I ran across something new recently. I've been having trouble believing some of the stats out there on virtual worlds (VW), especially those that show users close to a billion in the near future. Partly it has to do with the definition of VWs.
Check out ExitReality. (Note: if you have a mac computer you will be disappointed to learn that you currently can not run this on a mac.) Take a look at the sites that ExitReality is currently compatible with. I have a mac so could not run this yet on a computer, but I was able to find some flickr screenshots on this as well as what's found on the ExitReality site.
The reason this is of interest to me is because I have been wondering how VWs were going to hit the mainstream. Until I saw ExitReality, I figured the numbers would grow from the growing gaming/virtual world maket. The virtual worlds for kids market is projected to see especially strong growth.
If ExitReality takes off with facebook, bebo, MySpace, etc. users, virtual world user numbers will explode. Or will they? Could new technologies like this, which the ExitReality site calls an "enhanced 3D, multi-user, immersive messaging environment" end up taking away from the heavy duty VWs like SL? Or will VWs become more like these 3D environments. Sort of a Second Life lite version, without all the crashes and steep learning curve? Time will tell.
The other 3D technology I recently discovered is weblin (again, not yet with a mac, though you can visit sites where other weblin avatars are hanging out using weblin lite). Or check out this short YouTube demo. I'm less sure about this, but the fact that one can have their avatar on any website where you meet and interact with other avatars is fascinating to me. I really just discovered this one last night and went from the weblin site to YouTube and watched the weblins hanging out there. I was pretty amazed. Again, I'm talking about this in the context of virtual worlds/avatars (3D) entering the mainstream and eventually becoming ubiquitous.
On the Second Life Educator's Listserve (SLED), there have been more postings recently on interoperability amongst virtual worlds. This will be important for growth in the true VWs. After looking at ExitReality and weblin, I pictured my SL avatar teleporting from SL to Wonderland to Croquet, and maybe sooner than I thought.
What do you think? Are these fads that will disappear? Is this a trend that's here to stay and can we expect even more surprises related to virtual worlds and 3D environments in the near future? I believe we will see some amazing things. I'm not at all sure what virtual worlds (3D) will look like or how they will work in the future, but I believe they are here to stay...in some form or another.