Ian Lamont, who was kind enough to guest-author here a while back, alerts us to some recent comments of Craig Mundie from Microsoft. Mundie is apparently a bit under-enthused about virtual worlds as separate spaces. But, on the other hand, he is excited about virtual worlds as augmented reality overlays. So said he at MIT's EmTech Conference recently:
Mundie noted that Microsoft is counting on the creation of a 3D "parallel universe" modeled with tools like Photosynth. However, he dismissed the potential of social virtual worlds that include user-modeled objects. "Many people are familiar with Second Life, which is a synthetic virtual world that people came quite enamored with," Mundie said. "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."
Another location-based visual technology demonstrated by Mundie had a lot in common with the "augmented reality" vision that Ray Kurzweil and other futurists have described. He showed how a Sony hand-held computer could display live video overlaid with information about shops and other addresses in the field of view. Mundie predicted that the required processing power for such an application would be available in mobile phones within two years.
Personally, I wouldn't write off real virtual spaces as a "limited audience" kind of thing. Actually, if Mundie is so down on virtual spaces, he might want to have a talk with the Microsoft Xbox 360 folks, who seem to think there's something to all this "avatar" stuff. :-) But whatever -- it's officially "tech mainstream" now to be down on Second Life, I guess.
The more important thing is that I'm quite in accord with Mundie's enthusiasm for geo-tagged augmented reality. As I was saying a few years ago, this is a big deal and it's certainly coming down the pike. It will be really interesting to see where it goes and how it relates to what has transpired so far in the virtual world space.
Update: Wagner James Au has some comments too.