April 13, 2007 1:34 PM PDT

Meet the metaverse, your new digital home

The Internet in 2016 will be an all-encompassing digital playground where people will be immersed in an always-on flood of digital information, whether wandering through physical spaces or diving into virtual worlds.

That was the general picture painted in a draft report obtained by CNET News.com that summarizes the conclusions of several dozen pundits who met at the first Metaverse Roadmap Summit last May to prognosticate the "pathway to the 3D Web."

Within 10 years, the report suggests, people may wear glasses that record everything around them. They will likely see little distinction between their real-world social lives and their interactions in digital, 3D virtual worlds. And they'll increasingly turn to services like an enhanced Google Earth that are able to present data on what's happening anywhere, at any time, as it unfolds.

"This ubiquitous cloud of information is like electricity to children of the 20th century: essentially universal, expected and conspicuous only in its absence."
--Metaverse Roadmap draft report

The report, compiled by the Accelerating Studies Foundation--a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering change in information gathering and communications--offers the first comprehensive look at the predictions of leaders from academia, video game companies, virtual-world publishers, geospatial engineering departments and the media who gathered for two days at SRI International in Palo Alto, Calif.

"What happens," the draft report's introduction asks, "when video games meet Web 2.0? When virtual worlds meet geospatial maps of the planet? When simulations get real, and life and business go virtual? When you use a virtual Earth to navigate the physical Earth, and your avatar becomes your online agent? What happens is the metaverse."

Metaverse is a term used broadly to describe everything from 3D virtual worlds to immersive digital geospatial environments. The term was first used by author Neal Stephenson in his groundbreaking novel, Snow Crash.

But now, the Metaverse Roadmap team--primarily futurist Jerry Paffendorf and project manager Bridget Agabra, as well as the report's author, Jamais Cascio--has used the word to take the broad prognostications of the summit participants and break them down into four main scenarios, dubbed augmented reality, lifelogging, virtual worlds and mirror worlds.

The scenarios imagined in the report--based on discussions at the summit, as well as online conversations before and afterward--are meant to showcase likely outcomes of metaverse technologies, and how they can benefit society and business.

Augmented reality is technology, the report says, that's immersive, location-aware and self-tracking. It essentially allows users to get instant data about places and things digitally at any time.

Lifelogging is defined as "the deployment of augmentation technologies (that) focuses more on communication, memory and the observation of other people than on examining and controlling the physical environment," according to the draft report. Essentially, this means that people would use technology to record just about everything going on around them--a kind of always-on blogging in 3D.

"Virtual-world systems will allow a great deal of a community's economic and social life to be carried out" in "areas or disciplines where the physical world and the metaverse remain distinct," the report suggests, and yet where "issues of identity, role and human-human interaction will remain at the forefront."

The last scenario imagines mirror worlds, which, according to the report, will be like Google Earth--digital renderings of geography--but with advanced technologies used to add high degrees of context to "virtual models of reality." Like Google Earth, mirror worlds will present images of the world, potentially layered with much more detailed and timely information.

Next week, the draft report is set to be distributed to summit participants, who will have about seven days to make comments. Then, Paffendorf will take a last crack at the document before making it publicly available--ideally by the end of April, he said.

"The most important thing we did," Paffendorf said, "is create the (concept of the four distinct scenarios). It's the scaffolding that defines the space. And it will be fun to plug in all the companies and technologies."

'Meat' memories: how passe
Paffendorf said his main goal with the report is to "connect the four areas together and try to make them make sense as mutually reinforcing."

One of the more noteworthy aspects of the report is the section on lifelogging, which focuses on the many ways and technologies people will use to effectively broadcast vast segments of their life to friends and the general public. The report suggests the use of wearable systems with recording capabilities and digital displays that allow people to constantly track the sights and sounds around them--and to share that input with others.

