Microsoft’s Mundie: Photosynthetic World OK, User-Created — No Way!

by Alphaville Herald on 29/09/08 at 12:58 am

by Pixeleen Mistral, National Affairs desk

Speaking at MIT’s Emerging Technology conference, Microsoft egghead Craig Mundie said the 3D spatial web will be photorealistic and made by automatically creating models from pictures taken in the real world — according to Ian Lamont’s report in The Industry Standard.

While there are certainly uses for a reality-based photosynthetic virtual world, it was a bit of a surprise to hear that Mr. Mundie went out of his way to diss SL’s content creators and the potential of social virtual worlds with user-created content. The Industry Standard reports Mr. Mundie said, “Many people are familiar with Second Life, which is a synthetic virtual world that people came quite enamored with. Our view was that there was a fairly limited audience who was willing to deal with the construction of avatars and operating in that virtual space”. Apparently, Mr. Mundie has not yet embraced the charms of mech, steampunk, fur, and Gorean communities, or he would not be so eager to create a virtual world that is nearly indistinguishable from the real world. Has Mr. Mundie been so busy in his lab that he has never been to the movies and is unfamiliar with the concept of fantasy and entertainment?

Given its dominant position in desktop software and deep pockets, whenever Microsoft begins flailing about, the world takes notice, and Mr. Mundie’s vision is a dismal prospect for any number of Second Life communities that exist precisely because they do not photographically model the real world. Do the paragons of creativity and user-empowerment at Microsoft understand the potential of the 3D web better than Linden Lab? Consider how successful Vista has been – and then consider the stalled growth curve for SL. Do either of these companies know what they are doing?

But before writing Mr. Mundie off as yet another unimaginative corporate droid flogging his lab’s latest pet rock – a model of a business district in Seattle! in 3D!! with virtual visitors!!! shopping!!!! over the internet!!! buying photosynthetic virtual sculpture!!!! ZOMG!!!!!! — keep in mind that Microsoft’s real competition is advertising giant Google.

If Google is the enemy, a photorealistic “3D parallel universe” is significantly more useful to Microsoft’s gameplan than a crowd-sourced SL-like experience. A Microsoft synthetic ad-world could be designed to data mine avatar gaze, attention span, and preferences for lifelike stores and products — just the sort of information needed to track customer preferences and target ads and take Google’s user monitoring one step further.

In this sort of minutely-monitored garden of marketing delight, user-created content is a deadly threat to brand identity and integrity if the Second Life experience is replicated: basement dwelling homeboys deface advertisements “for the lulz” and virtual mafias crack wise with their own meta-game.

Now that Google has legitimized 3D for the masses with Lively, look for a Microsoft-powered ad-world soon. 3D worlds are now officially serious business.

17 Responses to “Microsoft’s Mundie: Photosynthetic World OK, User-Created — No Way!”

  1. Soviet

    Sep 29th, 2008

    I stopped reading when it claimed that fur had charms.

  2. mootykips

    Sep 29th, 2008

    SL is trash, Lively is trash, neither should be held up as a success story. The concept of “pure” virtual worlds (i.e. not a “game” with a massive community) is pure marketing hype through and through, an accidental but inevitable extension of the success instant messaging has had. The vast majority of people find very little use in the concept and even less in the execution. Part of this is the fact that such applications require someone to relatively social and extroverted (to find value in interaction for interaction’s sake), yet also find a need to supplement or replace being social in the real world with doing it online. These subsets don’t overlap too much.

    The reason this doesn’t apply to instant messaging is because instant messaging allows people to do much more: they can add coworkers and friends they know in real life, and be able to imitate existing technologies like the telephone they would already use and supplement them with advantages like a more casual environment allowing briefer conversations (also see SMS), and creating grouped conversations. It’s form over function – you don’t need a “3D world” to do that.

    So the problem is twofold. If you create a product that uses a new technology, and doesn’t need that technology, it’s introducing needless complexity. If you create a product that uses a new technology, but fails to extend current technologies, it’s a novelty.

