D) , and gaming retail chains like Game Keeper. Cards also concretely present you with a continual set of varying decision options (your “hand”) and potential strategies, so they are an interesting way to build decisionmaking skills. All kinds of traditional games (Poker, solitaire, etc.) can be enhanced by this augmented reality format. Picture playing a game like chess, monopoly, risk, or any other card or boardgame this way. One gets the huge satisfaction of manipulating physical objects on the board, and the satisfaction of seeing the consequences of one’s actions in a 3D space projected onto the walls around you. Mixed reality games like this will be a great application for tomorrow's game table. First generation versions, however, if they are not both lag-free, bug-free, and intuitive, may not live up to designers expectations.
• Nonfiction gamebooks. In the 1990's almost all MMOGs had medieval themes, based on fantasies of the past. With the turn of the century we saw the first good fantasies of the present, like The Sims Online (2002), and of alternative futures, like City of Heroes (2004). Considering games as an analog to books, starting out with medieval fantasies made sense, as fiction is the largest category seller, and romance (with conflict, courtship, pursuit, and resolution) and mystery and suspense (another theme well represented in medieval environments) are the best selling categories in fictional media (books, film). Yet while 53 percent of the American populace reads fiction on occasion, 43 percent of us also read nonfiction (Publisher's Weekly). Games that attempt to educate by recreating fragments of reality, "nonfiction games," also called serious games, were scarce in gamespace until the early 2010's, when three of the largest publishing houses (Random House, HarperCollins, and TimeWarner) began releasing "gamebook" worlds in conjunction with their top selling nonfiction titles. While limited in scope, these worlds had competition, mystery, and suspense as elements, in addition to the possibility of social interaction among the players, and were designed to teach the inhabitants the basic paradigms of the book through experiential learning. The addition of monetary prizes and social acclaim to those who successfully navigated levels/chapters greatly increased the gamebook's appeal over traditional audiobooks, print books, and even linear videos. By 2016, nonfiction games (gamebooks and other e-learning environments) had become 15% of the total gaming market, and were projected to keep growing relative to the saturating market for fiction games, up to a projected 40% share, the same share nonfiction holds in the trade book market.
• Augmented reality matchmaking/dating and business/professional networking service. Picture two people walking in close proximity in physical space. Their portable digital devices buzz, and alert them to the other. They've been identified as a potential match as both subscribe to the same federation of online dating services. This match already includes a rating of physical attractiveness, using collaborative filtering judgements, so there would be reasonable consistency between one's stated preference level and one's subjective experience of potential matches (e.g., few "surprises"). Each person was cleared originally with some kind of background check. They can immediately download info about the other by setting security level to 3 and reading one another’s data. One might approach the other and ask if they'd like to get a quick coffee. Depending on the frequency of these kinds of alerts (the pickiness of your settings) this might be a welcome spontaneous interruption to your day. Such systems would also strongly reinforce flocking behavior in cities, providing another advantage to high density public spaces. Now imagine the entire scenario again in a business/professional networking context (LinkedIn, etc.). Maximizing opportunities for face to face interaction for purposes you select.
• Virtually-aided K-6 schools in 2016. In 2004 a group affiliated with Michael Milken, 80’s junk bond king and educational futurist, purchased KinderCare, the nation’s leading child care chain. Milken envisions a ten year future where private preschools, using the latest developmental psychology-based pedagogy, become highly networked with working parents, who each pay $150/week for their child’s attendance, even today sometimes beginning in the first months of life. In a digitally-enabled future, a working parent in 2016 might watch and be able to participate in a videoconference feed of their three year old daughter attaining some developmental milestone. Day care centers might capture highlights of the day and send them to parents, for viewing on their portable devices. At the same time, virtual worlds may increasingly be used for child education in such environments, even as early as Kindergarten. Many of the advantages of complex social interaction would emerge by connecting smaller schools to the larger community. With increasing transparency of in-class activities we might also expect less of the physical bullying that occurs today, and is a particular problem in some conformist cultures, like Japan. As education is a market representing 9% of the U.S. GDP, second in size only to health care, we’ll surely see new virtual initiatives in this space.
• Mass collaboration projects. Imagine a twenty-something with good communication skills in 2010 running a virtual company of 1,000,000 volunteers, all working on the same project. The company's output, the thing they are all constructing together, can be visualized in its developmental stages by everyone in virtual space. It's an edifice even more ambitious, in its own way, than the great pyramids were. But this time it's in everyone's self interest to see it emerge. How many collaborative companies might emerge like this? How many such projects are waiting to be proposed? Wikipedia is clearly one, but we can imagine many others. GIS will soon allow whole communities to build, use, and rate GIS-driven "CoolMaps" of their environment. As micropayment systems mature, the better models will pay the developesr a microfraction of the revenues received by the platform, based on their individual efforts in its development. Human resources software that monitors each team members weekly contribution will also greatly facilitate collaborative efforts, by preventing free rider problems. Semi-automated systems that educate and remind the group on the simple collaboration rules will be key to building the participatory web.
• Online speed dating. This is an obvious development we can expect in the big cities in a few years. For all those who grow up using avatars in their IM communications, it might start with people voice chatting with each other through their avatars, getting filtered rapidly into different social groups based on their responses and choices. As people show emotions to their desktops/laptops/gauntlets/cellphones, the camera maps those emotions right onto their avatars. A list of your favorite contacts would always be open on the right margin of the screen. Once you've reached a certain level of comfort with prospective partners, you would allow a two way videoconference. Tools like this could become a huge social phenomenon mediating hookups in the metropolis.
• Intimate e-greeting card, circa 2015. Your lover sends you a customized gamespace, you walk your avatar to the transport door, suddenly you are transported to a lush jungle, look down and see you are only covered by a small leaf skirt. Look up and see her similarly scantily clad, laughing and running off behind a waterfall. You chase her through the jungle, beginning to understand the nature of the game...
• New virtual tools for globalizing health care. We'll certainly see advances in remote health monitoring tools and software, and remote diagnostics for improving the domestic doctor-patient relationship. But one of the great promises of remote diagnostics will be the ability of HMOs, or enterprising private companies, to employ expert but low-wage physicians in developing countries (India, China) for 24/7 consultation by families. Assuming the liability issues can be negotiated, we may see this first in general practice (pediatrics, family physicians) but can also imagine its value for specialty care (sports medicine, dieticians, rehab medicine, gerontology, psychiatry, etc.). Furthermore, since the metaverse will allow for more transparent monitoring of individual and group behavior, there will be significant new opportunities for globalized, low cost online therapy and psychological support. The use of exergames/active video games may also be prescribed by physicians as another way to monitor and improve the patient's health status.
• AR goggles for touring historical sites. As augmented reality interfaces drop in price and size, and increase in quality, visitors to historic sites will increasingly opt to use more immersive and interactive AR goggle technology to mediate their experiences as tourists. Building upon prototypes developed by groups such as Geneva-based Miralab, goggles will allow additional layers of text, imagery, audio, and video to augment reality. Tourists at Machu Picchu wandering the ruins might come across a 3D simulation of an Incan religious ceremony, or a group of Incan kids playing in a house courtyard in the 1400's.
 
