Thursday, February 26, 2009

WYP taking over the world

A virtual world from Germany is taking over the real world. What's Your Place (in short WYP) is not exactly a virtual world, but more of a mirror world, one that reflects our own space and time. It is not a replica of Berlin, like Twinity, but a Google Maps Mashup that lets members own and showcase their favorite places.

Yesterday I received the press anouncement that is released today. In Germany WYP has been up and running for more than a year, but today WYP has launched the English language version to target the global market.

People with an emotional attachment to any spot on the earth can now stake a virtual claim on it. Each place has its own URL and profile page („land register records“), and the land owner alone is entitled to edit that unique place profile. Hence, virtual land ownership is an exclusive way for expressing attachment to a place and to showcase that spot to the world. Editing means include picture upload, tagging, geo-marking, adding notes, or adding time stamps. As these features are embedded into a social community environment, other members will bookmark a parcel, comment on it, or even share their own pictures or related experiences with the land owner. More advanced community features include grouping places and inviting residents to a private area.

Membership to the community is free of charge, virtual land ownership comes at 9.95 USD an acre. Ownership is without time restriction and entails full reselling rights. All features bound to land ownership can be tested for free buy obtaining a “trial parcel”, which will be removed after 30 days. So far, over 25.000 acres have been sold. The entire world is for sale, the only exception being parts of the globe that Google Maps does not yet cover well. It is the philosophy of WhatsYourPlace that places must be absolutely unique, such that per place, there is only one owner worldwide. What sounds natural entails that English speaking users may see German content when visiting places owned by German members. We strongly believe that language diversity enhances the cosmopolitan aspect of WhatsYourPlace.

Full press release at the WYP website.

The two images I used in this blogpost come from the promotional folder, which explains a bit more about owning your virtual speck of land in WYP and other features. Especially the combination of Google Maps, Facebook functionality into a social world looks an interesting format.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Microsoft: 3D Future will be Photosynth

There's only one place to be for the techcrowd this week, and that's Amsterdam with the Eduverse Symposium on the 23rd followed by 3 days of PICNIC 08. It isn't the only event going on though, there's also the Emerging Technology Conference (in short EmTech) at the MIT Campus.

"Microsoft's Craig Mundie has dismissed the potential of "synthetic virtual worlds" like Second Life, saying that the potential for immersive environments will be likely realized through 3D tools that capture and model the real world.

Mundie, who oversees research and long-term strategy for Microsoft, devoted a significant portion of his "Rethinking Computing" presentation at MIT's Emerging Technology conference to what he called the "Spatial Web," a blend of 3D, video, and location-aware technologies. At the center of several of his demos was Photosynth, a Microsoft software tool that can create 3D models using 2D photographs taken with an ordinary digital camera. In one brief demo he showed how a small, camera-equipped robot could be used to model a large room. In another, he showed a 3D model of a commercial district in Seattle that had been created with Photosynth, and demonstrated how a virtual visitor could come to the district using the Internet, enter an art shop in the area, and examine and buy a virtual sculpture that had also been "photosynthed" by the shop clerks or the artist.

Mundie noted that Microsoft is counting on the creation of a 3D "parallel universe" modeled with tools like Photosynth. However, he dismissed the potential of social virtual worlds that include user-modeled objects. "Many people are familiar with Second Life, which is a synthetic virtual world that
people came quite enamored with," Mundie said. "Our view was that there was a fairly limited audience who was willing to deal with the construction of avatars and operating in that virtual space."

[read the full article at The Industry Standard]

I would go along with Mundie when it comes to short term vision -only to a certain extend though. I agree with the part that there is a huge market for the Paraverse, virtual worlds that mirror our own real world, and that these mirror worlds will be fit for business sooner that general VW's in all likelyhood when augmented reality kicks in.

Question is... will the dominant one be a Microsoft product? I would have been very surprised if Mundie would have said the future is in the hands of Google Earth, but I don't think Microsoft, despite Photosynth being a cool product, has what it takes at this time to be a thoughtleader in this area.

So, speaking off the next couple of years, he's right and the paraverse may get a bigger business crowd moving, but in the long run, I wouldn't put my money on Microsoft.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Widgetting at Google SL

Real life has been very busy in the past weeks. Holidays, and now a busy project and trying to redecorate the house in the evening hours have kept me away from blogging. It shows though. Sad to say my ratings dropped drastically.

Before I went to work this morning I noticed a blogpost over at KZero's; Google Island now open to the public….but not for long which drew my attention. I jumped in and took a look and a load of snapshots before I went to work. Now I just washed off the plaster from my hands and am picking pieces of stucco from my hair and sat down to blog this build.

Here's Nic Mitham's (KZero) pick:

"Built by the Vesuvius Group for Google as part of their Zeitgeist bi-annual event, Google Island opened for the public today. The island has been up since October, just for some Google employees and attendees of Zeitgeist.

The island was actually spotted by a few people several weeks ago, some assuming it was an unofficial build. Well, the mystery has now been revealed.