    Maybe MS is getting it. It’s hard to tell from the article. If MS uses technology like PhotoSynth to effectively use 3D content creation in an environment where it’s necessary, like GPS/directions or exploration of potential vacation spots, they will have a shot at making it work. If they try to make people like buying virtual sculptures..not so much. Find a problem, THEN find a solution.

    P.S.; Pixeleen, you use movies as a metaphor here, and as you know they do share quite a bit in common, but movies aren’t even close to the same thing as “virtual worlds” in this context. People go to the movies, by themselves or with friends, but they don’t create the movie, they don’t require a ton of people to find value in the experience (though sometimes it helps). The immersive aspect of SL requires other people – a lot of other people. The “goal” of SL as I understand it is to represent yourself to other people as an avatar: something you’re not. Like I said before, this is not something that as many people as you think have interest in doing. They’re completely different entertainment mediums, and if a movie can be compared to anything it’s a single player or co-op game. The only thing they have in common is some people enjoy them.

    griefing saves corporate cash flow. and lives.

  3. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Sep 29th, 2008

    Mooty’s first paragraph steals the words from my mouth – particularly this part:

    “such applications require someone relatively social and extroverted (to find value in interaction for interaction’s sake), yet also find a need to supplement or replace being social in the real world with doing it online. These subsets don’t overlap too much.”

    SL is an extreme niche, and it’s only of real (as in, more than fleeting) interest to a small number of people. Philip Rosedale put SL’s population at ‘about a million’ although I expect even that is inflated since there’s rarely ever more than 60,000 people ever online. (And thank Kali, because on the occasions when there is, the asset server vomits blood). 60,000 is barely the population of a large town – this is *not* ‘mass appeal’.

    For every well-made, well thought-out area of creativity in SL, there are a thousand awful sex clubs and badly made, ugly houses. If I see another dance club inside a shittily built castle riddled with texture fights and alpha issues, then…. well. I’ll have spent another 2 minutes on the mainland, most likely.

    Not that island rental sims are any better.

    Look at SL as a whole and tell me if YOU think the majority of its contents holds any interest to real world business, or, for that matter, real world people.

    It never ceases to amaze me how zealous SL’s userbase can be when it comes to defending their hobby from critics.

    Although since SL’s userbase is mainly furries and furry sympathisers I guess it shouldn’t really amaze me atall.

  4. IntLibber Brautigan

    Sep 29th, 2008

    Mooty says, “The “goal” of SL as I understand it is to represent yourself to other people as an avatar: something you’re not. Like I said before, this is not something that as many people as you think have interest in doing.”

    On the contrary Mootykips, a LOT of people have the escapist desire to do so. What most do NOT have is the creativity to make for an especially well detailed or believable avatar (i.e. higher realism or faux realism, the greater the degree of immersion possible, ergo the higher value as a fantasy escape for consumers).

    As Goethe said, “There is nothing more dreadful than imagination without taste.” This describes much of Second Life to a “t”. The mainland especially is a wasteland of noob builds, noob avs, with people caught up in insufficiently ‘realistic’ fantasies in their personal 512 parcels but so desperate about it all they get into any drama to persist in the immersion: romantic drama, parcel drama (adfarms, encroachment, arbor, zoning), etc.

    Like many who in real life find their personal lives so unfulfilling they need to go out and busybody everybody elses personal lives with regulation, taxation, and criminalization, there is a desperate need in SL for creators to up their games to greater realism (and for LL to enable it with better experience and features), but left unfulfilled, people craving greater realism have to go out and create drama like in the proverbial rat experiment. Even the furries (or especially the furries), whose avatars are at best cartoons of anthropomorphs. Their frustration at the lack of realism to their avies is partly manifested in acting out against each other in melodrama and griefing (as you well know). If LL enabled a large variety of avatar meshes, for instance, the variety and realism of avatars, human and nonhuman, would flourish and explode.

    You are right that most people are not creators, they are consumers, but this does not mean they are not escapists. We do need the creators that there are to up their game, and at the same time, for LL to enable them to do so.