 

10C. Positive and Mixed Scenarios - Social, Legal and Other

• Socializing presently marginalized groups. Even though today's virtual worlds are only caricatures of physical world social interaction, still missing such basic elements as facial expression (very useful in new encounters), even these caricatures offer a major improvement for those whose social interaction is presently marginalized in some fashion. Thus groups that could benefit early and disproportionately from the still-primitive virtual worlds of the 00's include the disabled/differently abled, the socially phobic (Asperger's, etc.), precocious youth (often socially marginalized), the elderly (often isolated), economically or culturally disadvantaged (globally and locally), prisoners, and the mentally ill.
• Symbiont groups/Symbiont networks. Within ten years, some younger users of synthetic worlds will form diverse "symbiont groups." Their contributions to group goals will be managed and mediated by virtual team building e-learning platforms, ensuring active and balanced contribution by everyone in the group. Such groups will likely be self limited by cognitive and communication constraints to an intimate tablesetting size (the most intimate group) of 3-8, and a Dunbar number (total group size) of 150. These kids will be lifelogging, sharing experiences, communicating in realtime, giving each other practical advice in realtime through an audio backchannel, and sending output through their wearcams. They will be able to be guided by the self-designated "experts" in the group as they attempt anything complex (cooking a souffle, solving a math problem, applying for a job, etc.). Many will experience a kind of groupmind. "If it happens to my group it happens to me." Such individuals will follow a measurably different developmental path than less networked youth not participating in such groups. By 2016 some early studies will show that, as in leading World of Warcraft guilds today, youth who are members of symbiont clans that possess widely diverse skill sets yet share common values are more generally intelligent, resilient, economically productive, and better adapted than those who don't form symbionts at an early age. A "symbiont gap" will be noted between those (comparably few, at first) children who link up in this fashion and those who consider it alien or an unacceptable loss of individual identity. There will be significant controversy on this issue among developmental psychologists and the general public, in both developed and emerging nations. " Picture in 2011 a pilot correctional program taking juvenile (and later, adult) lawbreakers and bringing them into virtual worlds while they are incarcerated. These worlds are populated with a few social workers, psychologists, and corrections officers, but mostly with volunteer do-gooders, whose physical world identities are private in the virtual world. On release, the juvenile is still able to maintain permanent ongoing contact with his virtual community. He gets advice through his earpiece 24/7 from any of his friends in world, on such mundane things as getting a job, interacting with others, etc. He can have this advice spoken into an earpiece, and the virtual community can see his physical world feed, seeing what he sees. Now imagine that recidivism rates have dropped drastically for various types of crimes in the pilot study, and there are efforts to expand it to other groups. Pilot programs for adult offenders, homeless, and subgroups of the mentally ill begin to show simiilar benefits. Why do these work so well? Here's the basic dynamic: There is a great majority of untapped volunteer help in any healthy community, a statiscially small number of individuals needing major help, and rapidly increasing network between them.

• Virtual platforms for physical and virtual community planning and management. A new level of collaborative community planning and management will occur, stimulated by new virtual tools. Planning interest has waxed and waned periodically over the twentieth century, beginning with the British social thinker Ebenezer Howard's Garden Cities of Tomorrow, 1902, which became influential in the U.S. in the Garden Cities urban planning movement of the late 1920's, again in the late 1930's (1939 New York World's Fair, Greenbelt Towns, Broadacre City), in the New Towns program in the 1960's, and in the slow increase in regional community planning initiatives in the decades since. After exploration of massive structural alternatives in public housing and transportation, urban cities, whether in suburbs or a revitalized, high-density cure, are seeking structures with "people scale," allowing promenades, community resources, walking, and public transportation. Safety, sustainability, and to a lesser extent, innovation values are also growing steadily, as are efforts to increase the diversity of themes and neighborhoods within each municipality. Virtual worlds can help in the collaborative envisioning of idealizations of these values, and measure the progress toward them annually. Imagine a virtual model of a large city that, with webcam input, could quantify the distribution of graffiti throughout the community. Efforts to reduce unwanted graffiti, and to provide an adequate number of protected public art expression zones in every area of the community could be measured and modeled in the virtual city model by every planner and citizen. Many other such insights and collaborations could be managed by making these models and the data behind them available for public use.

