Random Rantings #003: Everything InterlinkedWith the relaunch of the new VirtualWorldlets.net site, it seemed prudent to explain where I foresee virtual worlds going.
A young lady walks into a smoky bar, wearing a provocative dress, which shows a little too much, as it flutters in the gentle breeze. She glises over to a table, where a young man is waiting for her. They kiss passionately, before sitting down together. The waiter, a deep brown urangutang, brings a menu over to the table with a flourish and a grin.
This is a scene from a virtual world of the future. The young lady in question, is in fact a bed-ridden paraplegic, who would never know the sensation of basic movement, or a normal life, outsite of the virtuality. Her lover-boy, is in fact, a high-ranking salesman, who manages a virtual store, just down the 'road' from the bar, where people go to shop online, using very real money.
Outside the bar, an entire city can be found, teeming with life. It resembles no city ever found on earth, but more an idyllic dreamscape existence. Human participants, agents, and artificial inteligences go about their business in the immediate vacinity. Further afield, near the river, a herd of wooly mammoths, perfect in every detail, roam the parkland, watched by a party of researchers.
Further away, out of the city, a trio of small shapes can just be made out, scurrying around a farm, striving to defend it from attack, by a fantastical creature that escaped from it's holding area.
The virtual worlds of the future, are places where everybody has a chance at life, that they would not have otherwise - from a paraplegic who gets to experience the body she could never have; to the business leader who finds a whole new audience; to the student who finds the best university on the planet, is only a block away; through to the teenager who wants to be their favourite comic-book character, to feel the body on them, responding to every nuance, and much much more,
Eventually, this may well become possible. Direct neural force-feedback technology, and immersive, dynamic worlds, paired up in partnership to create worlds different from, but every bit as good as the one we have now. Worlds without age, gender, or ethnic prejudice - because all are as meaningless there.
Worlds with character bodies so real, they are difficult to distinguish from the real thing, if that is wished, or, so surreal as to be fantastical assemblages.
It will be a glorious future, should it come to pass. The only issue is, getting there.
As I have stated before, we have nothing near virtual worlds at the moment. What we have are fractions of worlds, mere worldlets (hence the name of this site virtual worldlets). This won't always be the case. There is new growth in all areas, all fields.
Avatar worlds are making great strides, commercial VRML worlds are still advancing, as are their educational counterparts, with innumerable closed-attendance annual conferences and seminars.
In the entertainment industries, the big MMOs, and GMUDs are making progress of their own, in captivating the imaginations of millions, thus focusing more research upon the area.
Hobbyist pursuits such as non-commercial MUDs and MUSHes are also making invaluable contributions. There are several, leading the field, creating worlds which inspire others, and promote their genre. *Other worlds do less well, but these can be addressed over time, by their administrators, or will disappear entirely.
Yet more advances are coming to light, in the form of sensors, and VR tools and interfaces. A recent example was the creation of a feedback sensor that enables players to actually taste the food that their character is eating.
Yet, there is a problem, to be more precise, a cataclysm. All this research is progressing, independent of each other. There still lacks a common, driving force behind overall virtual world creation. Everyone still pursues their own goals. The academic community, by and large has little to do with the MUD community. Likewise, the MUD community has little to do with the MMO community. On the edge of it all, VRML applies a different tangent to everyone else. This is good, but, through lack of communication, they're retreading ground that others have covered before.
In order to achieve what virtual worldlets have the potential to be, we need for the different sections of the industry to work together, to share advancements, and warn of potholes to avoid.
To do this, we all need to be more open about the discoveries we make. Simply posting to the 'net isn't enough. We need a centralised meeting place for people from each area of the industry to share their thoughts, discoveries, and feelings. Without this, virtual worlds may never come to be.