Robert Hof on Business Week tells us how in the future the Internet is going to look more realistic, interactive, and social—a lot like a virtual world.
Ever since Neal Stephenson published Snow Crash in 1992, the virtual world he described in his seminal dystopian novel has been the Holy Grail for a generation of tech whizzes. The metaverse, as Stephenson called it, was essentially the Internet.
But in place of the flat, two-dimensional World Wide Web that had just been invented, he imagined a completely immersive and highly social 3D online world. People’s avatars, or virtual representations of themselves, could interact using facial expressions and body language so richly textured that for many the metaverse became more compelling than the real world.
Now, 15 years later, the glimmers of a real metaverse are coming into focus. You can see it in the popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft, which is revolutionizing online games with sophisticated graphics and complex team strategy.
Virtual worlds such as There, Entropia Universe, and Second Life let you create avatars, buildings, and even virtual classrooms and businesses. With Google Earth and Microsoft’s (MSFT) Virtual Earth 3-D, you can transcend the map layout and zoom into satellite-mapped locations around the world.