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Freon Bale

The shape of things to come, a question for the community

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Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read this. I have a dream. I thought at first that my dream was just about gaming, but over time, came to realize that gaming was but the first phase of something massive, and imho, something game changing for all who use the Internet. In the interest of keeping this short, I will try and convey my dream as succinctly as possible, but understand I have a 30+ page document outlining the details and ramifications of all you are about to read. What I am looking to find out is if this community 'gets it', and if you do, if there are those willing to help make this happen. Personally, I have committed myself to its genesis. Imagine a single game world that acted as a hub for other game worlds. The other game worlds would be created by the gaming modder community, or anyone with a creative mind and an inclination to do so. The tools to create those other worlds would be open-source in nature with databases for world objects, structures, creatures and creature AI. Users who created these assets could either make them freely available or for sale. Originally I imagined the hub world as being a staging area for the games it connected to, but ultimately realized that the hub world was behaving as the World Wide Web itself. This is because the hub world would be free, and like Second Life, there would be commercial entities where the avatars could go and buy virtual or real world items. But Second Life does not impress me. Besides its currency, it has no connection to reality. What was needed was for the hub world to juxtapose to reality itself. Imagine if the hub world was Earth. And web sites became virtual GPS (vGPS) locations. Instead of going to Dell's web site to buy a computer, one would go to Dell's HQ in Texas. Want Belgian chocolate? Go to Belgium, virtually. But what about the staggering quantity of people who do not want to, or are not able to, explore a world as an avatar? What about the speed of the World Wide Web in terms of going to a search engine, finding a site, and hopping to it. What would replace the search engine and the speed? Pets. Yes, we know them as pets, but in the world I was conceiving, these pets would be Intelligent Agents (IAs). They would act as our online representatives, our search engines and most amazingly, as the standardized UI for all the tools that allow us to exchange data online. In other words, the IA would facilitate file transfers (FTP, P2P, etc), emails and IMs (POP, IMs, IRC, etc) and be modular enough to add any other capabilities that programmers could conceive of. But those coders would no longer have to code the most annoying part of any application, the interface. What about social networks? This led to a fascinating solution that directly relates back to gaming. Layers. Imagine being in this hub world, which I started calling the Web Wide World (W3) at this point, and being in a location that thousands are visiting at the same time. Any gamer knows that this is a server crash waiting to happen (and I have several ideas on how to deal with server distribution). With layers, the user would only see those avatars who fit certain criteria (and opted to be seen). A layer for singles, or your friends, or those over age 60. With respect to games, imagine traveling the W3 to downtown Manhattan, and seeing a layer of zombies that were precached on your system. Now, the goal of the game would be to kill the zombies, and avoid killing the human avatars. Just a concept, but I hope you get the idea. This world would retain the Second Life currency system, but the currency could also have access restriction built in. Imagine a world that was only for children, with currency that could only be used on that world. Let's get back to the Intelligent Agents for a second. Imagine taking your IA into one of the game worlds with you. Now, while in a game, you would have a companion that could help you solve riddles, or just keep you connected to that which is going on both outside the game, and in RL. And when you walk around the real world, imagine your IA shadowing you in the virtual one. Imagine walking by a store in the real world that has an item you told your IA you wanted to find the cheapest price on. It IMs your cell phone to tell you to go into the store to get it. An example, but again, I hope you get the idea. There is so much more, but it is just a dream unless there is a strategy to make this whole thing happen. In my opinion, Phase I is the hub world, a proof of concept. At this point, it would not parallel Earth, but would act as the staging area I originally conceived. Two strategies to get this part moving. I will either need to convince the open source community to design and build it (bottom up approach) or I need to convince investors to fund its creation (top down approach). Either way, what will make or break this idea is if you, the game development community, a) think this is a good idea, and b) are willing to develop in it. I will stop here, but please understand that there is a great deal more involved in this idea, from overcoming technical challenges to the legal aspects of virtual property ownership. I want your feedback. I want to know if you have ideas to add to this, and I want to know if you are willing to help make this happen as a grass roots effort. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

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Sounds like a great idea!

When you get a ton of funding, a prototype ready, and a sample of people, I'm sure it will be a big hit!

It sounds really neat...

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The vast majority of internet use is to obtain information or services as simply and easily as possible.

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Instead of going to Dell's web site to buy a computer, one would go to Dell's HQ in Texas.


What would be the difference, except that I would have to have a higher powered computer with the fans on the CPU and GPU going crazy as I flew around a virtual office, burning carbon and taking up time?

Most of us would rather just type stuff into a search box and click links to be honest.

