In the mid 2000's there was a huge hype on internet and in the media that the "3D Internet" had arrived. It created a huge discussion of sometimes great controversy:
"With hindsight, much of the coverage was ridiculous: a fairly clunky-looking virtual world where people could hang around, interact and create and/or sell virtual goods, we were told, was "the future of the internet" (CNN), "the future of the operating system" (InfoWorld) and possibly "the future of the academic conference" (The Guardian)." (source)
"This was another record-breaking month for OpenSim, with new highs in regions, users, and active users on the 303 active worlds."
For those who are new readers, OpenSim is a free, open source virtual world platform that’s compatible with the Oculus Rift.
It allows people with no technical skills to quickly and cheaply create virtual worlds, and then teleport to other virtual worlds.
Those with technical skills can run OpenSim worlds on their own servers for free, while commercial hosting starts at less than $5 a region — compared to $300 a region for the same land in Second Life."
Augmented reality is a term that too can create quite a lot of confusion; what is it, actually? Different people may have a different understanding of what this term represents. So let's have a look at it's definition from Wikipedia:
"Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality."
So whether we are talking about Google Glass, Microsoft Hololens, Oculus Rift or a simple football game on TV where the score is shown, all of it is, in fact, augmented reality.
This trend of 'enhancing one's current perception of reality', is basically done by using what is in essence virtual world technology, applying it as an 'overlay' on top what we actually are looking at.
So there is a relationship between virtual world technology and augmented reality, and in my opinion it is that virtual world environments are the design tools of choice for augmented reality designers. A powerful and engaging combination, where designers are able to 'live through' and 'test' there designs, as well as collaboratively design, new environments faster than ever before.
Which brings us to the third leg upon which this 'Holy Trinitry of Technology Convergence' is standing:
Another somewhat controversial yet fast growing area in software development at the moment, is the use of 'gaming technology' in non-gaming contexts. This is called gamification. And also here it is observed that there are many different points of view as to what actually the potential, the scope, the impact or even it's usefulness is.
Is it a hot marketing gimmick, or is there something more substantial to it? Fact of the matter is that in order for a user interface to be engaging, many designers are seeking to get their users 'addicted' to whatever it is that is being built. Be it a computer game, a corporate website, a music or video service, the object is typically to keep the user coming back as often as possible and spend as much time as they can.
Now the question arises, "What better way to do that than to make it act like a game?" And indeed, as it turns out, there is no other digital product out there where users spend more time, more often, than in computer- or 'video'- gaming.
So much so, that already, it is safe to say that the gaming industry as a whole is already bigger than (Hollywood-)Film, or even the www.
So why is that?
Could it be, perhaps, because virtual world technology, augmented reality and gamification are, combined, together holding the promise of new technology to provide us with a better future? One that millions of people hope will help to build us better societies by using the benefits of new technology? Where we can say goodbye to the almost obsolete computer mouse at last?
At the same time, the advancements in technology are also controversial in and of themselves, and a backlash can be witnessed with privacy concerns and security, the situation of which which is begging for a solution in and of itself.
While the 3 technologies listed above are converging, there are also other technology areas that are rapidly growing such as Robotics and 3D printing.
However, both Robotics and 3D printing, in my mind, are deriving from Virtual Worlds Technology, as these first are invented these days not on pen and paper, not made out of clay, wood or stone, but inside a collaboarative 3D Software and Interaction design environment, such as Second Life or OpenSIM, and many others.
Who knows, maybe some new platform, the next twitter or facebook, will just appear out of nowhere some day.
So in order to master technology design, one has to develop at least a deep understanding of #Virtual Worlds, #Augmented Reality and #Gamification.
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