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Internet, Google Earth, Disney and collisions

June 6, 2008

Many of you that know me and have heard me rant about Second Life, Video Games and in general Virtual Worlds and how they could become the way the internet looks in the 5 – 10 year range. Another factor in what was running through my mind was the concept of combining Google Earth and Second Life into a real life version of the real world. While there has been a lot of talk on blogs and in the media about these concepts, we all have our own takes and visions of how it will play out.

Today three significant announcements leaped from the internet to give me a double punch. Two are from Disney, and one in general, but each one is very significant to what a lot of us geeky Virtual World people have been thinking and talking about.
The first is Google Earth. Now Disney world is in the latest version of Google Earth. Check out this info and video. Its a step in the right direction, but it is is singular experience, they will need to make it so that you have other people in there with you to really pull it together, you really need to immersion and interactivity between people to reach the level of engagement needed to hold attentions. They will also need to integrate the 3D camera’s and Nintendo Wii type controllers so your avatar will look like you and pick up your facial expressions as you do them and your movement. The 3D camera and Wii style controllers exist today and I have seen demo’s of them working, so I give it 12 months until its out there for mass consumption.
The next significant bit of info is that a company of Disney’s size and scope sees that their internet division and Interactive media division are not separate, that the blending of the 2D web and 3D web are coming quickly. This move by Disney makes it very clear they see this blending happening sooner than later.
The third is the estimates on the user base. Just how many people will be using these things? Can the average person learn how to use them and do they have the computer power and high speed internet to handle it? The answers are many people and yes and yes. The fact is that the newest generation is living these things now. Digital natives are so comfortable with these technologies that they can handle working within 3-5 at any given time. The largest amount of investments in Virtual Worlds today is focused on the age group 4 – 18. In essence we are training our children to operate in this new world. Another example is the intensity in which education is embracing this technology. With gas prices so high and the cost of travel so it it makes sense that we eliminated or substantially reduce it. Add in the overwhelming issue of the impact on the environment and its a recipe for a shift of this magnitude.
Mind you 12 months ago this stuff was still fantasy, now its a major leap forward and in 12 more months we will see a lot of work on integration and operability. The various segments will be defined. No longer will it be Virtual Worlds in general, but Virtual Worlds with a niche, such as Business, education, Entertainment and Medicine. This step is critical for the development of serious applications focused on the specific needs of each category.
Brian Regan
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