OpenSimulator and its “grid of grids” (Hypergrid) approach is perhaps the nearest virtual worlds environment we currently have that approximates the “Metaverse” as envisaged in science fiction (e.g. Snowcrash) and popular culture. It is an approximation of what others seem to hint at when discussing the sorts of social networked virtual spaces that companies like High Fidelity and virtual reality headset companies like Oculus aspire to create.
OpenSimulator allows for a combination of a 3D virtual world environment, communication and synchronous collaboration capabilities including voice, media sharing, text chat and instant messaging. This becomes a powerful facility when combined with a web-based social platform and asynchronous modes of communication and information or knowledge sharing (e.g., Open Virtual Collaboration Environment, see Tate et al., 2014).
OpenSimulator is an open source multi-platform, multi-user 3D application server. It can be used to create a virtual environment (or world) which can be accessed through a variety of clients, on multiple protocols. It also has an optional facility (the Hypergrid) to allow users to visit other OpenSimulator installations across the web from their ‘home’ OpenSimulator installation. In this way, it is the basis of a nascent distributed Metaverse.
Out of the box, OpenSimulator can be used to simulate virtual environments similar to Second Life™, given that it supports the core of SL’s messaging protocol. As such, these virtual worlds can be accessed with the regular SL viewers. However, OpenSimulator does not aim to become a clone of the Second Life server platform. Rather, the project aims to enable innovative feature development for virtual environments and the Metaverse at large.
Contributions to the Metaverse
- Libomv – LibOpenMetaverse – http://lib.openmetaverse.co/ – is a collection of .NET libraries written in c# for interacting with 3d virtual world simulators. The core library implements the protocol, networking and client functionality.
- OpenSimulator – http://opensimulator.org – OpenSimulator is an open source multi-platform, multi-user 3D application server.
- Open Grid Protocol – Proposals 2008 (Linden Lab Wiki)
Metaverse circa 2008-2009 – Almost There
Some experiments to allow for avatar movement (as Ruth) between OpenSim grids and a Second Life experimental Open Grid using a proposed Open Grid Protocol (OGP) took place in 2008 to 2009, but was not continued.
See this blog post from Gwyneth Llewelyn on 2nd March 2009 for some of the story…
And a YouTube video of the experiment in progress…
Wish List for Next Generation Virtual Worlds – Social Web + Virtual Worlds + Content + People
I have written about this before… in a nutshell… I would like to see a grid of grids approach, a single instance world where travel is possible with a common identity and a suitable “suitcase” (intelligently filtered and adapted) and where radically different newer technologies and user interactivity modalities can be introduced alongside legacy facilities and which can gradually build a community and content.
OpenSimulator as a Beacon
Work needs to be started on protocols for interchange of avatars and suitable portable and sharable content between different grids and technologies. The early aork on the Open Grid Protocol and experiments to allow teleport between OpenSim and Second Life were not continued unfortunately. New commercial efforts seems to be more concerned with walled gardens and lock in for commercial data gathering than open standards and facilities to inter work with many other grids and technologies. OpenSimulator could be a beacon to show the way and an experimental environment to test ideas.
- Tate, A., Hansberger, J.T., Potter, S. and Wickler, G. (2014) Virtual Collaboration Spaces: Bringing Presence to Distributed Collaboration, Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, Assembled Issue 2014, Volume 7, Number 2, May 2014. [PDF Format]