  5. Darien Caldwell

    Sep 29th, 2008

    I’m sure it will appeal to someone, somewhere. Just not me, nor people like me. :)

  6. Sigmund Leominster

    Sep 29th, 2008

    I’m fascinated by the notion that anyone would want to create a virtual world that is simply a copy of the real one. I guess I could then create an exact replica of my real life house in Second Life, complete with a copy of my real life motorcycle. Then I could log in to my SL house and ride my SL motorcycle to my SL ersatz company to work at my faux RL desk.

    I’d like to think that a virtual reality might also hold elements of an alternative reality. On the other hand, in the interest of Reality, maybe we could have Linden Lab remove flying and teleporting to be replaced by cars, boats, trains and planes. Then we could open up an entire transportation economy. I can see the marketing now: Leominster Airlines – “Second Life – First Class.”

  7. Just Me

    Sep 29th, 2008

    “social and extroverted (to find value in interaction for interaction’s sake), yet also find a need to supplement or replace being social in the real world with doing it online. These subsets don’t overlap too much.”

    The subsets may not overlap much, but they are a godsend for the people out there with physical disabilities, those who are relatively isolated geographically, the creative people who want to build something impossible to do in RL, those who can’t afford or or don’t want to physically go out and socialize every night, ……. and the list goes on. Gee, maybe the subsets DO overlap

  8. Mill

    Sep 30th, 2008

    I think the success, or potential failure, of a real to life 3D world is gonna be in the environment interaction.

    If all you do is see a photo relaistic world then that’d be boring. But if there’s the chance to do something diifferent with it, like change things or move them around, then the place would take off , for a while at least.

    Just like SL I think any online world’s success depends on the ability of users to find the world useful. If a 3D photo real virtual world is going to work it has to do more than be a photo realistic virtual world.

  9. Val Kendal

    Sep 30th, 2008

    As to the number of active users worldwide – this from a post today over at another SL news source (NWN):

    As of last week, the company users stats counted 870,619 Residents who’d logged in during the last 30 days. But hold on: that number includes people who created a new SL account and logged in for the first time within that period, Kingdon told me. Which increases the mystery. Ms. Nino has been tracking new user sign-ups on her blog, and they average roughly 12,000 a day; i.e., about 360,000 new users a month. So subtracting 360K from 870,619, we’re left with around 510,000 monthly recurring users. In other words, while concurrency is growing, the number of active monthly users still seems to be stuck at around 500-550K+– a plateau that’s existed since last year.

    still a small number to be sure, but not that far off from a million for corporate math

  10. Neo Citizen

    Sep 30th, 2008

    I agree with you a hundred percent, Mill. I was lucky enough to get to SIGGRAPH this year and saw a project called Blue Mars, which is a new MMO that was supposed to have launched by now but hasn’t. It’ll have customizable content, but only for the major advertisers. The users will go in and find it impossible to create social structures, create any of their own content – they’ll only be able to go to planned activities and buy stuff.

    It’s a digital MMO world full of mini malls.

    The only way an online world will be appealing is if there’s some potential for it to be USED for something. In this sense, SL really is innovative and unique, and actually groundbreaking. It’s really just bad business to be dealing with the in-world management and security issues as a spare-tire afterthought.

    To quote a CEO of a very large corporation who once had a presence in SL (but no longer does): “I’m never going back into Second Life again. It looks like shit and people fuck on the floor.”

  11. Ranma Tardis

    Sep 30th, 2008

    I have lost most of my interest in second life. There are just too many perverts. I have no trouble with them but they keep bothering me. I just log on for a few to hand over my big 50 Lindens to a memorial.
    On the matter of user content, I never had much interest in such. It is a waste of my time to do such. If I want to work, I can make much more money in real life.
    Oh it is not really sex but people talking trash to each other at most it is mutual responsive masturbation!

  12. Orion

    Sep 30th, 2008

    Wow! Why is it that most of the presenters from MS look like blood sucking ghouls from outer space?

