This years Amsterdam based Metameets had a diverse and intriguing group of people present and attending online. It was also running in parallel with the 48 hour Machinima festival MMIF. When I was asked if I would moderate the event I did not take much convincing and I am very glad that I did. MC’ing an event can be done in two ways. Stand up, introduce the links and sit down again, or pay attention to it all and try and explore some threads in what has been said. I tried to do the latter, which meant paying total attention all the time. This is mentally tiring, but balanced by the fact that everything, without exception was intensely interesting!
One of the key things about Metameets is the diversity and clashing of worlds, and some new perspectives. This is the vision the Joja brings in organising and gathering us all for this event. Our two opening keynotes started that ball rolling. Corporate HR Catalyst for change and Legendary Games Developer.
The opening speaker was Ian Gee from Nokia. He is new to virtual worlds and has been introduced to it by Tim Goree. Tim is a fellow corporate metaverse evangelist, so it is great to see people like Ian getting the message and taking it somewhere new. Ian is Director of Organisational Development at Nokia. He spoke as an observer in the pioneering and exploratory directions many of the people at metameets take. The responsibilities and drivers we all have to explore. He was very much of the opinion that change needs to be radical. It is this “lets do it things a different way” attitude many virtual world people have that attracted him to us as that gels with his challenges to organisations as to why the working day is an 8 hour block, why is the management structure a pyramid etc. Ian also described the avatar representations and life altering experiences many of us are having as a gentle form of Metanoia
Next up was Noah Falstein. He is a long time game designer with a fantastic reputation. He did not disappoint with his presentation either. It is rare that “pure” games development gets anywhere near virtual worlds. Many virtual worlds people are not gamers, they attraction to them was not via games. Many games people don’t understand why virtual world interaction works or what the point of bothering is. Noah is that rare crossover. The early part of the talk was rally putting it all in perspective around evolution. How early we are really in the whole scheme of things. He used many unusual organic pictures of long dead creatures to set the scene. He then dived into showing everyone Habitat from 1985. This was one of the first environments to use home computers (commodore 64) and a modem to connect people with a graphic virtual world. In this case a 2d sprite based one. However Noah pointed out that then in 1985 the adverts for the game had to fully explain that it was real people on the other end of the game. We had not advanced enough or had the technical and cultural awareness that that sort of things was possible. He talked about to the leap this made in peoples understanding and expectation, the subsequent evolution(s) of virtual worlds and games and how some evolutionary avenues are dead ends, but others combine into much more. He has a stealth startup and was not able to share what he was doing with that exactly but I got the impression that it was something of both a AAA game lineage and a virtual world/social interaction/UGC project. That is going to be very exciting (and I am sure it will be whatever it is. Just look up his games CV !)
So we had two presentations on seismic changes, both made analogies to both evolution and exploration combined with a risk taking pioneering attitude. So I knew we we off on the right track as a conference.
We then had some focus in the agenda on Opensim. This was great as this was scheduled as some technical discussion for the tech’s in the room and some business discussion for those who want to just use virtual worlds like Opensim.
First up was Justin Clarke Casey, a core Opensim developer known to many of us. I know Justin from back in the IBM days and also we live in the same area. It was good to see him get up and explain his vision of where Opensim is going. Much of this was focused on the gradual evolution to the generic interconnected hypergrid. Where your own opensim is able to interact with everyone elses. This does happen now but architecturally the hand over of you to another sim is evolving and Justin could see a time, and a gap for certain common services (akin to DNS) were available to broker this. It shows just how complicated evolving a grid is and the potential security implications and stability problems. At the same time it all looked like it was going the right direction.
Next Ilan Tochner from Kitely stepped up to discuss his companies approach to creating virtual worlds on demand. In this case they use opensim, though the principle can be used to start to drive any appropropriate platform. llan vision is to be the Telecom company of the virtual world. Providing some middle ground of communication/hosting etc. Though without the rip off data charges 🙂 The principle is you go to the site, press a button (a large one to attract your attention) this provisions a virtual world for you. You then dive into it and invite others. When you don’t need it anymore you either park it (in storage which is very cheap compared to leaving a server running) or delete it. There are a few companies trying this but Kitely and llan are very active in driving standards and supporting the growth of the industry with a more open approach. llan had some interesting directions for the viewers too. Mirroring what happened with the web and mobile in the early days and moving to transcoding of any viewer code to a suitable renderable platform. Plugin and client free access. You can see why this would appeal both to users (no messing around) and to a service provider like Kitely. If virtual world y suddenly appears you need to be able to provision a y and get users logged on with y’s client. We had lots of back room chat about standards, common approaches, generic versus specialist interfaces. All good and the right sort of conversations to have.
So there was a clear link and need here to push certain function and responsibilities into areas (like a generic avatar service?) into a real layer. From both a service provider of generic virtual worlds and a developer of the core of one the requirement and the evolutionary path was similar.
coming up education, AR and path to the future to round up Day 1!