Mirror Worlds a step closer

Microsoft® Live Search Maps will today begin offering three-dimensional, photo-realistic views of New York City buildings and landscapes, with perspectives that few people — apart from Superman — have ever seen. The free online service will provide a unique look at many of New York’s iconic locations, along with local listings, ratings and reviews and driving directions to help people easily find, discover, plan and share relevant location information that is important to them on the Web.

Microsoft today announced the addition of 3D imagery for new cities within its Live Search Maps offering – a video of New York is available here for those interested. It is still very early days yet in the march towards Mirror Worlds. Microsoft are pursuing a top-down strategy in their creation of a Mirror World built upon its Virtual Earth platform. