An interesting but long article about the merging of virtual worlds appears in this months Technolology Review. Here’s the link, but it will probably require registration to read it.
The cliff notes version of the article is this:
Second life is a social virtual world you can explore and interact with using a customized avatar. People are building and programming cool things in Second Life, the scripting langage and access via XML allows people to build objects that tie the second life world to the real world.
Meanwhile, Google Earth is adding all sorts of cool things to their map of the world software, like building 3D models of buildings where they exist, linking to photographs, wiki information, restaurant and driving directions, pointing out geological features etc.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could merge the two?
Personally, I do not think we could geographically merge the two, in fact I do not think we need to. I do not see the point of making the continents of Second Life conform to the real world.
What would be cool is to merge the abilities of both games, add avatar walking/flying and local chatting and maybe even scripting in Google Earth, while adding geotagging and other advanced web integration to Second Life.
As currently constituted though, this makes no sense in either program, If you want to add links to photos or geotags to wiki info in Second Life, just put a scripted object on your land. On the other hand, while it might be cool to be able to explore google earth with a customizable avatar, it would not really add much to the experience (unless it were possible to take your avatar to say Times Square and be able to chat locally with anyone else whose avatar is in Times Square)
What should be a goal is to create a 3D internet standard “browser” that can handle both kinds of environments. Instead of launching Second Life or Google Earth, you could launch one browser that could read both kinds of data and link back and forth or with the 2D web.
But, lets add a geolink to someone’s recreation of Times Square in Second Life, and instantly teleport there.
As you can see, this is already fairly easy to do. but you have to launch 3 seperate programs to do it. What if we only needed one, and what if the links all work the same way, and the avatars and usernames stayed similar, etc.
That is the goal of various metaverse projects. Thats where we are eventually headed.