Welcome to the Metaverse

by Lee Gesmer on October 31, 2008

Wade Roush (technology journalist and chief correspondent at Xconomy) wrote an extraordinary article in the MIT Technology Review in 2007 which I’ve had in my “must re-read” pile for a while. Recently I picked it up and noticed that the article is accessible in full on the Technology Review web site (free registration required).

Here is a brief excerpt from the article, modestly entitled Second Earth:

[w]ithin 10 to 20 years–roughly the same time it took for the Web to become what it is now–something much bigger than either of these alternatives [Second Earth or Google Earth] may emerge: a true Metaverse. In Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, a classic of the dystopian “cyberpunk” genre, the Metaverse was a planet-size virtual city that could hold up to 120 million avatars, each representing someone in search of entertainment, trade, or social contact. The Metaverse that’s really on the way, some experts believe, will resemble Stephenson’s vision, but with many alterations. It will look like the real earth, and it will support even more users than the Snow Crash cyberworld, functioning as the agora, labo­ratory, and gateway for almost every type of information-based pursuit. It will be accessible both in its immersive, virtual-reality form and through peepholes like the screen of your cell phone as you make your way through the real world. And like the Web today, it will become “the standard way in which we think of life online,” to quote from the Metaverse Roadmap, a forecast published this spring by an informal group of entrepreneurs, media producers, academics, and analysts.

This is extraordinary, futuristic stuff, but it reads like a valid prediction of the future. Click here to read the uncut article (which is over 7,000 words). If you have trouble accessing this page (perhaps because you need to register), start here to register and navigate to it.

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