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You're not the first one to come up with such an idea. But the question you have to ask yourself is "Do people really want to interact with the information this way?" I can't imagine why I'd want to navigate to a virtual Dell HQ and look through a virtual store rather than simply load up a fundamentally text-based web site, sort through options, then click a buy button. The virtual environment only makes going through that information harder. In the case of your "virtual AI" shadowing my real-world self, why wouldn't I just do a search for the product and then pull up maps to stores that have the item? Or better yet, just have the store ship it to me, a la Amazon. If those stores haven't published that information now, why would they when you have a virtual world?

In other words, what does the virtual interface give me that's worth the trade-off in convenience? "It looks cool," isn't really good enough. Every example you've given can be done easier and better without the virtual interface over it. That's not even getting into the practicality of the project, which I'm not even going to touch on.

Edit:
Another thought, after re-reading the parts on "virtual property rights." The nice thing about the internet is that web-space isn't scarce. Its easy and cheap to set up web space, and the only thing that's preventing you from getting your message out there is getting eyeballs in front of your face. Why would you want to implement a scarcity model in at the core of your system? I suppose domain names are one source of scarcity, but one largely mitigated by the prevalence of search engines.

In the words of Penny Arcade, when commenting about PS Home:

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Tycho
Chief among these bizarre maneuvers is the idea that, when manufacturing their flimsy dystopia, they actually ported the pernicious notion of scarcity from our world into their digital one. This is like having the ability to shape being from non-being at the subatomic level, and the first thing you decide to make is AIDS.

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Aardvark,

In 50 years, do you really believe we will be browsing the Internet the way we do today? I mean, if it ain't broke, why fix it, is the argument you are using.

Even if we assume that what we have today is adequate, my Grandma still finds it unusable. Add to this the 5 billion non-English speaking people around the world who still are not online, but who will be. Add to that the millions of baby boomers who will be too old to type in the next 20-30 years, and what you have is a need for a different way to use the Internet. I am not saying my idea is that other way, but it is a step towards another way, and imho, it is a better way than what we have now.

As to the hardware, I think now is an exceptional time for what I am describing to occur. Even netbooks have limited 3D acceleration ability. What is more, I have included in my larger project description several strategies that would take the graphics processing load off the system that is seeing the images. Take for example GeoFusion, which preprocesses the imagery and only sends the output to the end system (similar to the Tandberg video conferencing strategy). Or what about harnessing the CPU/GPU power of consoles in a opt in grid arrangement. The point is that now is an ideal time to grow beyond what is, and begin development of what will be.

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Original post by Freon Bale
Even if we assume that what we have today is adequate, my Grandma still finds it unusable.


If we're using usability to grandparents as a benchmark in usability, then video games is pretty much the exact opposite direction we need to be going. My grandparents have a much easier time with the internet than video games. I don't feel that they're atypical.

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Add to this the 5 billion non-English speaking people around the world who still are not online, but who will be.


And how will your product help that? I mean, in the real world we have signs and whatnot to direct people. How are you going to fix that in your virtual world? At some point, they will need to be able to find their way around, and that way will either have to be language agnostic (unlikely) or specifically re-implemented in their language. There's nothing fundamental to your idea that would make things easier for non-English speakers.

Also, those people are perfectly capable of creating their own web sites catering to their language. What usually happens is that people who cannot speak English simply use sites that are written in their native language.

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Add to that the millions of baby boomers who will be too old to type in the next 20-30 years,


There are already options for people who have difficulty typing, and they're only getting better.

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and what you have is a need for a different way to use the Internet.


The difficulties that people have with using the internet aren't with the interface, but usually with things like phishing, malware, and security. None of these are improved by your product.

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I am not saying my idea is that other way, but it is a step towards another way, and imho, it is a better way than what we have now.


I don't see how its any better.

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As to the hardware, I think now is an exceptional time for what I am describing to occur. Even netbooks have limited 3D acceleration ability. What is more, I have included in my larger project description several strategies that would take the graphics processing load off the system that is seeing the images. Take for example GeoFusion, which preprocesses the imagery and only sends the output to the end system (similar to the Tandberg video conferencing strategy). Or what about harnessing the CPU/GPU power of consoles in a opt in grid arrangement. The point is that now is an ideal time to grow beyond what is, and begin development of what will be.


All of that is just moving the power consumption around. Fundamentally, you don't need to consume that power, and people are not going to want to pay for that power consumption unless there are benefits to doing so. That's not even touching on the issue of why I'd want to either tie up my internet connection streaming video or my GPU rendering graphics when I can just view the information in text form.

Again, this comes down to "Why is a virtual interface a good idea?" You haven't given me any reasons that stand up to scrutiny. I'll admit that the idea is really, really cool. The only problem is that cool things are usually set aside in fairly short order unless they have real value. For reference, see how companies opened up virtual HQs and shops in Second Life, and then abandoned them in fairly short order when the trendiness stopped being quite so trendy.

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Rycross,

You bring up an excellent point; This idea is not novel, nor am I saying it is. In fact, what it represents is a convergence of many technologies that I have yet to see converge, especially the 3D component.