• A powerful new pastime of elderly in 2016: building virtual scrapbooks. Once we are running even first generation lifelogs and conversational interfaces, such tools can be used to great effect to collect the "stories of our elders," and begin the process of virtual recreation of their past lives, all well before they pass on. Building this virtual scrapbook and using it for reminiscing will be an immensely rewarding experience for the ellderly. Improving it will be a major pastime for them, aided by a new profession of health care assistants who are "reminiscence workers," able help them navigate these powerful virtual world/TV/computer tools, to build out geneaology networks, etc. The smarter their "digital twins" (avatar versions of themselves) get, the more their values, personalities, and stories will all be captured in the virtual world, and the more such worlds can be used as intelligence aids and grieving substitutes by loved ones left behind when our elders pass away. The capabilities of this cyberimmortality will only grow exponentially with each passing year. Some subcultures, such as futurists, early tech adopters, and transhumanists will start to see it as a seriously important social value before this decade is out.
• While most flash mobs in coming years may be for commercial events (concerts, shopping specials, etc.) we can also imagine them being used increasingly for social activism, as virtual world use increases. After a particularly galvanizing public event, political protests and acts of calculated civil disobedience (sit-ins on freeways, etc.) might be greatly increased in coming years, all directed via virtual world platforms. This virtual connectivity would bring us closer to Howard Rheingold's vision of the increasing collective intelligence available to highly networked individuals, as outlined in his 2002 book, Smart Mobs [79].

• Script-based bots as attention mediators.There will be increasing situations where we can send our script bot to do something instead of ourselves, and monitor and train our bot's behavior from the background, while we are doing other things. Your bot will increasingly be able to monitor things for you and allow you to drop into "full representation mode" as needed. At some point people may not be able to tell, in brief encounters, whether the bot is parroting canned sentenes or the person the bot represents is actually typing a response. Software with prerecorded responses for your cellphone (“I’m in a meeting”, “I’m on a plane”, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you” etc.) already exists. Context sensitivity for our bot-secretaries will continue to improve. People will be able to use this software to amplify their existing tendencies. Those that want close connectivity and productivity with a special group will be able to have more of that. Those that want increasing cocooning and more barriers to social interaction will have more of that. On balance, most people are very likely to become even more casual with their interactions with each other, giving up more of their personal initiative to the infrastructure. Many may become less patient, particularly when asked to do potentially automatable tasks. Engaging people to talk about many types of simple scheduling, for example, will increasingly be viewed as a waste of time. Some of the disadvantages of these systems may be increasing alienation from the wider world, loss of empathy and less motivation for collective action. Some of the advantages will be increasing efficiency, productivity, selectivity, and potential new intimacy for small group interaction.

• Performance art and collaborative art can explore new forms in virtual space. In the same way such instruments as the piano, the guitar, and the computer each fundamentally changed the way music was made, virtual space in this generation is changing the possibilities for artistic expression. Even with today’s primitive tools art has become a major driver of creativity in virtual spaces. The Burning Life celebration that appears in Second Life each year, a virtual counterpart to Burning Man, has even more outlandish structures than can be found in the physical world version.

• Educational innovations: 1) Interactive whiteboards for student interaction with 2D and 3D content. Take a look at the stunning interactive whiteboards of the UK educational innovator Promethean. Now extrapolate these out to 2016, only bigger, cheaper, and with even higher resolution and brightness. 2) Picture a classroom of U.S. high school students being able to go to the Forbidden City in Beijing and learn its cultural significance, both from a Chinese teacher and a class of Chinese schoolchildren. Then picture the Chinese classroom going to a virtual Plymouth Rock and learning its cultural significance from their peers. The social dimension, peer networks, and personal interpretations of cultural data can now be conveyed with classroom learning experiences. 3) Knowledge management software will emerge to test our recall of educational simulations for high-stakes learning (test preparation, etc.). This will allow the developers to objectively rate simulations for their educational value. What we will find is that the most effective simulations are a blend of fiction and nonfiction. They present real information in dramatic, fictional, yet plausible contexts.

• Virtual communities, GPS, and GIS. By 2016 it will be easy to find virtual communities, overlaid on GIS maps of one's own metropolitan or suburban locations, whose culture and inhabitants you find inspiring. Imagine when there is such a density of online virtual worlds users that you can use them to talk locally in a virtualization of your neighborhood. Some of us will use these virtual worlds to check the availability of our our friends and associates in physical space, with GPS updating their physical movements and presence management software telling us their status.
• More intentional, less materialistic virtual communities. Forming social ties in virtual worlds, where the physical and economic detriments we are born into do not have to be visible or relevant to first inspection, will greatly improve the quality and authenticity of social interaction among some of tomorrow's intentional communities. A minority of self- and community-development oriented economic, social, scientific, and religious communities will emerge, groups that are less interested in where you came from, what you have, or what you look like, but rather your "vector", what you are able to accomplish every day both as self-reported and as group-assessed. Such virtual communities are advantaged by the ability to ignore physical circumstances and disabilities that aren't relevant to the goals of the community. Imagine a world that faithfully telegraphs your values and interests profile and the microfeatures of your physical facial expressions to your avatar, but strips all else, including physique, fashion, and physical surroundings. In such a place, the aspirations, values, and personality attributes of the user become paramount, and one's progress can become the central concern, even to the neglect of all else. For those few desiring it, such communities will stand on their own against tomorrow's increasingly materialistic and personalized consumer culture.
• New virtual communities will create a physical world co-housing boom. Tomorrow's virtual worlds will allow increasing diversity of social behavior among consenting inhabitants. Tomorrow's virtual communities will facilitate the emergence of co-housing and intentional communities in physical space, for a broad range of subcultures (artists, social activists, hobbyists, fangroups, scientists). In space-limited urban environments, several of today's aging and older condo associations may be subject to takeovers by virtually-organized communities, and their codes, covenants, and restrictions (CC&Rs) rewritten to align with the goals of the new community. New forms of defense against this kind of takeover might also emerge.
• Virtual citizenship. What makes virtual worlds interesting is the people we find in them, and the things we can do with them. Joi Ito said there are times when he spends more time in an airplane than on the ground and that in any city he goes to he can go to World of Warcraft to reconnect with his friends. Nick Yee has stats that some gamers and Second Life users are already reporting that they "live" in their virtual worlds. Will our future home be physical or virtual space? What does it take for us to flip our allegiance mostly to the virtual?
• 3D wikipedia. Within the next decade we can hope that many wikipedia pages will have simulations, and wikipedia stubs for simulations, that are designed to teach us abstract concepts. One could imagine short, medium, and long versions.
 