The venue is based on the real world Google campus and focusses heavily on interaction and socialising. Various Google products and apps such as Earth, Checkout and Analytics are on show - visualised where appropriate. Speaking to the guys from Vesuvius Group, the island has been sold already and is coming down tomorrow. So, here’s some images and the SLurl if you’re quick."

In itself the build does raise a couple of questions, which probably makes it the pick of the day for a lot of bloggers. As Nic said, the build is based on the Real Life Google Campus, but the official reading that it has been intended for internal use only doesn't fit the build. It's got a promo feel all over it, or as Aleister Kronos puts it:

The one thing I found strange about this build is: Why furnish it with all manner of models and links to existing Google products when the sole users of the island are Google employees - who should know all of this already? Indeed , time has been spent constructing working models of some of these - such as Sketchup and Checkout.

Perhaps the answer is a simple and prosaic: "because they could."

Maybe the answer is just as simple and prosaic, but there's more to this build. First, let's take a look on the Google campus, if the sim isn't down yet, grab yourself a Segway to move around

The central plaza has the typically Google-colored tables and is lined with several event pavillions, each with a different theme such as 'collaboration' or 'networking'.

Perhaps the most interesting part on the plaza is the Google Garage which shows the first signs of serious Widgeting with links to Google Analytics. Inside the main buildings it gets more interesting though:

In one of the halls you'll find a number of celebrity photographs with links to bio's and the option to message these people. Another room shows a cartographers table with a Google Maps interface, further on you'll pass file cabinets with links to Google Docs and a counter representing Google's new Checkout.

Of course, Sketchup is a must for the SL community, to prove it works as good as any other 3D designer and finally Google Earth rounds off Google's widgetting in Second Life.

Like Aleister said, it might be just a thing for Google to prove it can interface like this with Second Life and that this build served no other reason than to offer a place for the Google employees for the Zeitgeist celebrations but I personally find this build very attractive. Not because it's a high quality build though.

The most attractive point in this venue is the widgeting. Probably unintentionally, I think Google did the SL community a service: Many people and companies do not deem Second Life fit for business. One of the reasons is it is too open and too less secure an environment to do serious business.

However in interfacing with Google Maps and Google Earth (as a Paraverse) it opens up opportunities for integration with GIS data (geospatial information system), i.e. integration with Real Time Real World data it puts Second Life forward as a serious option in disaster training (like play2train) or as base for a virtual control center (see Ugotrade).

On the fun part, you could start using GIS information (e.g. Traffic Information) to simulate traffic in Real Life Cities in Second Life, or use Damanicorp's Weather Station to let your sim use actual weather data.

SLURL: (as long as it lasts).

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Charting the new Worlds

UPDATE: The numbers in this blog are old. There will be an update shortly.

This blogentry was posted first at the Virtual World blog powered by Sogeti Sweden. As it is a new blog I gave an outline of the market we're dealing with. Several bits and bytes have appeared on this blog before - VeeJay

It's a brave new world out there, the question is which world? We've seen the industry of virtual worlds explode in this past year with billions of dollars of capital funding, takeovers and corporate builds. Over the past year Second Life has drawn more media attention than any other virtual world, respectively positive and then later ill-informed negative publicity has driven the world of Second Life into a hype cycle (as defined by Gartner).

Networked Virtual Environments

There's more to it though. There's not only a brave new world out there, it's an entire universe. It was also Gartner who did a short report on virtual worlds in december 2006 and introduced the term NVE, Networked Virtual Environments as an overal term for the industry, their definition:

An NVE is an online platform in which participants are immersed in a three-dimensional representation of a virtual space. Other, analogous, terms for
NVEs in the market are metaverses and virtual worlds.

It's not a 100% definition as the industry also includes 2D spaces. I'd like to use it as a term for the entire universe whereas I would reserve the usage of the metaverse for a specific section in the industry.

So how big is the market we're talking about?

A very good kick off was given at the Virtual World Conference in San Jose (10-11 October 2007) by Christian Renaud. He put in some good effort to come up with a list of about 75 Virtual Worlds with subscription numbers.

This subscription pie is based on the number of subscriptions per virtual world. Adding up to a grand total of 465.000.000 registered users. Wow, that's huge. That's the entire population of North America, or the entire population of Western Europe. And this is not even counting the Asian (Ralph Koster estimates the number to be close to 2000!).

This might be an unbelievable number. We have to put that into perspective. People do sign up a lot, then drop out. The current number of registered users in Second Life is about 9.2 million of which close to 2 million are active. Christian Renaud estimates the total number of active virtual world residents to be close to 50 million. Still, the number of signups is impressive. Let's take a look at the Social Network list on Wikipedia; it gives a list of 85 community sites totalling 1 billion registered users. Like web 2.0 sites, we do travel a lot. We sign up, play around and then move to the other world / site. And there's people like me. I'm registered at about 15 Virtual Worlds.

A division by Universe

This is the division of the NVE's I'd like to make

How do we use these worlds?

