Locative Lab

researching locative media

“Get lost on Second Life” (update)

(update: Mark Kingdon about the possibility to use real names in Second Life)

“Augmented Reality Vs. Virtual Reality: Which One Is More Real?” asks Erick Schonfeld on TechCrunch. He says that on Google “augmented reality” surpassed “virtual reality” as a search term sometime last summer. After explaining what augmented reality is about, he concludes:

You can take your virtual reality and get lost on Second Life. I’ll take augmented reality any day. It’s just more real.

My take on this: the opposition between the “virtual reality” and “reality” he seems to presuppose is too simple. A simulation drill for emergency services in a virtual environment or a conference in a virtual environment have nothing to do with “getting lost in Second Life”. The use cases of augmented reality and virtual reality do not overlap completely.

Virtual environments offer unique possibilities for serendipitous and in-depth encounters, possibilities which are very different from those offered by other social media such as Twitter, Facebook or Skype. Attending some sessions of Metanomics, We Are the Network or the many other intellectual venues in Second Life would make this obvious. Sharing the same (virtual) space with others, meeting and talking to others in that space is a very different experience from exchanging status updates. Right now, I don’t see augmented reality applications which enable these same experiences. It would be interesting to explore how augmented and virtual reality can be combined.

However, it is not enough to be right about something, one also has to convince people. If major tech publications and mainstream media all shout that virtual reality is just silly, we have a major problem. Right now Second Life is the most important user generated, open-ended 3D environment for older demographics (non-kids/teens people). It is true that it is not evident at all to find out about venues such as Metanomics, We Are the Network, educational institutions and non-profit organizations.

You can not blame reporters and bloggers to come in-world, look for the events calendar, and end up in empty spaces, adult venues, and immersionist role-playing. Education and enterprise are categories on the Second Life site, but somehow it is very easy to overlook the many groups who are very “real world oriented” and are focused on education (formal and informal), business, art, music, non-profit and networking. We (meaning the residents, Linden Lab…) urgently have to find ways to make all this far more visible.

It seems CEO Mark Kingdon of Linden Lab considers an integration with augmented reality as part of the future of Second Life, as he explains in his New Year post. Wagner James Au on the New World Notes rightly refers to another element in Kingdon’s post, where the CEO promises for 2010 the ability to choose either real names or fantasy names in Second Life (now only fantasy names are possible). All this contributes to make Second Life a more obvious tool to use in a “real world context”.

Roland Legrand

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Cityscape LocativeLab.org is Ronald Lenz's research website on locative & mobile media. This is mostly an archive of blogposts I find inspiring and interesting and an overview of my work. I'm a strategist, technologist and researcher in the field of Location-Based Mobile Services and work at Waag Society, a medialab in Amsterdam, The Netherlands where I head the Locative Media research program and at 7scenes, a platform for GPS games and tours as creative director. Picture 4 Find me at Twitter, LinkedIn or via ronald [at] waag [dot] org.

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