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Press Release: Future of the Metaverse [Social Technologies]

Press release by Hope Gibbs
Client: Social ) Technologies
1776 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 815
Washington, DC 20036
Image: by epredator [flickr]

For Immediate Release

DISCONTINUITIY: THE METAVERSE

The Metaverse—sometimes referred to as the 3D Internet—poses the possibility of a disruption similar to the popularization of the Internet in the 1990s

*Washington, DC, April 28, 2008*—As part of our series on discontinuities (those sudden, sharp breaks that can strike consumers, business sectors, nations, or the world with disruptive force), comes this brief on the Metaverse by Social Technologies analyst Simeon Spearman.

″The Metaverse is the fusion of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space that allows users to experience it as both—or either,″ Spearman explains.

″It will knit together technological threads as varied as online games, mobile telephony, videoconferencing, GPS tracking and location-based services, satellite imagery, and online social networks—creating a visually rich, interactive user experience that transcends today’s so-called 2D Internet and transforms the way business, leisure, education, and scientific research are conducted.″

Metaverse overview

Rising demand by devoted individual users, business users, and the scientific community is pushing the development of technologies to enable the Metaverse.

“It is also helping to create a vision for what the Metaverse should look like,” Spearman notes, pointing to technologists John Smart and Jamais Cascio in their 2007 book, Metaverse Roadmap Overview: Pathways to the 3D Web.

″They identified four main areas of the Metaverse as mirror worlds, augmented reality, virtual worlds, and lifelogging,” Spearman says. “Each of the areas is developing in distinct ways, but the authors note a fair amount of overlap, as well as areas where new 3D technologies interact with old 2D technologies to offer exciting possibilities for change.″

Smart and Cascio forecast that by 2016, half of all Internet users will have interactive avatars, with a high degree of socializing taking place in 3D worlds in any given week, especially among younger generations. The Internet research firm Gartner Group projects that 80% of 2007 Internet users will have some presence in the Metaverse by 2011.

Key technology attributes

The key attributes of the Metaverse include:

• Gaming/ virtual worlds. Games and virtual worlds are perhaps the most common popular implementations of the Metaverse. Online games are typically played by a single player or by networked groups who have a goal or quest. Virtual worlds enable more freeform and creative userdirected activities than traditional gaming; a popular example is the virtual world Second Life, which gives players near-omnipotence to develop characters and interact with other players and the environment.

• Mirror worlds. Online representations of real-world environments are known as mirror worlds, which reflect the actual world but have the benefit of additional information such as GPS-enhanced mapping or annotated notes, pictures, or videos. Falling prices for 3D modeling software are enabling individual users to have access to these technologies, which some believe will be used for virtual tourism in the future, among other applications. Google Earth is an example of a mirror world.

• Augmented reality. This makes use of many of the same technologies as mirror worlds, but can be used to superimpose information translucently over actual objects. Information—whether visual, auditory, or haptic—can be delivered via a number of device types: specialized eyewear, miniature microphones, PDAs, or a mobile phone. The result is to enhance the user’s experience of a real-world situation.

• Lifelogging. Lifelogging makes use of recording technologies to track daily life. Gordon Bell of Microsoft has been recording every aspect of his life since 1997, and is helping to develop tools and software to popularize lifelogging. Nike has partnered with Apple to create shoes that log the distance run by their wearers, who can also use the data to generate health stats and training advice, delivered via iPods.

Business implications

Realization of the Metaverse will transform the way business, leisure, education, and scientific research are conducted. New and unforeseen areas of creativity and entrepreneurship are sure to continue to develop as fresh minds throw themselves at new technologies.

• Business leaders should consider how the emerging Metaverse might apply to core business missions as well as to enhancing functions such as business communications, training, and
corporate social responsibility.

• A mature Metaverse may allow businesses to realize substantial cost savings through remote work policies. Technologies for supervision, collaboration, and interactivity are improving, suggesting that some of the common complaints about remote work may recede.

• If people do not have to leave home to have near-real interactions with others, because technology has improved enough to enable “just like being there” experiences, they may choose to leave home only when they must. This could affect everything from car sales to home sales, retail purchasing, entertainment and tourism, and more.

Learn more
To talk to Simeon Spearman about this discontinuity and its relevance to major business sectors, contact Hope Gibbs, Social Technologies’ leader of corporate communications: hope.gibbs@socialtechnologies.com.

About ) The Discontinuities series
Social Technologies recently released a series of briefs called Discontinuities, which are those sudden, sharp breaks that can strike consumers, business sectors, nations, or the world with disruptive force. Exactly when, where, or how such events will occur is inherently hard to foresee. This brief explores one potential discontinuity in the food sector. In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for more of our Discontinuities press releases regarding the food, health, and mobility industries.

Simeon Spearman ) Futurist
Simeon Spearman is a futurist and contributing writer for S)T’s Technology Foresight and Global Lifestyles multiclient projects. He also contributes to the company’s custom projects and to the research on emerging trends, values, and segments for the Futures Observatory, Social Technologies’ trend-feed program. Simeon’s professional interests include digital lifestyles, contemporary Japanese culture, and development in emerging markets. He is currently pursuing his MS in studies of the future at the University of Houston, and graduated with a BS in international affairs and modern languages from the Georgia Institute of Technology and was an exchange student at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.

About ) Social Technologies
Social Technologies is a global research and consulting firm specializing in the integration of foresight, strategy, and innovation. With offices in Washington DC, London, and Shanghai, Social Technologies serves the world’s leading companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. For information visit www.socialtechnologies.com, our blog: http://changewaves.socialtechnologies.com, and our newsletter:
www.socialtechnologies.com/changewaves.

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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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