It was held 9 to 12 April 2014, the seventh edition of Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (Vwbpe 2014) conference, which each year brings together some of the most qualified experts in the world in the field of immersive virtual worlds to talk about the future developments of the major platforms and their uses in education. There were many key notes, but all eyes were mainly for two stars of the first magnitude as Philip Rosedale and Ebbe Altberg, without wanting to take anything away from the other speakers.
Linden Lab cofounder (whom you see in a picture courtesy of Petlove), now busy with his new startup High Fidelity stressed, as reports Maria Korolov, as the future of virtual worlds won’t be ruled by a single large company or platform (as Second Life, ed), rather by a system in which scalability and open standards will always be the most critical factor for success. Rosedale thinks that “the virtual world of the future, as it takes its next leap, is going to be an inter-network of virtual worlds”, more like internet than the individual platforms such as SL, Twinity, or Imvu are at the moment.
You will have to be able to “to set up and run our own servers”, “the software needs to be open source, the protocols need to be inspectable”. A model more like Opensim, therefore, than Second Life, even if the “Foundation” model (a central reference “world” with which they communicate and trade tens or hundreds of other worlds, as in the homonymous cycle of novels of Isaac Asimov) is not new, having been dashed by Rosario Di Gerolamo (aka Dep1050 Plasma) already in 2009 when he analyzed for Mondivirtuali.it the past, the present and the possible future of virtual worlds and being more and more evident by numbers of the web that from “generalists” virtual world like Second Life you’re going for a long time in the direction of ever more specialized platforms.
Of course if the open source and the “Foundation” model seem to like to Philip Rosedale now that he is busy with High Fidelity to design the next generation of interactive shared environments, it could have some effect on his previous creature, Second Life. Ebbe Altberg (aka Ebbe Linden, the Ceo of Linden Lab), as noted Jo Yardley, has not been able that on the one hand confirm the limitsof Second Life known for years: “The conversion rate of people staying with SL isn’t great”. On the other hand Linden Lab will continue to work trying to “make this easier for normal consumers to use” the platform “before focusing on interconnection”. The “Foundation” model seems to be on the horizon for SL.
“There is still a lot to do in subcomponents of SL. Most are not great” continued Altberg (who you can see in a picture courtesy of Inara Pay / Strawberry Singh), whose dream is to “to make this something a huge number of people can enjoy (SL) and contribute to” (improve it), this is “just the beginning, there is more to come” to improve the users’ experience, it needs “to go from a minimally appealing product to a product that appeals to hundreds of millions”. So, long live the niches and the “long tail” but size does matter, unless you want to fail (a point on which I personally totally agree and which, incidentally, seems to bring SL back to the center of the efforts of Linden Lab after attempting to diversify led by former Ceo Rod Humble).
The fact remains, as noted someone, that despite the interest of large companies from Yahoo! to Google, from Facebook to Microsoft or Nintendo, virtual worlds continue, at the moment, not of interest to most people, either from the web (especially when delivered through mobile) or from the “old media” which have also conveyed through the centuries virtual and fantastic worlds, such as books, movies or television. So to solve technological problems is only the first condition necessary but not sufficient to prevent the renewed interest in virtual reality and immersive virtual worlds bangs as another media hype. But the very fact that wish Altberg wants “to explore how to make changes in how you interact with the world”, without having to “rely on keyboard / mouse”, sounds much more promising and feasible of the old utopia to create “your world, your imagination”.