My assessment in short, is that Exit Reality requires a lot more work to make it usable and attractive as an environment for socialising. It is trying to attempt something very difficult, the integration of web multimedia information and 3D interfaces. They should be congratulated on the attempt, but it just doesn't work for me.
Here are some reasons:
- Exit Reality is slow and buggy. Games and virtual environments require smooth reliable interfaces to make the paradigm work properly, especially as such bugs disrupt the immersive experience. The games industry understands this, that is why they all have such large QA sections. Exit Reality needs to invest in some more bug testing.
- The way they handle general web pages is problematic. My University home page came up as a sea of small signs that conceal each other, making it more difficult to traverse the website, thus undermining any benefit that 3D VEs can bring to web pages. I would have thought that some nice cone trees or hyperbolic views may have been better. Not sure they did much of a usability analysis before developing this general web component.
- Apartment style metaphors for socialising, while engaging in their novelty, are not that usable. It takes a number of seconds to traverse the space in 3D, that would otherwise require a couple of mouse clicks in a 2D page.
While I applaud an Australian company for sticking its neck out on a difficult technology, I am unfortunately critical of its present ability to be more useful than the present 2D social networking forms. I think they have to go back to the drawing board to rethink the idea.