A quick and easy split up is to say we use these worlds for social activities (i.e. Social Network Worlds) and for personal recreation (online gaming). But we also start to use these worlds for business purposes: online meetings, training, simulation, promotion, recruitment etcetera. Where does the business fit in? There's a number of platforms out there that could be considered as being typical business environments. Like Qwaq with office applications and Forterra which focusses on training and simulation. And then there are the intraverses. These have a business oriëntation as well. The chart below shows the division by usage focus. There is business on Second Life, but Second Life is not focussed on business.

What is my audience?

Each world has its own culture and its own demographics. The chart below gives an overview of agegroups. It's not a demographic of the VW residents but an overview of worlds focussing on a specific agegroup. Teen Worlds are growing fast in the sector. There's no world yet that has a focus on elderly people yet. The virtual residents are generally young people. But there will be a market for elderly people, I'm sure. One of the problems of a lot of elderly people is a lack of social contact. We'll be seeing our first virtual elderly home in a few years time.


In a virtual world there probably is no discrimination by gender. For example. Construction is an industry in which we usually find very few women. Perhaps it's prejudice, but the genereal thought is that women can't carry a load of bricks. Physical inhibitions don't count in virtual worlds. Another point is that we use avatars, representations, choosing whichever form we like. I know enough men dressing as women or vice versa in Second Life. Likewise, most worlds are open to both man and women without specifically aiming at a gender. There are a number of worlds however that are specifically targeted at teen girls. I've called them Girl Worlds. They're usually running on an extraverse, being brand driven. Examples of these are

Here's a chart of the marketshare these worlds have:

Finally, it's an enormously varied landscape. Different cultures, people and habits. A wide variety of engines are used to drive these worlds. Some are java-based, some are desktop applications that connect to grids and some are using streaming technology. It's almost impossible to try and define these worlds, let alone find ways for unified communications, interoperability and portability for the sector.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Defining the Virtual World Industry - input needed

Last week Nick Wilson started to try and define the virtual worlds. It's a pretty hard job to try and categorise this stuff. Currently I'm writing a few chapters for a (Dutch) book on Web 2.0 and emerging trends and am faced with the same question. Could you help out in making some educated guesses?

Defining the worlds

Here's some of the definitions I'm using:

Web 3D seems the most applicable generic term, but there is no such thing as a universal format for Web 3D and it comes in various guises, some more and some less likely to be used as a business platform.

Terms which are most commonly used are Virtual Worlds, Metaverse and NVE’s (Networked Virtual Environments). Virtual Worlds are not 3D by definition, there are many 2D platforms which are also considered as virtual worlds.

A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. This habitation usually is represented in the form of two or three-dimensional graphical representations of humanoids (or other graphical or text-based avatars). Some, but not all, virtual worlds allow for multiple users.[1]

The term NVE was first used by Gartner in a quick study on Second Life, but residents of various virtual worlds prefer to call it the Metaverse, as coined by Neil Stephenson in his 1992 cyberpunk classic ‘Snowcrash’

Another section of web 3D consists of the socalled Paraverse, sometimes also dubbed mirror worlds, since this world is most akin to our own reality.

The Paraverse Parallel Universe is a virtual environment that is based on real
world data such as GIS and satelite information that is overlayed with 3
dimensional objects representing the objects in the real space. Examples of a
paraverse include Google Earth, Microsofts Virtual Earth, Nasa's World Wind and

A large and booming business in the web 3D environment are the online gaming worlds, the socalled MMORPG’s (massively multiplayer online role plaing games) such as World of Warcraft, Runescape etcetera.

Finally, there are all sorts of variations and hybrids such as:

  • Interverse A term used to describe a globally integrated NVE, accessible through a single common client and integrated by a common back plane.

  • Intraverse A term to describe the 3D equivalent of the intranet, a private or corporate NVE residing on an internal network and accessible to users within that network environment only.

  • Extraverse A term used for the 3D equivalent of the extranet which is privately or corporately owned and resides on a private network but accessible by one ore more organisation, but not by the general public.

    [1] Virtual Worlds definition by Wikipedia

    [2] Paraverse definition by Wikipedia

Sizing the worlds

Now it's time to get into numbers. A first excellent start by doing a raw headcount of registered users was done by Christian Renaud at the Virtual World Conference. Now let's see if we can split up some other things:

  1. Networked Virtual Environments can be split up 2 ways: Online Gaming and Social network worlds. How are they divided? 50-50%?

  2. They can also be divided by 2D and 3D, what's this pick 40-60%?

  3. How much of Online gaming worlds are 2D, is that 40%?

  4. How much of Social Network Sites are 2D, is that 50%?

  5. What is the division between Metaverse / Interverse, Intraverse, Extraverse and Paraverse?

    I'm using Extraverse as term for corporate sites, like themed sites, Laguna Beach etc.

  6. I'm also looking at our usage of the web. Like web 2.0 stuff we use it at three levels:

    1. Personal (like gaming)

    2. Social (like Second Life)

    3. Business (like Qwaq or dedicated training platforms)

      What's the spread for these in Virtual Worlds?

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