Are we there yet?

I love Google Alerts. Last night one came in that seems to mark a change. Instead of folks like me talking about what we’d like to make possible, this one appears to be non-specialists (with good technical skills) discussing what people can do now.

I think the discussion is more or less correct. The same Google Alert brought me this article which speaks to some of the “why 3D?” concerns. One other point not covered is that virtual world sound can have very high fidelity – much higher than telephones – which caries a lot of non-verbal information.

But I think the biggest issue is the setup issue that one person raises. In my view, there’s a pretty high bar to get started: you have to have a decent computer on a descent network, and really a headset. Your first half hour in-world is as disorienting as a 40-something’s first half hour with a mouse back when they were a teenager. These are real issues today, but I think they will recede. More important is what happens just before and during a planned or impromptu session. I think my company’s virtual world platform is very good at live stuff (just drag in content from your desktop into the space, or type or draw in-world), and at prepared stuff (fancy presentations, models and media are among the things that can be pre-prepared with specialist tools and brought in). But there’s a middle ground that I’m not happy with, in which there is impromptu stuff that you’d like to turn into something more polished or permanent, and you currently have to drop back out of world to do that. In some ways, Second Life’s in-world building tools are all about that middle ground, but they lack both the spontaneous stuff and the off-world specialist prep stuff, and I don’t think the 3D-model domain is really the most important first area at the expense of 2D documents and media.

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.

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