Metaverse Roadmap Report
I'm more-or-less done now with my part of the report for the Metaverse Roadmap Project. Jerry Paffendorf and John Smart each wrote parts of the overall document, but my (very large) chunk is the set of scenarios describing four different manifestations of the Metaverse. Here's a taste, from the draft:
The Augmented Reality scenario offers a world in which every item within view has a potential information shadow, a history and presence accessible via standard interfaces. Most items that can change state (be turned on or off, change appearance, etc.) can be controlled via wireless networking, and many objects that today would be "dumb" matter will, in the Augmented Reality scenario, be interactive and controllable. To the generation brought up in an Augmented Reality world, the Metaverse—this ubiquitous cloud of information—is like electricity to children of the 20th century: essentially universal, expected and conspicuous only in its absence.
The four scenarios -- Augmented Reality, Lifelogging (hello, Participatory Panopticon!), Virtual Words, and Mirror World -- all reflect differing levels of emphasis on what I saw as the two primary spectra describing the evolution of this technology: augmentation versus simulation, and intimate technologies versus extimate technologies. Here's how they line up, in a graphic first shown at South by Southwest 07:
Daniel Terdiman, at C|Net, has already seen a rough draft of the document, and reported on it to his readers: "Meet the metaverse, your new digital home" offers a very simple overview of the argument, and gathers some responses from a few folks in the virtual worlds industry.
Terdiman and some of his commentators suggest that the stories in the report are somewhat conservative; my response is that they weren't reading closely enough. These are really quite radical futures, even if they remain grounded in the plausible. I suspect that most of the people who saw that draft of the report come from industries that expect hype, not analysis. Still, I expect that this is going to be the default reaction: the scenarios don't offer up The Matrix, so they're too conservative -- even though, if they had taken that path, the response would have been "this is impossible and/or silly."
A public version of the report should be out Real Soon Now.