 

11. Negative (Warning) Scenarios. Negative or warning vignettes to avoid.

11A. Negative Scenarios - Technology and Science

Peer-to-peer becomes a platform for a growing range of illegal activity. While full digital transparency seems a very likely long term developmental attractor, it is unlikely that in the next decade our emerging internet immune systems (technological, economic, and sociopolitical) will be robust enough to monitor fine-grained content sharing on the internet. During this "Wild West" frontier period, peer-to-peer (P2P) networks may continue to have minimal community oversight or transparency. P2P is a powerful distributed computing technology with many legitimate uses (Skype, etc.) but the lack of a client-server architecture makes it difficult to prevent or prosecute unlawful uses. Today the leading unlawful use is for intellectual property subversion (BitTorrent, etc). In some circles such behavior is considered a justifiable reaction to today's coarse-grained and restrictive IP licensing law, which may explain its social prevalence. But P2P worlds that support online anonymous criminal behavior of a more pernicious type (hate societies, organized crime, income tax advoidance, etc.) might also emerge. While penalties for unsanctioned P2P use might be an obvious control strategy, such a bureaucratic response might have a significant dampening effect on innovation with this technology.

• Tool development challenge. If the metaverse remains a space without powerful tools for user-generated content, this will significantly restrict the promise of the medium. Could 3D cyberspace become yet another television, which FCC chairman Newton Minow famously called a vast wasteland by comparison to its promise? Will virtual worlds remain a place where content is primarily created by professionals, to entertain passive, anesthetized consumers? The quality and usability of free content generation tools (SketchUp, etc.) the ease of use of their APIs, and the tech support available to individual users will be major determinants of the near term collaborative capacity of metaverse development.
• Common online identity standards aren't worked out. Collaborative filtering middleware for sharing online reputation/trust data doesn't get developed, or there are technology overhead problems with early implementations which significantly delay the emergence of federated virtual worlds. All the important VWs remain content islands, and it is still unreasonably hard to find, rate, and recommend the best content in 2016.
• We don't see an automated identification/local positioning technology (RFID, etc.) get cheap and small enough to move beyond early adopters by 2016. The promise of the open standard augmented reality/GIS web remains unfulfilled.
• Any of a host of other metaverse S&T enablers (see S&T enabler table) are either underfunded, understudied, or don't develop as optimistically as expected.
 
 

11B. Negative Scenarios - Business and Economics

• By 2016, a few well publicized catastrophic events in the physical world might force us into accelerated synthetic world adoption before the technology is mature, which would saddle us with "early adopter" costs and might keep the global economy in an extended recessionary state. One spur to early virtualization would be a few more high-profile terrorist strikes in the developed world during the next decade, especially on the global transportation system. A global pandemic, or a series of small epidemics, would also push strongly in this same direction. Another ten years of global warming might convince many that we need to cut down our travel and conserve energy until we've made a transition to sustainable energy systems. But carbon sustainablity won't be possible until the middle or end of this century, so this could lead to several decades of increasing reduction in travel. High fossil fuel energy prices during this period would also strongly reinforce the virtualization trend. As one upside, though certainly not a fully compensating one, any of these events would be a strong impetus to improving virtual collaboration tools.
• The economic value of user-created virtual content may not be enough to support a flowering of independent businesses, or it may be enough to do so only in the developing world, versus the developed world. Right now, a kid in Second Life who makes custom avatars based on your digital pictures can earn a decent income doing this full time. Once the Chinese gold farmers enter this space, however, will she still be able to pay the rent on her artist's loft doing this in 2015? This is a key question that isn't clear in the short run.
Intellectual property enforcement uncertainty. How will virtual IP enforcement issues play out in coming years? Right now, a number of popular brands, from ABBA to UPS, are being aped and mashed up in new ways in virtual space. Most of this can be thought of as free promotion, and may be harmless as long as money isn't being made, but as digital artists start supporting themselves off user-created content, the stakes go up. The lawyers go where the dollars flow. The worst of the content pirates could be dealt with by user reputation systems and other types of gentle and intelligent deterrences, but such a fine-grained solutions may not develop without a combination of both corporate forbearance and good leadership on the legislative side. Heavy-handed enforcement of IP in virtual space could have a significant chilling effect on virtual creativity and the development of small business in virtual space. What's worse, we would probably see a disproportionate squelching of virtual artist activity in the developed world, where IP law is easier to enforce. Thus we'd shackle our own virtual innovativeness first, because prosecution is easier here.
• Social skills/pay class inequalities continue to grow. Will the income disparity (wage gap) between the virtually skilled and those not participating in VWs increase as more powerful tools emerge in the metaverse? In the short run, we might see an increased rich-poor divide, both globally and in the U.S., unless we make sure that digital technology's inherently democratizing capabilities are used broadly early on, rather than reserved to a select few. Certainly we’ve seen this disparity effect in the last few decades trend of CEO pay vs. average workers pay. CEOs of many corporations now earn truly ridiculous multiples by comparison to their lowest paid worker, a dynamic also seen in the still-increasing salary gap between first and emerging nations, a gap that some predict may continue for another 30 years before rationalizing. Likewise, the first powerful versions of metaverse economic networks may disproportionately aid powerful MNCs over small businesses in the early years.
• 3D expands the reign of spam or aggressive advertising. What does spam or aggressive advertising look like in a pervasive 3D space? We could be surrounded by it. Inundated by viruses, spam and advert crapware that most of us have currently become accustomed to in e-mail and on the web. Alternative: we might give marketing departments more credit than that. Coke Studios 2.5D virtual space has two-and-a-half million people playing inside it, being inundated by their own consent. Nevertheless, a community that was still tolerant/resigned to either uncontrolled spam or aggressive advertising on the 3D web in 2016, unless you are willing to pay a "premium subscription," cleverly high enough to always exclude most of the middle class users, would be a serious dystopia, a dark victory of the corporatocracy over individual rights to mental freedom in one's personal space.
 
