Rosedale: Virtual future will be a cross between Skype and Web

Despite the dystopian predictions in Enerst Cline’s Ready Player One, the future virtual reality metaverse will not be owned and governed by one single corporate entity, said former Linden Lab CEO and founder Philip Rosedale in a keynote address today to the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference.

Philip Rosedale gives keynote address at the 2014 Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference in Second Life.

Philip Rosedale gives keynote address at the 2014 Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference in Second Life.

Rosedale, who is now the CEO of virtual reality startup High Fidelity, said that open standards and scalability are critical for the wide success of a virtual reality platform.

“It has to be a lot more like the Internet than it is today,” Rosedale said. “We have to be able to set up and run our own servers. The software needs to be open source, the protocols need to be inspectable.”

The virtual environments, however, need the ability to link up, and even be physically adjacent to each other in a common virtual space, he added.

“I need to be able to walk out my door and look out, be able to park my educational facility next to yours,” he said. “At the end of the day, the virtual world of the future, as it takes its next leap, is going to be an inter-network of virtual worlds.”

If it sounded like he was talking about something like OpenSim, with its open source server software and hypergrid connectivity, it’s because he was.

“OpenSim has started the work to get us all thinking about those issues,” he said, but did not specify whether High Fidelity itself would be compatible with OpenSim or would be a different open standard.

There were about 200 in-world attendees at the event, plus another 200 or so tuning in via a Web-based stream.

There were about 200 in-world attendees at the event, plus another 200 or so tuning in via a Web-based stream.

Peer-to-peer scalability

Rosedale also talked about the issue of scalability. Today, to get more simultaneous visitors into a single virtual world, companies put bigger servers to work. Or, in the case of OpenSim’s Distributed Scene Graph, which can handle up to 1,000 avatars on a region, the work load is distributed between several servers.

This isn’t a workable solution, said Rosedale, because there aren’t enough servers on the planet to get a billion people into virtual worlds.

Instead, a peer-to-peer system, similar to what Skype uses to handle voice traffic, is a more scalable solution.

“I believe — and this is what we are working on at High Fidelity — is that we can get access to everyone’s machines and use them as servers,” he said. “We believe that this is a completely solvable problem, and the next generation of virtual worlds can be build as a cloud of machines that are shared and borrowed from all of us.”

This is of particular interest to educators, he added, since the resulting virtual worlds can be then created and run efficiently, and at low cost.

Some in attendance were, in fact, holding "Philip is a God" signs.

Some in attendance were, in fact, holding “Phil is God” signs.

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

17 Responses

  1.' hack13 says:

    There is a bit of a flaw with this argument. While Peer to Peer is good, we learned at a large scale it is not good. Skype actually had to ditch Peer to Peer after it hit a few snags, and began to cause a major issue and a few large outages. While Peer to Peer has a great use for many things at certain scales, but it becomes a hassle once it hits a certain scale.

    An example of this was when Skype finally had its largest collapse, a few “super nodes” as they called them went down and thus began to cause issues and become unstable and calls dropped, etc. We have to look to systems like the cloud and dedicated server, while we can use Peer to Peer in junction with them, we still need to rely on powerful strong connections. I don’t want to sound dickish here, but Peer to Peer is amazing and I use it for a lot of things every since BitTorrent Sync was released, it still is kinda more of the “cost efficient” way to do things. Though that isn’t always bad, I am just saying with Peer to Peer things can be done, but we need to mix it up like skype had to do by adding real servers people pass through now.

    •' xchrisx says:

      Totally agree on that too, i use skype for family and business, not only am i now annoyed with the drop in plans and up pricing since microsoft bought out, but also the amount of drop calls, quality and issues on and off.

  2.' theminddock says:

    It will be cinema-class as well, and not cartoon-class Opensim.
    Well, he calls himself High Fidelity, and not Low Fidelity.

    •' Ener Hax says:

      lol, the cinema class argument! *waves to euro minuteman*

      call me cynical, but nothing seems compelling enough yet to have VWs become part of the mainstream like the interwebz are

      even the interwebz are still predominantly text-based – more like online shareable books than movies

      online text – fast to share and easily accessible while being familiar for hundreds of years =)

      • The key word is “yet.” 🙂

        •' Hannah says:

          %s/yet/for the foreseeable future/g

          •' Hannah says:

            I should expand on that.

            He seems to be aware of the hurdles that face metaverse adoption and one of them is …it doesn’t fit a need that isn’t fit better by other mediums. There’s a reason that twitter took off while opensim/secondlife/there/lively/activeworlds/bluemars/etc remained fringe or tanked -facebook and twitter are instantaneous gratification, VW’s …are not.

            In order for the “metaverse” to become relevant to the mainstream, we have to answer the question “what problem does this solve that can’t be more quickly solved by facebook, skype, gotomeeting or powerpoint”.

            I think he (and others) are looking at that and I think they’ll eventually crack it -but until that’s answered, the software and the hardware will remain fringey trinkets.

          • What I got from his presentation is that virtual worlds still don’t have an adequate input mechanism. A 3D equivalent of the mouse.

            It’s like back in the old days, of the green-screen monitors. Game consoles had color graphics, via television screens, and used joysticks for navigation. But neither of those two things really worked for business uses.

