Today, we are launching a new world for immersive science.. and perhaps part of the path to a 3D internet.First, by way of explanation. I’ve been doing fun and wild things with computers since 1977 when I was a freshman at MIT. From the first “a hollow voice says “PLUGH” to maze games, first person shooters, duke nukem, online bridge, poker, chat, et al. So about 18 months ago, prompted by a news piece I saw at Intel, I started to explore virtual worlds and how they will build into the 3D internet.. and how might Intel help make that happen. The first virtual world I played with was Second Life. Tweaked my avatar to look more like me (see picture). Met some verrrry.. um.. odd beings, but also some wonderful/fascinating/scary beings that I assume were really people. I loved the visual experiences that people had made. I loved the connections that I made with kindred spirits, and I admit — it was seductive and immersive. Good.. But I found it strangely unsatisfying. I kept running into artificial barriers limiting how immersive this experience could be. Only a certain number of people in an area at a time.. or lagatosis.. physics that wasn’t, etc. Then there was my dear, pragmatic wife who kept asking “when will it be useful?” Good point. So I learned how to make animations and build stuff, bought a sail boat and tried to figure out how to make this type of technology go beyond “fun” and into “valuable, exciting and productive.” As I poked around, I was delighted to find that SL is only one small corner of the experimentation going on in virtual worlds. I found lots of people at really interesting companies trying to put this technology to work. People are working on virtual worlds for training (like disaster planning), or corporate collaboration (like my friend Mimi at Rivers Run Red, or some folks at IBM) or making really interesting visual experiences for television and film and advertising. And gaming.. oh my heavens the gaming applications.. All of these cool things are being done on different platforms optimized for different experiences. Each platform is pretty expensive to build and run.. tinker with and experiment with. The guts of the 3D internet is here — if only we can stimulate the mass innovation to crack the barriers to adoption and drive real applications. Enter ScienceSim. A team of researchers and technology strategists, funded by Intel’s server business and working with OpenSim open source technology (which celebrates its second birthday today).. had a goal of creating an environment for experimentation in virtual worlds. We wanted a turnkey kit that companies or researchers could download and develop specific applications in virtual worlds, data visualization and analysis. ScienceSim enables customizable physics, optimizations to achieve better scalability, and can serve as a testbed for data visualization and control for science experiments like fusion reactions, biomedical applications, geophysical, intelligence analysis.. to name a few potential areas of work. As our CTO said in a previous blog, the Intel team is working with the Supercomputing 2009 conference to have folks develop academic material around this platform and have a forum to discuss these efforts and how they fit towards building a 3D internet of the future. Today we are publically inviting others to come to ScienceSim and investigate its use for building collaborative visualization tools.. Within ScienceSim’s world you’ll find some starting buildings, templates for forums and conference centers and the like. We hope to get voice technology up and running soon so more powerful collaboration is possible.. BUT.. the most important things you’ll find aren’t “in” the world — they’re in the way the world is made and run. ScienceSim provides the basic building blocks (client viewers, installation utilities, management tools, etc) and new technologies that enable broader interoperability through content sharing. Interested people can quickly bring up their own worlds on their own systems and experiment with creating 3D worlds of their own. Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen the rise of the microcomputer, the rise of the operating system, the emergence of the Internet, then the web. I’ve seen the Web2.0 applications make us more connected and interconnected then ever before. The 3D internet will knit this quilt together with the cutting edge of research, collaboration and insight from around the world. ScienceSim is a patch in the quilt (yeah.. its an anachronistic analogy.. deal with it) I feel as though Immersive Connected Experiences in virtual worlds and 3D technology are emerging from the shadow lands and into the bright light of the real — and I can’t wait. So what is the 3D internet to you? What applications get you excited as you think about the future of work, play and family? What are the key pieces of technology that need to get done to bring 3D internet mainstream? John is a senior business strategist working with Intel planners and researchers to accelerate the adoption of Immersive Connected Experiences. He also teaches Corporate and Marketing Strategy for Portland State University’s MBA Program.
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