 

11C. Negative Scenarios - Social, Legal and Other

• Bandwidth improvement remains weak in the U.S. for another ten years. One of the greatest negative U.S. scenarios on the radar would be a continued lack of federal political leadership in subsidizing the accelerated deployment of fiber to the home (FTTH) nationally [82]. True ubiquitous broadband access is today the primary bottleneck for just about every major metaversal advance we can imagine in the next few decades. Verizon's FiOS FTTH, the only major carrier that has been willing to risk FTTH deployment in the current economic climate (a bold move for them given the first mover disadvantages in this market), provides 5 to 50 Mbps of downstream bandwidth (2-5 upstream) today, at an average installation cost to Verizon of $1,000 per customer. This is 5 to 50 times faster than the conventional 1 Mbps that the vast majority of American "broadband" users get from the DSL/Cable duopoly. At 10 Mbps and above, whole new online markets, such as internet television, videoconferencing, video on demand, etc. become highly attractive to the consumer. Asian and European broadband markets, with more active political involvement, are two to five years more developed in broadband penetration (wireless and wired) than the U.S., by various estimates. In various studies, the U.S presently ranks 12th to 16th in broadband penetration per 100 citizens, down from 4th in 2001, due to market and policy failures. One 2005 study estimated that widespread broadband adoption in the U.S. "could add $500 billion to the economy and create 1.2 million new jobs over the next decade" [80]. We pay a steep price for our laissez-faire attitude toward this critical commodity, and we may continue to do so due to advocacy of market-only mechanisms in this space. There are many options for better leadership, including mandates, precompetitive basic research, aggressive subsidization of the cost per customer for early deployment, and competition at the state and local level for deployment acceleration funds. Wake up, America! How far will we fall before we get leadership that can address this issue?

• Massive VW addiction that promotes social dysfunction. A prescient book on this, exploring television's massive cultural impact, is Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, 1986. By 2016, the metaverse may be a powerfully addictive environment for entertainment and escape. With no rules to stop them, major entertainment conglomerates may support huge cash prizes for participation in virtual world games, which are watched and rated by millions as reality internet television. Many of these would likely be sophisticated descendents of U.S. reality television and Japanese humiliation contest shows, like Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC) [54]. Would-be contestants seeking to get on the more popular shows in 2016 would probably have to "level up" through a range of preliminary online games and challenges, all purchased online at fat premiums, and each with their own minor online audiences. Picture a world where a small universe of top players all earn six figure incomes, cross-promoted ad nauseum by the corporate megafranchises, but millions more of our youth (in the U.S. and other electronically-saturated developed countries) work as "subsistence gamers," idolizing the "stars" of this new genre but barely making ends meet as full-time players of commercially-developed fantasies, all fed 24/7 to a culture of celebrity and instant boredom. The standard definition of addiction is something done to the point of social dysfunction. If you lose your job or relationship because you are playing an online game too much, that's dysfunctional. If instead you play the game to generate social value or strengthen relationships, then it isn't dysfunctional. It is true that the dominant normative belief today is that working in the PW is more valuable than working in the VW, and it is also very likely that this assumption will naturally invert in coming years or decades. Nevertheless, it will likely take a few years (decades?) for virtual worlds to be truly productive enough for this to occur. Furthermore, even if the capability emerges early to use VWs more productively than the physical world, that doesn't mean such use will be the most common choice. A dystopian VW scenario would have a few games that are edifying, skill-building, and instructive, but the vast majority pandering to general populace more superficial and disconnected from reality than ever before. The gulf between those few using virtual worlds for understanding, productivity, and empowerment and the majority using them for distraction, insulation, and personal indulgence may grow. It helps to remember that there is a declining marginal utility to pure entertainment in any culture. If too much time is spent in slickly-engineered virtual entertainment spaces by the young, we risk reducing their desire to make a contribution to the world at large, relegating them to the status of passive consumers.

• Loss of appreciation and skill in embodied, physical world experience, and human independence. As it becomes easier use avatars and other systems of telepresence in coming years, a growing percentage of us may become less interested in interacting or functioning in the outside world. Many physical world skills may atrophy in the process. The classic cautionary tale here is the famed novelist E.M. Forster’s science fiction short story The Machine Stops, written way back in 1909. This prescient story predicted many aspects of online life twenty years before the television and seventy years before the internet were even invented. In the plotline, poisoned air forces people to live underground in machine cells in physical isolation but intimately connected electronically. In this world, as physical contact drops off, people come to view direct experience as inferior to secondhand, electronically mediated experience, which is as comfortable and predictable as it is isolating. They eventually come to see messy physical contact as terrifying and vulgar – preferring all experience through the interface. This future hits closer to home than we would like. If one of the organizing principles of the twentieth century was bringing people to things – aircraft, ships, etc, then the paradigm of the twenty first may be about bringing things to people – like Amazon, UPS, Netflix, Second Life, and Safeway.com. Perhaps in a dystopian far future only the rich will still travel occasionally to meet face to face. Poor global management would have ensured that physical travel is too dangerous, expensive, or unsustainable for all but the wealthiest. That would leave the masses dwelling in our advertising-driven Matrix-pods (electronic cottages), getting our digital soma delivered to us daily, and liking it. Brave New World comes to mind. So does the brilliant dystopia Feed, 2004, by M.T. Anderson. In this world a global youth who have the internet jacked into their brains a few decades hence (an augmented reality setup would be sufficient however, no "implant" is needed), have as a result of this constant stimulation lost most of their ability to do complex speech and thinking. They've been reduced to imbeciles in the electronic womb. Let's try to ensure the next ten years don't take us a big step closer to this depressing vision.