  13. Rock Ramona

    Oct 1st, 2008

    Wow,,iam shocked,yet find myself so proud of all the people that have replied….i think for once everyone is agreeing,and that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.Much more like i had when there were 5k people logging on on the weekends…and to tell ya the truth,i really dont think there are a whole lot more than that actually logging on anymore,i have a little program i run that tells me which avies are bots and how long they have been without movement,and to be frank folks,bots are the majority that i see.They fill the clubs now,its not unusual to go into a club and see 8 to 10 avies with the same ip dancing away.Just for fun 2 nites ago,i got in my blimp and flew around differant sims on the mainland,and even tested some islands,at least the ones where i could rezz my blimp,and i found that bots were always the majority.And no,im not counting campers with single ips ,only groups that have the same address.Can you all imagine how much better server performance would be without all these bots.I have kept my mouth shut about this because of fear of an ip ban by the lindens,but im not the only one who see s this,and its nothing new to most.Ive been here 3 and a half years,and hopefully maybe another 3 years,im one of those handicapped individuals who needs a place to go pixel bumping,or sailing,or flying at night,or in the winter when my pilot rating doesnt allow me to fly in rl.Im so glad that we are over this madness of big companies and pipe dreams,Second Life is what it is,it is a niche and i love it for that,let us freaks and geeks play and build,pixel bump and whatever else we all do…..ya know..its like when you have a big party at yer house,and as soon as all the good liquor is gone,and the food trays are empty,and everyone leaves….cept those few good friends that hang around and help you pick up…………thats us,same people you call when you need to move furniture…thats us..the same people that when yer baby throws up all over,and you hand them to us and we take them with a smile into our arms while you grab a wet towel……thats us,so remember that :)

  14. Neo Citizen

    Oct 1st, 2008

    Well it helps when everybody posting actually has something intelligent to say. Usually it’s some long-dead griefer group saying “We’re not dead yet” or some kid who thinks being Anonymous/4Chan/whatever is cool and they’ll never be caught (until they read something like, or somebody in desperate search for an ePenis.

  15. Kristianna Rubble

    Oct 10th, 2008

    Have you heard of the saying, “What one man’s meat is another man’s poison?” It has never been as true as it is in the virtual world of Second Live. I have read most of the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of this mass media platform. As with everything in today’s ambivalent society, virtual worlds can be used as positive reinforcements for good, such as allowing a physically challenged person to erase their limitations and escape into freedom. And on the negative side, Second Life can be a world of violence, sex, and yes, even slavery.
    The common thread between these two polar opposites is “freedom of choice”. Every man and woman, whether in Real Life or Second Life has the right to choose for his or herself. I, myself, have never been in a “sex” club, nor am I likely to ever go. The reason being, it holds no interest for me. But I have a wonderful friend who enjoys such activities, and I give her that right.
    I see Second Life growing and expanding on multi levels, Education, business, technological and even medical breakthroughs. The possibilities are limitless.
    The company I work for, Pulse Point Marketing and our subsidiary company, Soul Creations Design and Building in Second life have as our clients many non-profit organizations and universities hiring the finest professionals available to create their virtual reality sims. We work diligently to provide real service for both our paying and non-profit customers. This is what over forty of us choose to do with our Second Lives.
    What each individual does with his Second Life is up for grabs and what you take hold of is up to you.

    Kristianna Rubble, Account Manager
    Pulse Point Marketing LLC
    Soul Creations and Building in Second Life

  16. Bennie

    Oct 13th, 2008

    On people needing more and more realism…

    Not everyone. By FAR. AS some people still have a sense of fantasy, you know, the elusive thing that made a big cardboard box into a spaceship when you were five.

    Second Life’s graphics, compared to other games and real life, leaves a lot to be desired for some, and yeah, they might get bored with it.
    To many others like me, meh, it’s good enough :)

    But if you see what people have managed to create despite SL’s limitations, I think the limits of SL itself keep it interresting.

    Somewhat like the computer demo scene, where it was (is) a sport to make computers do things they shouldnt really be able to, like 3D graphics squeezed out of something like a Commodore 64 or older.

    So yeah a lot of people will leave SL for something more realistic, but a lot of people will also stay for the same reason.

    It’s good that there’s something for everyone :) (at least, will be.)

  17. Bennie

    Oct 13th, 2008

    “I stopped reading when it claimed that fur had charms.”

    I’d be able to write a whole essay on this, but…

    I’ll give just one example.

    HUEG profit!

Leave a Reply