CONTINUED: Prefer your reality augmented?…
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7 comments

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Data Cloud Interfaces
I have seen the future inall and when we go 3D we'll be working with top notch user interfaces that goe beyond the mouse and allow us to do alot more than simply jump from one space to another or look at a 3d will.
It will be more like clouds of media and raw data that we work with and by the time we reach 2016 we'll really have only just got started.
Also the OS inside the bonnet will be using multiple fragment OS systems on super viirtulisation sort of like an eco system of kernels and such with no central kernel (A hive minded PC)
Oh year i can do the future pridicting thing also.
Another thing to look out for in the future data systems is the intervetion of non-binary processors that will take us closer to high commercial use of Quantium systems.
Also another thing that will change is the analises data instead of correlating small information graphs the computer will generate special graphs that allow us to interpret many mopre areas of research at once.
For example when looking at data on smoking you'll be able to see the effect in total of that *** in just one special transformation graph(Thats the true power of Quantium baby).
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
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But who controls the Metaverse?
Whoever controls the Metaverse and the information that people see, can control people. Slant news in their favor, use it to manipulate people into buying things they don't want or vote a certain way, totally trash someone's good name that they don't like, and many other abuses.

We kind of see abuses like that already on blogs, whomever controls the most blogs controls the people who read those blogs and accept them as the truth. People are actually paid to blog a certain set of views and opinions, or just repeat stories already biased on one side by one news source and then link to them as if it was the truth and facts instead of just views and opinions. People today cannot tell the difference between the truth and facts and views and opinions.

I'd much rather live in reality, where I get to decide by myself using critical thinking and trying to find out both or more than two sides of the same story. Not have my information digitally reimaged and remixed with a type of spin so that it no longer resembles anything factual any more and is more fluff and opinion than anything else. I don't want someone else's views and opinions shoved down my throat on a daily basis, thank you very much.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
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Metaverse-how much is too much
I recently asked someone who worked with me to get the phone number for a potential vendor. They came back and told me they couldn't find the website. I asked if they'd tried 411. Oops, they'd forgotten that there is more than one way to locate information. Sometimes old techniques, including talking actually still work!

So, in an era when there is already an abundance of information, and few people that I know of complain about lack of access or inconvenience, how exactly does the "metaverse" improve our quality of life?
Posted by getclear (7 comments )
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Try Lifelogging In A Hospital
Try snapping some pictures or video in a hospital -- you will get met with suspicion and disdain. Do you think hospital staff will sanction your lifelogging all their little medical mistakes? Do you think heavy handed, Taser wielding cops will want you lifelogging their takedowns? Think politicians and celebs will want you lifelogging them getting drunk and stupid at the restaurant? For that matter, do you want trial lawyers subpoeaning YOUR lifelog? No my friends, the world is not ready for the stark, cold reality laid bare by a lifelogged world.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
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Just another way in which people...
Who can't afford these new "metaverse" gadgets will be left behind. Oh well, have fun everyone.
Posted by mattumanu (599 comments )
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Who Are These Guys?!
What I've long found annoying and frustrating about this Metaverse Roadmap is that only those people who are already involved in game companies, or virtual world software makers, or ludologists, or those on the sort of Web 2.0 circuit go to make it. Yet if anything of what they say is true, the Metaverse will profoundly affect the human race. Most people have never heard of the term, no had a chance to think about it. The great intellectuals and writers and artists and politicians of the world haven't had hardly any exposure to virtuality -- yet -- despite saturation coverage.

And ordinary people have had even less of a chance to participate. If there were more professions and more minds and more ordinary folks on this effort, it might be built quite differently. Why four categories? Because some things will end up being influenced by virtuality that aren't even electronic, the way CNN influenced street demonstrators around the world.

It's a good there is an intellectual effort to create a document. Why they have to call it a "roadmap" as if they get to tell everyone where they are driving is beyond me. It should stay descriptive and not prescriptive.
Posted by Prokofy Neva (15 comments )
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And yet..
Shakespeare never metaverse not worthy of some prose
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
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