            It wasn’t until we got the windows metaphor for the GUI and the mouse for input that people started to switch — and it still took a while. Windows 1.0 came out in 1985. It wasn’t until 1990 and Windows 3.0 that people really started switching over.

            The advantage of a graphical user interface is that it’s easier to use, more natural than arrows and text commands.

            The advantage of a virtual world will be the same — once we have the technology right. The technology still isn’t there. As Rosedale pointed out, the mouse-and-keyboard combo that we use for looking around and building is not natural, and takes time to learn, and hours of use before it becomes intuitive.

            The Oculus Rift (and similar devices) is just half the puzzle. It’s the 3D display that virtual worlds have been needing. The 2D displays we use now are a pale imitation of the real thing. Like using ASCII graphics on a text-only monitor!

            But a good input mechanism is the other half of it. Rosedale talked about the Razor Hydra about about motion sensors and cameras as all possibilities, but nothing has been settled on yet.

            So, to recap, the consumer version of the Oculus still isn’t out. A 3D input mechanism hasn’t been decided on yet (and may be different for gaming than for everything else).

            I think there are plenty of compelling use cases for virtual reality. Once the hardware is in place — and a few big backers to sell it, the way that AOL did a major hard-sell of going online — then this sector will explode. (Explode in a good way.)

          •' lmpierce says:

            The history of the personal computer was launched on text-based displays, which handled word processing, spreadsheets, databases and a long list of industry specific programs. The paradigm shift was not the display or the keyboard, but the processing capabilities and speed, management for large volumes of data, and the ability to share data without laborious manual re-entry. IBM personal computers with green screens showed up in every business long before the GUI and the mouse.

            I began as a consultant to many corporations and a variety of industries, but also to individuals, all equipped with an IBM PC, DOS 2.0 and a dot matrix printer. Wow, were these systems useful and important to all these users! The only time I remember an issue with keyboards was during my work with the J. Paul Getty Trust. They explained that men from European countries were hesitant to use keyboards because for them typing was a woman’s activity!

            The computer, which had already proven itself so useful by the time Windows arrived, did not initially seem enhanced by this cumbersome new system that required a mouse and slowed the computer down noticeably to handle the overhead of movable panels of information over the screen. It was not until Microsoft made Windows reliable, and computers themselves became sufficiently more powerful that the ease of use enhancements from using Windows made sense. But Windows did not delineate when computers worked well for business – that had already been well established.

            So in relationship to virtual worlds, it will undoubtedly make a difference to have more ergonomic and natural input devices, as well as improved visual display technology. But as others have noted, the essential value of virtual worlds must be proven and developed and expanded whether or not it becomes enhanced with three-dimensional viewers and gesture driven access. The paradigm of virtual worlds has been weak as relates to mass adoption, although in specific use cases it has proven highly successful and invaluable. (And I have long felt that’s okay – I’m not a proponent of a technology requiring or desiring mass adoption.)

            To me, the input device is only one dimension of a multi-dimensional challenge. After all, every business and home with the financial means would still own a computer today, even if the mouse had never been invented. But a great mouse connected to a Rube Goldberg machine would only be yet another novelty.

          •' Minethere says:

            ” They explained that men from European countries were hesitant to use keyboards because for them typing was a woman’s activity!”

            thank goodness “some” men have evolved!!! [tho, of course, there is something to be said for cavemen, also]

          •' Minethere says:

            As much as I would love to see more professionalism in all this, I would also dislike it if it meant a loss in what the free Meta gives me, and that some of us really appreciate.

            I do hope that some kind of nice middle ground will be found with some kind of inevitable commercialism blended with freedom aspects that do not tie even more people down to the stagnant and boring closed type concepts, but expand out with options such as we come to take for granted in the free meta.

            As more and more people, especially Artists, see the value in more free expressions of their creativity, I do hope this is preserved in some way by those “big names with big bucks”.

            I do hope that they see the value in decentralizing and allowing some form of hypergating. I think they do, and will, in some regards since the net is based on such similar concepts.

            If not, there is always my soas…lol

        •' Ener Hax says:

          i agree, i’m still waiting on my flying car and for the 35 hour work week my rec management class said we’d have in the US =)

        •' Arielle says:

          I strongly believe that electromyography and computer/brain wave interfaces will be the input devices of the future. There are already some consumer devices out there utilizing such means:

    •' Minethere says:

      it’s weird, but everytime I see mention of HI-FI, I think of do ppl still do that? [doesn’t get out much so dunno]…but, look

  3.' Ener Hax says:

    and whatever happened to i see phil’s new endeavor uses something else to post jobs and the last C&P tweet was last year – that’s dead it seems . . . must be nice to be a millionaire and bored! =D

  4.' xchrisx says:

    On a completely different note first, your updated opensim active grid list shows aviworlds being hypergrid enabled, which infact on their main website page it says they are not hypergrid enabled for security reasons and content creator protection :O
    Secondly regarding the above i totally disagree being that peer to peer is the way forward. when comes to machine privacy and protection from viruses, so mr rosedale you need to do a lot more homework 😉

  5.' xchrisx says:

    I saw a new video on this talk from Philip Rosedale last night, and while he comes across extremely knowledgeable at what he does, but when you actually watch this latest talk of his. Its clearly just going to be a copycat of opensim with hypergrid which we already have thanks to someone 😉