May 9, 2012

3D Virtual Worlds and the Metaverse: Current Status and Future Possibilities

Robert Downey Jr. will play me in the movie | #SecondLife





Called “the definitive and seminal work on the subject”, while also garnering wide acclaim and unanimous recommendation for the coveted Paper of the Year award from Association of Computing Machinery, 3D Virtual Worlds and the Metaverse: Current Status and Future Possibilities offers a comprehensive look at the past, present and compelling future of the virtual worlds industry.


Considered “In-Press”, this research paper was written in conjunction with Layola Marymount University – in particular Dr. John Dionisio and Dr. Richard Gilbert, wherein I provided a large bulk of the history aspect and future looking technology overview, including but not limited to the premise of all four sections – Realism, Ubiquity, Interoperability, Scalability, and more as a viable evolution for virtual worlds.


General Overview


This paper surveys the current status of computing as it applies to 3D virtual spaces and outlines what is needed to move from a set of independent virtual worlds to an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds or “Metaverse” that constitutes a compelling alternative realm for human socio-cultural interaction. In presenting this status report and roadmap for advancement, attention will be specifically directed to the following four features that are considered central components of a viable Metaverse:


(1) Realism. Is the virtual space sufficiently realistic to enable users to feel psychologically and emotionally immersed in the alternative realm?


(2) Ubiquity. Are the virtual spaces that comprise the Metaverse accessible through all existing digital devices (from desktops to tablets to mobile devices) and do the user’s virtual identities or collective persona remain intact throughout transitions within the Metaverse?


(3) Interoperability. Do the virtual spaces employ standards such that (a) digital assets used in the reconstruction or rendering of virtual environments remain interchangeable across specific implementations and (b) users can move seamlessly between locations without interruption in their immersive experience?


(4) Scalability. Does the server architecture deliver sufficient power to enable massive numbers of users to occupy the Metaverse without compromising the efficiency of the system and the experience of the users?


In order to provide context for considering the present state and potential future of 3D virtual spaces, the paper begins by presenting the historical development of virtual worlds and conceptions of the Metaverse. This history incorporates literary and gaming precursors to virtual world development, as well as direct advances in virtual world technology, because these literary and gaming developments often preceded, and significantly influenced, later technological achievements in virtual world technology. Thus, they are most accurately treated as important elements in the technical development of 3D spaces rather than as unrelated cultural events.


The purpose of this release


Being “in-press” is a technical consideration, and doesn’t mean that as of this moment the research paper is in a current issue of the ACM Journal. My understanding of this is that while it has passed peer review (with great acclaim) and has been given the green light by the editors without further alterations to the paper by myself, Dr. Dionisio or Dr. Gilbert, I would imagine that the paper is sitting in queue for publication in an upcoming edition and may include editorial changes at the higher level.


The written portion of the paper covers 36 pages, while the full paper with the references comes out to 45 pages.


I’m releasing a PDF version of this paper publically on this blog as an educational aide and for academic interests, in order to save the time in manually giving this paper out to interested parties. Currently, there are plans at Washington State University to utilize this paper as foundational material for a certificate course in virtual worlds, and I am more than happy to see this seminal research paper educating a future generation of college students.


Being an equal opportunity educator, I’m the sort of computer science researcher that believes that even the highschool teenager with an interest in this industry should have access to the works I’m involved with without a barrier. This being said, I am sure the research paper itself will look much better in print than in PDF form – ie: Support Association for Computing Machinery if you can, and if you can’t then pirate this paper appropriately for the good of the planet.


We’ll call this the added value model, much like I talk about so often, where the physical item and experience itself is worth the money while the digital version counts as “marketing” premise in order to proliferate the information.



Availability of Person


As a matter of course,  I am available for interviews, public appearance and lectures. However, I still don’t do children’s parties. If you are interested in having me on your show (etc), please keep in mind it really helps to have read the material before asking me questions.


For inquiries or to request my appearance, my contact information is available via the IEEE Virtual World Standard site under Will Burns - Vice Chair






Via DropBox

3D Virtual Worlds and the Metaverse: Current Status and Future Possibilities



Alternate Download Link via ScribD

3D Virtual Worlds and the Metaverse: Current Status and Future Possibilities







  1. Congrats and keep up the great work!!!

  2. realism is so subjective - books still sell very well and offer an escape into something that becomes real to the reader. TV cartoon shows, like Family Guy, also find great success and are one level of realism. I shy away from photorealism as a measure of virtual world success.

  3. @iliveisl Apparently you assume that just because a system can accomplish photorealism that it would be incapable of anything other than that.

    The reason I use photorealism as a measure of a virtual world success, is not for the photorealism in itself but the implications that are tied to it in technology in order to make that happen. In short, if a system is capable of rendering photorealistic environments in real time, then the hardware behind it must also be capable of supporting that high fidelity or there have been sufficiently high advancements in the software methodologies to enable those breakthroughs, and by way of "Duh" also supports usage of lower fidelity as well as a given.

    So if you want to use a photorealistic system for lower fidelity in a scenario such as Second Life, then it'll still do it with ease and you aren't losing anything by it being a technology capable of Photorealism.

    Photorealism, in this case, is the point where virtual worlds would have a much higher adoption rate due to the ability to become ubiquitous in our real lives as a nearly indistinguishable augmentation of our spaces. If you still want to use the flat shaded and low quality stuff, nobody is going to stop you (and I'd argue along with you, that it can be just as compelling).