• A lost generation due to the seduction and safety of virtual spaces compared to the unpleasantness and unpredictability of physical spaces. While we will have gained many astounding new capacities with virtual technologies, some of us may become dependent on the metaverse to the point of physical world dysfunction. A great surprise in recent years has been that so many of our youth, the traditional risk takers in society, have become so willing to give up and retreat to fantasy worlds when adversity strikes them in the physical world. Japan was perhaps the first early indicator of this in the 1990's with the rise of the hikikomori, or social shut-ins, predominantly young males (at first) who had given up on the intense cultural pressures to succeed in school and withdrawn into television, music, and games. A great recent book on this is Michael Zielenziger's Shutting out the Sun: How Japan Created its Own Lost Generation, 2006 [81]. The Japanese Ministry of Health defines hikikomori as individuals who isolate themselves away from society and to a significant but lesser extent, family, for a period exceeding six months, often in their parent's house. In 2005 the Ministry proposed a conservative estimate of 50,000 hikikomori, but Tamaki Saito, the psychologist who coined the phrase, estimates as many as 1 million Japanese, or twenty percent of all male adolescents [56] exhibited a significant degree of the shut-in syndrome. Similar withdrawal phenomena have been observed in other Asian cultures, as well as some high-profile crimes by hikikomori when they venture back into society after isolated dysfunctional development [57]. School dropout rates are considered a strong early indicator of hikikomori behavior. Virtual worlds may in the years since 2006 be increasingly implicated in feeding the NEET (Not currently engaged in Employment, Education, or Training) phenomenon first documented in the U.K., the Twixter demographic identified in the U.S., and the Freeter demographic in Japan. Such problems could be much greater in 2016. Even with significantly lower graduation standards in recent decades, 10% of U.S. youth aged 16-24 in 2003 had both not completed high school and were not enrolled to do so [58]. The seduction of withdrawing into fantasy and isolation is strong, and is the greatest in cultures where the pressure to succeed is seen by youth as unrealistic by comparison to the opportunities available in the outside world. Socially unproductive pastimes like gambling may grow to new levels of obsession and excess, the way online poker has in recent years in the U.S. As globalization increases "unpleasant" competition and virtual worlds increase their stickiness, we may see substantially more hikikomori-style behavior. We are increasingly seeing social acceptance that living an "inside world" rather than an "outside world" may be viewed as a lifestyle choice in the freedom-loving U.S., and doesn't have to be a pathology. This is quite unsettling for some of the older generation, but it seems the wave of the future. The key question facing us all, now, is what quality of individual and social life that choice truly affords, here in 2006.

• A differential socieconomic development advantage may go to "collectivist countries" during the early years (even decades) of virtual worlds. Social theorists have observed two fundamental polarities in human values, a division betwen societies focused more on rights/freedoms/individualism, and those focused more on duties/responsibilities/collectivism. Of the two, the U.S. is much more focused on the former, and China much more on the latter. Countries like Korea, arguably the nation most extensively and aggressively using virtual worlds to date, are clearly more on the collectivist side than on the individualist side, though their democracy and individual freedoms have grown strongly in the last three decades. Do virtual worlds, particularly in their early instantiation, reward social collectivism more than they reward individualism? If so, then we may be in for several years or even decades where countries with stronger collectivist values will be able to control the "bad" uses of virtual worlds better (e.g., curb addictions before they impact social performance and cohesion), yet also enjoy higher percentages of "good" virtual world use overall (again, look to Korea and their obsessive use of social virtual worlds like Cyworld). By contrast, countries with strong individual freedoms may allow their youth to gravitate to more entertainment-oriented VWs in the early decades, before they have become powerful enough to equally reward creativity, education, collaboration, and personal development. Some would argue that the hikikomori in Japan are a result of new individual freedoms in pampered youth as much as they are a result of rejection of an overly oppressive social culture. The United State's "freedom bias" on the individualism/collectivism balance makes us pay a price of greater social disconnectedness but also gives us a dividend of greater inventiveness. This may however be a serious disadvantage in the early years of these accelerating technologies, while they are powerful enough to attract our attention but not yet powerful enough to do as much for us in the way of productive collaboration. This would argue that the development of the "serious side" of the metaverse, specifically its collaboration tools, education platforms, and virtual economies, and is a particularly important early goal for Western societies, lest we become stuck in the quicksand of a laissez-faire developed virtual Disneyland in its early years. An almost entertainment-exclusive early metaverse would certainly serve the largest multinational corporations and media congomerates just fine--they are after all global, and the U.S. consumer is just another market to them. We must not forget that their allegiance is, and must be, to the bottom line. All of this is intended to argue that what we certainly don't need in the Western world is another ten years of games and distractions that are primarily insubstantial, passive consumerist candy for the eyeballs of another generation of Western youth. Second Life, an almost entirely user-created world, is a promising antithesis to this on the web, at the present time. Nevertheless there is a definite limit to the collaboration, education and bona fide economic value that can be produced in today's user-generated virtual spaces, at present. Let us pray that platforms like this get the resources to improve fast enough to provide an alternative to ten more years of passive digital distraction for our uniquely free, unfettered, and therefore easily distracted American youth.
• Resurgence of cults and extremist groups, both economic and ideological. The more popular synthetic worlds today are designed with sophisticated marketing and psychological research to become as immersive, addictive, and obsessive as possible for the user. This takes money and talent today, but will be much easier in coming years. A negative scenario would have gangs and cults of all types, including psychologically abusive prosperity cults and MLM scams, getting sophisticated in their ability to prey on those who are particularly psychologically suggestible, disempowered, and looking for an accepting community. Ten years from now, the possibility of demagogic leaders to create virtual cults, attracting the most victimizable netizens will be in full flower. Without adequate preparation and early intervention, a lot of people's lives may be hijacked by unscrupulous people. Hopefully the most extreme versions of such groups, such as hate groups, may be expected to be infiltrated and moderated in tomorrow's increasingly transparent society. Nevertheless, the effect of the iinternet to date has been a new proliferation of such groups, which is leading to new civil rights laws and norms with regard to online conduct. There are only a handful of civil rights NGOs today, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, that aggressively seek to challenge the expansion of online hate groups in court. As virtual worlds increase in sophistication we may see a more subtle version of this problem replay itself again.
• Childraising risks in our increasingly virtual future. One summit participant (a male) suggested that some moms in 2016 may learn to raise their infants while using one-handed interfaces, allowing them to remain engaged in virtual worlds. That would certainly be an informal (and let us hope infrequent) experiment on how continuous partial attention affects the child. Another would be placing infants in virtual worlds themselves, which might also catch on among some of today's convenience-minded parents, particularly if worlds could be found which would emotionally “placate” the child. It would be very difficult to assess in advance the consequences of such choices, but like most new technologies, it would be safe to expect the first generation to be net dehumanizing, before the kinks are worked out. With luck this issue will be so contentious that it would be something avoided by all but a tiny handful of early adopters, whose development could be studied and debated for years, and while virtual technologies continued to improve, before we saw greater social adoption.
Cybersex and physical world relationships. Opportunities for increasingly graphical and sexual relationships among netizens in virtual worlds are likely to strain domestic partnerships in the physical world. Benjamin Fulford reported in Forbes in 2003 that the U.S. divorce rate in had already risen as a result of an increasing number of sexual affairs, both physical and virtual, facilitated by avatars in synthetic worlds. This claim hasn't been independently verified to date, to our knowledge, but it seems a plausible warning for the future.
• Loss of control of online identity. We might see a persistence or growth in theft, manipulation, or spoofing of one's online identity or reputation, and unwanted persistence of personal information in unaccountable (P2P?) and publicly transparent databases. Not adequately addressing such problems would cripple the growth of the public metaverse. Those who stand to lose most as a result of "metaverse globalization", particularly the powerful media monopolies, clearly have strong incentive to see online trust systems stay in the cradle as long as possible. Let's hope their substantial economic and political resources aren't enough to delay progress in this critical area.
• Virtual worlds may promote new types of crime. New and much more effective acts of coordinated cyberterrorism may be facilitated by virtual or mirror worlds (GIS systems). New forms of personal griefing, attacks, or even simulated rape in cyberspace may emerge, and be prosecuted in real physical courts.

