Philip Rosedale has a lot of really brilliant dreams and visions for how to create a sustainable and open metaverse with High Fidelity. Being that he’s the founder of Second Life, we talked last year about some of the lessons learned in how he’s approaching creating a more sustainable and scalable model of interconnected virtual worlds.
This year his focus was on how important being able to create a hyperlink between multiple virtual worlds is going to be. He says that the history of the Internet provides a really valuable lesson in the fate of what happened to the walled garden platforms of AOL and CompuServe. Even though the content on these platforms were of much higher quality, over time the links between other websites with a more rudimentary and less polished look and feel ultimately won out. Philip cites Metcalfe’s law which states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. As each virtual world is able to link off to different portals to other virtual worlds, then that makes that virtual world that much more valuable and compelling.
This insight seems to be at the foundation and core of High Fidelity’s approach of using open source licensed technology in order for people to stand up their own hosted servers containing the code for their virtual worlds. In fact, part of Philip’s long-term vision is to start to use the distributed computing power of the many more desktop computers and mobile phones to be able to create a virtual world equivalent to the square footage of the entire earth so that it could concurrently create virtual experiences for all 7 billion people on the planet. This vision is what keeps Philip going to work every day, and to be able to create the technological backbone in order to make that happen.
Currently, linked between virtual worlds is a bit of an open problem for how to actually pull that off in a seamless fashion. Text on a website has the ability to unobtrusively link to other websites, and there are metadate queues that add contextual information about where links will lead to. There are no equivalent standards within a VR environment with 3D objects, but the closest metaphor is a using a Door or Portal or completely different building to be able to navigate between different virtual worlds. There are potential perceptual hacks that could be exploited, but Philip cautions that there may be very physical limitations for how we navigate virtual worlds that would the equivalent of the disorienting effects of providing contradictory information to our perceptual system thereby causing simulator sickness.
Philip was also really excited to have created some shared physics simulations in order to have games like air hockey that could be played in VR. This will add a level of physical reality that could add to the coherence of the virtual experience, but also provide a lot of opportunities of engaging in fun and playful activities with other people within High Fidelity environments. A common theme amongst all of the social VR applications from AltSpaceVR, Convrge, and VR Chat is that all of them have been adding more social gaming experiences within their social apps, and so this has been a consistent theme amongst all of the social VR applications.
If I were to bet who has the most viable and sustainable approach for creating the metaverse, then my money would be on High Fidelity’s strategy and open source technology stack. I’m really excited to see how Philip Rosedale and the rest of High Fidelity continue to evolve over time.
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Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio