Thursday, February 05, 2009

Intel Elects OpenSim over Second Life (tm)

John A. Hengeveld, a senior business strategist with Research@Intel, announced last week on the Intel blog:
Today, we are launching a new world for immersive science.. and perhaps part of the path to a 3D internet.

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
John joined Second Life as his first virtual world experience and he "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" but John found it frustrating because, as he describes:
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?”
Based on these limitations and a focus on the "3D Internet", Intel is busy developing their own space in time for the Supercomputing 2009 conference, called ScienceSim which is based on the OpenSim platform.

ScienceSim is intended to be an environment for experimentation in virtual worlds. As John writes:
We wanted a turnkey kit that companies or researchers could download and develop specific applications in virtual worlds, data visualization and analysis.

..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.
NOTE: The new technologies in reference is the Asset Server proposal made by the OpenSim team.

ScienceSim is inviting people to visit and begin their own investigations and collaborations. You can create an account from this page which you will find the following requirement for application:
We request that you use your real name (first and last) for your ScienceSim avatar. Failure to do so may result in your account being deactivated or removed.
I found the use of real world credentials to be an interesting requirement and suspect this will be the norm as mirror worlds evolve.

This makes the matter of interoperability slightly more complex and fascinating as well. I doubt that the "wonderful/fascinating/scary beings" John assumed were actual people and the connections he made that drive his passion for immersive spaces used their real names, but I may be mistaken.

Perhaps the emergence of commercially sponsored worlds with intent to build community will drive the interoperability conversation toward issues attendant to identity expression and management from the human perspective in addition to the technical?

Time will tell, and perhaps then we'll remember why the Second Life community recently suffered a great loss.
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