• Social homogeneity due to next-generation social software. The continued development of online filtering tools will make it easy to find like-minded people all over the world. Humans evolved, however, in non-choice groupings, and had to learn to deal with and relate to extremely differing points of view. Furthermore, there is good evidence of the value of independent and diverse members in any collective. See for example James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds, 2004 [83]. If we don't have adequate diversity-promoting mechanisms in the early versions of our virtual social software, most of it may reinforce homogeneity and in-group polarization.

• Mounting legal liabilities with regard to social/sexual predators may inhibit early development of the metaverse. Summit quote: "One regulatory thing that presently causes great trouble for companies starting new worlds is social predators. We have all these clients who come up to us and say we want to do these things in all these virtual worlds, but our customer base bridges teenagers and adults. What do we do?" Some worlds bridge this base like WoW. But the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and related laws have pushed a number of companies to segregate their teenage community, at substantial cost and complexity. We may see increasingly onerous regulation in this space, which would greatly limit growth of the worlds in the short term. Much of this regulation may have dubious public benefit.

• Distributed virtual worlds may run into complex international and national copyright issues as large corporations make increasingly onerous claims to the infrastructure of the metaverse, while individuals claim intellectual property rights over their own creations. International judges may increasingly rule in favor of the individual content creators as they constitute the "collaborative majority" involved in the creation of those virtual spaces where open building is allowed. While this "open metaverse" has much promise, it will likely take many years to clarify the meaning of individual copyright and IP in virtual spaces.

 
 

12. Wildcard (Low Probability) Scenarios. Wildcards (low probability but high potential positive or negative impact) to be aware of.

12A. Wildcard Scenarios - Technology and Science

• A superior open source VW solution emerges early. Mozilla Foundation developed Firefox a great browser with growing market share (12 to 30% in developed nations) and some of the brightest minds in web development behind it, primarily because they have a viable open source model. A similar solution for the 3D web could be highly disruptive, especially if it was backed by well-defined Creative Commons intellectual property sharing options. While it seems unlikely, W3C, IEEE, or another such body might hoist the petard early on. This might massively accelerate the development of infrastructure for a global metaverse.
• A respected "3D Operating System" standard emerges early. A major internet player (Google? Yahoo?) makes a sufficiently advanced 3D web browser, like Second Life but with much greater functionality, easy to use content creation tools, and makes it freely available for world creation, along with a server backbone that handles large portions of the processing for these worlds (in combination with the client), and facilitates both centralized and distributed world creation and micropayments for transactions within worlds. Such a system could become a dominant platform, a "3D operating system," gaining significant or even majority (>50% share) of virtual worlds development. However, many tough challenges would have to be overcome for this to be possible, and in a fast moving technology environment this seems unlikely. Just look at the wide number of 3D graphics software platforms available today (at least 60 with significant followings). There are promising early starts, such as Open Croquet, but no one system has yet managed to claim dominance for long in this highly innovative and immature space, at present.
• Virtual identity fraud is a persistent, growing problem. As the value of virtual world economies goes up, gangs of cyberfrausters get much better at systematic schemes to capture and launder virtual currency. Online identity schemes in a major world are cracked by a distributed processing hacker ring, and the resultant chaos and customer dissatisfaction manages to cause one of the major VW providers to go into bankrupcty.
 
