Last October I reported hearing Chris Melissinos from Sun Microsystems predict that in the future we’d all have Avatars which could move from platform to platform. That future may be starting to materialize. If you haven’t heard the latest news, Linden Labs (Second Life creator) and IBM have successfully collaborated on the transportation of avatars between two platforms - the Second Life Preview Grid and an OpenSim virtual world server. This is an industry-first in virtual world interoperability. But how sweeping is this innovation?
Start with the facts: check out the full story, and the video. However, be warned, the narration on the video is amateurishly dramatic. IBM’s press release. Video.
Here’s a good article from Business Technology explaining the significance of the avatar swap, ”Avatars Teleport Away from Second Life.”
Now, for a deeper analysis of, if not critical look at this news, read Craig Roth’s post, ”Second Life Avatars Teleport, But the Virtual Moving Truck Stays Behind.” Here’s a quick excerpt:
It’s worth noting that this (experiment) was from one test grid to another and only involved the avatar, not any items, script, or currency. (Clothes didn’t tag along.) To me, this is a nice stunt. It gets attention for its sci-fi undertones, but doesn’t address the real barriers to mobility in virtual worlds, nor does it do much to address disgruntled Second Life residents.
Roth raises the quintessential question about intellecutal property in a virtual world. He asks: ”How can intellectual property be protected when it can be infinitely copied and transferred?”
Ok, so the sheer excitement of this recent announcement may have a limited shelf-life, as the pundits get down to nitty-gritty critques of just exactly what was – or wasn’t – accomplished here. Clearly, inter-application transportation of avatars has a ways to go, not just in terms of technical developments (transferring of digital assets) but also in terms of hammering out the myriad intellectual property (IP) and avatar identity security issues. We have been attempting to iron out IP issues with varying degrees of success, in the 2D educational world. I can’t imagine we’ll stop on that front, when we get to a 3D interface.
I don’t doubt for one minute that Chris Melissinos’s predicted future will arrive within a decade. Here’s an excerpt from my October post, commenting on Chris’ predictions:
Sooner or later, we will have access to virtual world (VW) identities where we only have to create one avatar which will be universally recognized after logging in. Applications will have layers of security, just as commercial sites have now via https (or the padlock) so we can choose when to render personal information or more importantly, when and how to share information and products such as course curriculum, that we build inside the VW.
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