Mundie on Skinnable World

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.

Comments on Mundie on Skinnable World:

Brice Morrison says:

Augmented reality is a fascinating technology that has yet to see any kind of public deployment until just recently. Sony's EyeToy Pet ( might be the killer app that ignites demand.

What do you think it will take to bring augmented reality into the public eye?

Posted Oct 1, 2008 3:25:39 PM | link

Virtual says:

It's fair to say that the social aspect of virtual worlds has now been integrated in many different forms into many different "worlds" both 2D and 3D type spaces. So yes there is the social aspect, avatars can communicate and many like this and it's a reason for people to visit virtual worlds. Yet there is so much more to do and to discover, microsoft is searching and has an opinion on what virtual worlds should be like, same goes for Sun with their wonderland application, a university came up with Croquet, Linden said: a virtual world should be like lego land where people can build with blocks, Awoma said, it should be a place where gamers come to hang out before they start playing games and become a multi-media platform. A lot has been written on virtual worlds and even more will be written in the future. Microsoft does research, so do many other companies. Nobody knows how virtual worlds are going to evolve in the future so you can't blaim Mundie for having an opinion.

Posted Oct 1, 2008 3:33:58 PM | link

anam says:

I agree, it's just an opinion. The future of virtual worlds is all to be discovered. But I do think that the 'limited audience' won't be that 'limited' in a few years.

Posted Oct 2, 2008 6:37:55 AM | link

Cunzy1 1 says:

Mii too!

Posted Oct 3, 2008 4:59:35 AM | link

Tripp says:

Interesting opinion, that. I'm not sure who Mundie's real audience for those comments is, though.

Under the heading of "I Love To Say I Told You So," ever since I first tried SL, and especially making content in it, I've felt it was going to have a limited audience at best. The "like legos" idea is great, but it ain't the way it is.

And while I love VWs myself (well, the right flavors of them), I find that the majority of the people I know - tech savvy as they may be - are really ignorant of them or write them off as gamey kid stuff. But the virtual overlay device, with useful (and likely FUN) stuff to it, seems to have a wider potential audience.

Posted Oct 4, 2008 2:22:54 PM | link

greglas says:

I'm hearing about the augmented reality overlay stuff a lot more often these days from a lot more people. I don't have a crystal ball, so I can't tell whether these next-gen iPhone/DS mashup things are really going to amount to a paradigm shift.

All I know is that it seems like the conventional wisdom among some folks (incl. Mundie) is that in 3-5 years, there will be something out there that augments reality in interesting Web 2.0 localized ways that might or might not be very interesting.

Posted Oct 4, 2008 10:03:18 PM | link

Daniel Speed says:

Wasn't the comment more directed at there being limited numbers of people who would "build" in those virtual spaces?

I think it's pretty obvious that there's almost always more consumers than producers when the tasks involve a degree of technical proficiency and/or artistic ability. The difference in the Xbox avatar stuff is that users aren't building their own avatars, they're choosing from a set list of pre-fabbed options... That isn't 'user-modeled'.

Posted Oct 7, 2008 4:27:53 PM | link

Kristianna says:

I see virtual worlds like Second Life only growing and expanding. Two decades ago, computers were almost considered luxury items with very few households owning one. Today most families own more the one PC, and the once reluctant older person who vowed never to have use for one is now prowling the internet on a daily basis.
Each day another person discovers Second life and their reason for joining varies; the older rediscover youth, the disabled find physical limitations erased, and the lonely find fiends enabling them to be anything and everything they ever dreamed of in Real Life and it only takes a click of a button.

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

Posted Oct 9, 2008 6:13:50 PM | link