 

12B. Wildcard Scenarios - Business and Economics

• Physical world currency drains occur because of superior growth prospects in virtual markets. The currency used in leading virtual worlds (Google's, etc.) becomes seen as at least or even more legitimate than U.S. currency, among a significant sector of the investing public. U.S. currency, due to the mismanagement of our massive U.S. public debt ($9 trillion and accelerating in 2006) has continued a humiliating devaluation against the Chinese yuan, the euro, and other major currencies. Meanwhile the GDPs of leading virtual economies, while no longer in the triple digit growth of their youth, still continue to grow at 30-40% a year, 3 to 4 times faster than China, and with currencies that continue to appreciate against the dollar. Prominent economists note the superior monetary policies and economic stability of virtual currency in leading worlds. Facing a mini-banking crisis due to currency shifts and withdrawals from U.S. banks, the feds enact laws on maximums of virtual world currency that can be held, which further increases demand and hoarding via anonymous accounts. Policymakers consider stabilizing the U.S. dollar by backing it with federal "metaverse dollars." The public is not impressed.
• Virtual pet entertainment systems have become an important market in pet-obsessed developed countries. Many of our pets (dogs, cats, even birds) can recognize their own species likeness in a mirror. It is also a well-known fact that most pets are bored, unclean, and understimulated in the typical home. By 2015 we see the first pet entertainment and exercise systems where the pet chases lights on the sensor pads on the floor and watches both the floor and the video screen in order to get a treat. These will become increasingly popular in apartments and other areas where pets don’t get out enough. An ancillary product will be affordable pet toilet/shower/brushing igloos, which reward the pet for visiting them, and which ensure the pet is clean smelling and loose hair-free on exit. For best results pets will be trained to use these from birth. For reference, a mixed reality pet entertainment system for a rooster was built in Singapore in 2004. Expect more of these attempts.
 
 

12C. Wildcard Scenarios - Social, Legal and Other

Peer-to-peer, serverless metaverse networks might emerge, with encrypted data passing between those running the system (e.g., 3D versions of Freenet). Such shared spaces, either with open public access or darknets (trust networks only) might be used primarily to perpetuate an economy of copyright infringement, piracy, unreported economic transactions, and other grey market activities. They could even attempt to develop their own independent currency and government. A few could be used to perpetuate more serious illegal activity (organized crime, hate and terror groups, child pornography, etc.). These developments would likely spur overly restrictive laws regarding the use of any P2P programs beyond a sanctioned fueew, and would hasten the development of a next generation internet, with packet authentication at its core, and would lead to the eventual dismantling of much of the first generation network, at least in MDC’s. Resistance to this new mandate of control would create additional social backlash.

• High-impact cybercrime may lead to excessive governmental control of cyberspace. A few well publicized cyberterrorism acts, that cause mass panic and death in some cities, may allow the government to require online identity validation and a host of new bureaucratic impediments to virtual experimentation.

• An international court might allow metaverse worlds to declare themselves to be under the jurisdiction of international law. The court could recognize the right of virtual nations to set up their own laws, when they do not conflict with international law. Physical nations may then restrict their citizens from access to these worlds, but the international court and other international bodies would not recognize their right to do so. Opportunity for civil disobedience in regard to VW participation would then be engaged in by activist groups in repressive nations.
 
 

13. Headlines. Metaverse-related news headlines we might see in the next ten years, from the highly plausible to the improbable.

13A. Headlines - Technology and Science

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) demands control over internet naming system.

• Metaverse Operating System Protocols emerge.
• New tools and automation engines allow User-created and user-automated content to replace centrally authored content creation.
• "Digital Twin" (aka "Digital Me") avatars become popular with youth.
Conversational interface mainstreams. Eight word average spoken query/conversation length with avatars and general web.
• Personal avatars used as representatives and attention mediators in communication platforms.
• CPU market in decline. Network and metaverse processing increasingly based on DPUs (Distributed Processing Units)
 
 

13B. Headlines - Business and Economics

Anshe Chung makes $1,000,000 in 2011 in Second Life. [Note: Ailin Graef, the real life persona behind Anshe Chung, achieved a total virtual net worth of $1M in Nov 2006, starting from $10 in May 2004. Through her company, Anshe Chung Studios, she is presently on track to earn in excess of $1M/year well before 2011.].
Myspace partners with and enters Second Life.
Blizzard Entertainment open sources WoW operating system.
• Microsoft Worlds raises online world subscription fee, loses residents to Google Worlds.
• The IRS begins taxing virtual currency.
• Decline in business travel directly linked to metaverse. More tourists now visit virtual San Francisco than real SF.
• Metaverse GWP "on track" to surpass US GDP by 2035, experts say.
Second Life finally allows people to use their real names "in world."
• A hit song emerges that originated with a bard in an MMOG.
 
 

13C. Headlines - Social, Legal and Other

• Google, Yahoo enter virtual worlds space.
UNICEF announces crackdowns on virtual sweatshops.
AOL joins Second Life, the innovators and "cool people" leave (ouch!).

• US government declares online gambling in virtual currencies illegal.

• US government requires proof of identity to create online game accounts.

• Child pornography simulation ring revealed in SL. Public demands online identity cards, no more virtual anonymity.

• Everyone desiring social recognition has become a destination. "We are all famous to 15 people."
• A billionaire metaverse citizen secedes from his/her nation state.
• Metaverse hype backlash: Old jokes that used to have a VRML punch line now end in SL (Second Life).
• A 2012 U.S. presidential candidate campaigns in a virtual world.
• Major political figure resigns when chat log of virtual conversations is released. [Note: This just happened! Congressman Mark Foley, Sept 2006]
• Distributed virtual world runs into jurisdictional issues when 1/2 is hosted in US and 1/2 in China. Legal conflict ensues.
Virtual sex addiction on the rise. A virtual rape and virtual murder both to court (psychological damages, public humiliation).
• AOL 3D world a successful "walled garden" for significant minority. "Benevolent" censorship, user acquiescence to lack of diversity.
• Nation states create successful "walled gardens" to preserve cultural heritage.
• Nationalistic virtual warfare on the rise. Chinese guilds hunt down US players on Chinese virtual "territory." Vigilantism escalation.
• First codex of metaverse laws published by W3C affiliate

• Virtual worlds ambassador recognized by EU.

• Metaverse residents seek to form their own government, complete with taxes, representation, security. Recognized by a few minor countries.
• A domestic terror group trains in Second Life on models of a U.S. city. Dept of Homeland Security opens a permanent space in SL.

• Astrophysicist's virtual universe now better for for many types of research than the physical universe.

• Network/metaverse affordable digital access is ruled an international human right.
• Metaverse TV and Internet TV features more popular than HDTV
 
 

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