Hints at the Future of Virtual Worlds

IBM hosted an event at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab on Friday, where experts offered insights into how virtual worlds can be applied to make businesses more effective and address societal problems.The day-long event brought together IBMers, academics, media and representatives from businesses exploring virtual worlds, including those from entertainment, retail and the hotel industry.

Although some of the attendees expressed concern that virtual worlds are now over-hyped and insecure, IBM’s Colin Parris vice president of digital convergence said the combination of today’s virtual world with
existing Web services, such as commerce and search, will lead to “profound transformations” to societies and enterprises.

“We are now at the threshold of newly emerging (Web) platforms focused on participation and collaboration,” he said. “The power of collaboration and community are one of the major drivers of innovation as companies figure out the capabilities to accelerate collaborative innovation.”

Parris described some of IBM’s initial uses of virtual worlds in a business context, including enhanced training, immersive social shopping experiences, simulations for learning and rehearsing business processes, and for hosting events.

MIT Media Lab director Frank Moss, who also spoke Friday morning, said that society is in the very early days–“the first minutes, perhaps seconds of the 3-D Internet”–of virtual worlds. Several students are working on projects involving virtual worlds, such as finding easier ways to construct buildings and socialize.

Virtual worlds will be combined with advancements in understanding human behavior and pervasive computing, he said.

“We will be blurring the distinction between human abilities and human disabilities,” he said. “We’re talking about autistic people becoming authors and amputees becoming athletes and normal people doing
extraordinary things.”

Despite the potential laid out by Parris and Moss, they both cautioned that virtual worlds need significant improvements. Attendees during a question and answer session also raised concerns over the poor state of security now in virtual worlds.

Parris and Moss also said security and privacy needs to be better addressed in virtual worlds. Other needed improvements include scalability of technical systems and more appropriate content.

Moss said that virtual worlds still lack the application that leads to wide-scale use, as the transition to the PC and the Web did in the past.

IBM: like the Web, virtual worlds will be become business friendly | Tech news blog – CNET News.com

Needless to say, I’m excited about the future for virtual worlds & social networking. None of this stuff is directly related to kids, but in the worlds progressive chart… sooner or later it will be.

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