Why 3D? Because from birth, humans are trained to interact with a 3D world. I envision the ultimate evolution of what I am describing as a replacement for the UI for the OS itself. I see people's own computers as having virtual world Earth counterparts that make them residents of the Internet rather than visitors.

To me, and all of this community, computers are very easy to use. But I have done support for users ranging from small children to 90+ year olds, and to them, the capabilities you and I have are magical. How can that playing field be leveled? Once again, I am not saying my way is that panacea, but I have yet to see a project which even tries to converge the quantity of capabilities I am describing.

As to ease of use, do not think of the IA, the pet, as what you and I know in MMOGs (though for many, that will be the preferred interface). To users not interested in 3D, or communicating through devices with little horsepower (phones, for instance), the connection to the IA is exactly like a web page.

But think of the advantages of a 3D Earth. I challenge you to find and order chocolate from an actual Belgian Chocolatier in Gent, Belgium. You do not speak Flemish or French, and even with translation software, the amount of effort you will go through to find one and order chocolate is extreme. If you had a 3D earth, you would rotate it to Belgium, zoom to Gent, maybe ask a Belgian you filtered through layers what the best place was, go there and order. Or how about some cool technology that is only going to be released in China? Good luck finding a western store that sells it.

My point is that the current World Wide Web has islands of content separated by language. With an 3D Earth, even if just from a consumer level, navigation to localized vendors would be much easier.

[Edited by - Freon Bale on December 30, 2009 10:59:23 AM]

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Quote:
Original post by Rycross

If we're using usability to grandparents as a benchmark in usability, then video games is pretty much the exact opposite direction we need to be going. My grandparents have a much easier time with the internet than video games. I don't feel that they're atypical.


First off, Rycross, I greatly appreciate you challenging this idea. The goal here is to get a dialogue going and to strengthen this idea through solid discussion. To your comment, I would only suggest that a 3D environment is not necessarily a video game. 3D is here, whether we adopt it for the Internet or not. Within 10 years, you will not be able to buy an LCD that does not have both touchscreen and 3D (without glasses. I have used the technology myself over 10 years ago).

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And how will your product help that? I mean, in the real world we have signs and whatnot to direct people. How are you going to fix that in your virtual world? At some point, they will need to be able to find their way around, and that way will either have to be language agnostic (unlikely) or specifically re-implemented in their language. There's nothing fundamental to your idea that would make things easier for non-English speakers.


My last comment really covers this point, but to rehash, basically I am saying that symbolic navigation is easier than text based navigation, especially when one does not speak the native language.

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Also, those people are perfectly capable of creating their own web sites catering to their language. What usually happens is that people who cannot speak English simply use sites that are written in their native language.


I agree, but think of the millions of web sites denied to you because of the language barrier.

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There are already options for people who have difficulty typing, and they're only getting better.


Ultimately, we may be able to talk to our computers and they will understand us. If that does occur, my opinion is that the interaction will be similar to the IAs I am describing. What better way to evolve into that future then to have the capability, albeit more manual, now.


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The difficulties that people have with using the internet aren't with the interface, but usually with things like phishing, malware, and security. None of these are improved by your product.


Exactly why a new system is needed. The Internet as we know it is a hodgepodge of technologies that could not foresee the annoyances you describe. Let's create something that does.


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I don't see how its any better.


I hope you do now, and I greatly appreciate your criticism.

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It reminds me of the system we see in most sci-fi movies, where the user navigates in a 3D environment. It looks cool, but ultimately I really don't think it's very useable. If we are going to substitute the existing system of clicking links, we sure as hell don't want to navigate avatars in 3D environments. First of all,that's 10x harder for the non-gaming people. Believe me when I say, non-gaming people have incredible difficulty with anything 3D, orientation, camera. It doesn't have any advantage. It will definately take longer than what we have today, that is, click on links and hypertext, and that is simply not desirable. The 'pets' idea, that is an interface or a cute cartoony character that exposes functionality, has been tried and didn't work. Personally, I don't see why we should bother with that unless it's for kids. Making an interface cuter doesn't mean it's more useable and efficient. Of course, I don't know, maybe people will prefer it because it looks cooler, who knows. It depends if we value usability or the 'awe' factor. But I really think we should substitute the existing 'dumb' systems with something more minimalistic and smart, like, I don't know, speech understanding, correct language tranlation of pages, understand what the user is trying to search for, things like that.

[Edited by - mikeman on December 30, 2009 7:41:25 AM]

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Quote:
Original post by Freon Bale
But think of the advantages of a 3D Earth. I challenge you to find and order chocolate from an actual Belgian Chocolatier in Gent, Belgium. You do not speak Belgian, and even with translation software, the amount of effort you will go through to find one and order chocolate is extreme.

On behalf of my southern neighbors: there's no such language as Belgian. [grin]

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