Virtual Worlds

What do we mean when we say virtual worlds? This is a term in use in the market, and it is roughly equated to terms such as Metaverse, virtual environment, 3D Internet, etc. The term Metaverse is taken from a novel by Neil Stephenson,  where it describes a kind of parallel universe where people engage as an extension of their physical lives.

From a technological perspective virtual worlds grew out of the gaming technology called MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games). This describes a genre of online games that are played within a simulation platform that can support large numbers of players interacting with each other in fictional settings such as fantasy, war, historical episodes, and space missions. These games feature 3D virtual reality that provides a setting for players to interact with each other and with the playing environment through the use of so-called avatars.

A surprising development in the last couple of years has been the emerging usage of virtual worlds for pursuit of business and educational goals. In other words, serious use of technology that had been developed for entertainment. Some of the platforms involved in the serious use of VW include Second Life, Active Worlds, Forterra, Wonderland, Qwaq, Cobalt. The serious use is beginning to mirror the enterprise use of the Web with its own intraworlds to match intranets as private zones, extraworlds that match extranets as projections of enterprise content into the public, and fully public worlds that mirror the Internet itself. There is currently a lack of standards to allow worlds to interoperate, but many minds are working on that problem.