Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Opinion: Virtual Worlds Tipping Point?

Business analyst here, thinks virtual worlds is at technology tipping point. The argument is that we need to have lightweight technology to support low barrier to entry, via standards such as HTML 5, COLLADA, WebGL et al.

I think I have heard this before somehow from the VRML pundits, going way back to the Nineties. It still seems strange to me that installing a plugin is considered a barrier to entry, when we routinely install Twitter, Facebook and various other Games in order to engage with applications that are seen as fun and rewarding to our social interactions. Downloading and creating Second Life accounts is not such a different experience to me.

I have argued before that I cannot see the value of purely socialising in a virtual world, unless it adds something to the experience. Moving around in a 3D environment is time consuming. Keeping track of people in world is a little painful, if all you need to do is talk. I am still of the opinion that Twitter and Facebook are more effective in this area, due to simple interfaces, and ease of incorporating media content into the socialising. Games as Virtual Worlds succeed here, because the tasks given to you in-world are entertaining, engaging, and competitive (which has social constructs attached via teams).

IMHO, the only barrier to entry is simply the lack of a need to use such worlds for social applications, at this stage. Maybe something will come along and change this, but I have yet to see anything reducing my skepticism in this respect.

Education, training, collaborative design, and work-based communication/conferencing are, I believe, the major drivers for Virtual Worlds at the moment, as they are application domains that reap a measurable business benefit from the technology. Many non-ICT workers use complex IT for work because it brings perceived benefits. I believe there is no difference with Virtual Worlds. As soon as it becomes something useful to the socialising masses, then it will take the place of other socialising tools, maybe. Otherwise, it remain a very useful business tool in specific application domains, used alongside of other ICT technology.


1 comment:

Jon Himoff said...

Ross -- you might enjoy having a look at our http://heritage-key.com site which is an integrated web and virtual experience. We think this approach will interest more mainstream people.