Dec 15 2006
Where am I searching news on SL this month?
For a taste of the foam on top of the news latte, I search “second life” or “linden lab” on news.google.com when I have a moment.
For getting every top positive view published, it’s secondlife.com/news/
For many interesting perspectives, it’s mmorpg.qj.net as in
Today I noted Motley Fool serving up a dish of IBM with SL sauce, and read about plans for IBM to develop 12 sims for a company of 330k employees. At that ratio, I can see where it’s a brief rational argument to make the case that such a move will soon produce cost savings.
Where SLGIS is coming from right now, the economics would be tenuous but at least we’re on the same continuum. Take for example a moderately urbanized city like Berkeley, California. We could fit Berkeley into 420 sims that would serve about 110k residents–at full 1:1 scale, real elevations, and real-life streets, sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalks, street trees, litter cans, and downtown buildings could probably find their way from current digital forms in CAD and GIS systems into epic-length LSL scripts that would build the city’s framework. Parcel boundaries could be represented by fences, and some 4-meter blocky facsimile of parcel ownership could sit readably under that. Tie those parcels into RL owners from an assessor’s database and I think you’ll start to see why there might be some long-term excitement due here in terms of an immersive 3-d interface for civic customer service.
Sure SLGIS economics are tenuous now. But without realizing it until this week, I’ve waited 17 years for the 16-U racks and gloves of Jaron Lanier’s VPL Research systems, surely costing over $100k per station, to emerge in a form that grabbed my attention as SL broke 1m accounts in 200610. Without consciously recalling my user experience on the VPL systems, I knew that having multiuser virtual space for $6/month (yearly) and slamming an ATI 9250 ($69) into a Pentium3-800 was, well, really cheap access.
What I was trained to do, in 11 years of college, was apply physics, in the form of math, laboratory, and field instruments, to the challenge of understanding the solid 3-d earth. As a complex solid in need of exploration, the earth gets lots of specialized imaging and visualization tools created for it. Yet even now, neither the metaverses of VPL Research or Linden Lab begin to solve those “find a bubble in a sedimentary basin” sorts of challenges. Then again, these days very little sedimentary basin exploration is done in San Francisco.
But the simplest of lessons here provides hope, and gives pause.
Say one VPL station (usually I saw them in groups of four) was $80k just 16 years ago, and today I can buy a video card and have a premium month of SL for $80, then my access cost is 1/1000 what it was back then.
Now look at IBM launching 12 sims for 330,000 (which must make sense to them), and contrast the notion of standing up 420 sims for 110,000 (the Berkeley case).
That is (420/12) or 35 times as many sims for 1/3 the people, or about 100 times the cost/benefit that moves IBM to act right now.
Hmm. Put those two simple estimations together, and it just might be less than two years hence that we start seeing big swaths of physical reality being loaded into racks of blade servers running Linden Lab simulators. Hey, there have been government efforts to develop digital map data for a couple of decades or more in a few cases. Some countries like the UK and Japan appear to already have nationwide data in sufficient detail to populate a 1:1 scale metaversal model of their national reality.
Why do it? Plenty of reasons to set something up, but if an agency offers a single standardized model open to the public, it might just be as useful as making a spare copy of the city, in terms of managing civic services. If members of the public were able to modify their own property’s house and vicinity, potentially a lot of useful shared context for community and discussion could be created.
If selected avatars could be made visible or not visible, then a paramedic avatar wearing an ambulance could move down the street based on its RL automatic vehicle location (AVL) coordinates. Likewise a police patrol avatar wearing a cruiser might do the same if it’s a black-and-white or be made not visible to public users if it’s an undercover car.
If the stream gauge says the creek is 1 meter over flood stage, then the street can fill up with water to that level, and anyone in-world who views it can inspect any property that they need to based on that model and its shared context.
Once you start seriously thinking about the implications, it is not all that much of a reach. It just might be as useful as a second copy of the city. At least to the extent it becomes serously worth starting right now to understand how to use Linden Lab technology in this way. The economics are marching toward that reality, and IMHO it’s worth making an effort to turn it into a positive social good.