Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Metaverse for Businesses

The idea of a unified Metaverse may still be off in the distant future, but it looks like Sun Microsystems has come out with a solid intranet solution. They called their metaverse MPK20, which is an implementation of Project Wonderland. You can check out a tour here.

I built a copy of Project Wonderland on my PC and, after a few bumps in the road, finally got my server and client up and running. The first thing I noticed was the presence of non-player characters (NPCs). In every day Second Life its nice to know a real person is behind each
character but in education and simulations it would be more cost effective and consistent to have an NPC.

First, I must admit that I’m a Java guy so there may be a bit of bias with this being a 100% Java solution. The following is my review of Wonderland and its uses for Second Campus:


  • Open source server
  • Open source client
  • Customizable 3D objects are built in Maya, 3D-Max, etc*
  • Incorporated audio chatting
  • Audio is stereo and uses Doppler
  • There are sound proof walls
  • The entire server and client is 100% Java*
  • Java’s 3D rendering engine
  • Clients running x11 (Linux/Unix) can allow read or r/w views in world*
    • Interactive Applications
  • Java functions can be wrote on the backend to manipulate the environment*
  • Supports streaming content
  • The driving force behind this initiative is collaboration, telecommuting, and working
    in different locations (Sun is currently using this with a team in Russia and others spread throughout the United States)
  • Supports NPCs
    • Which would be amazing for simulations and other educational activities

  • Only simplest level of client controls are built out
  • Would require a strong understanding of Java to extend the world
  • Only supports application sharing with clients using X11
  • There is no in-game scripting
  • There is no in-game building tool
  • The interface is industrial, clunky, and not appealing
  • The characters are strange looking and by default are limited on how they can
    be adjusted
  • Features and improvements are slow going
  • Does not run as well as Second Life on lower end computers (CPU and RAM seem to
    make a larger difference than quality of the video card)
*Denotes both a Pro and a Con

There are a few questions that I still have up in there air such as the maximum number of users per server and how easily one can update after they’ve tailored both the server and client. Wonderland would require a good deal of work from a team of Java developers to be Second Campus' metaverse and who knows what options we'll be presented with tomorrow.



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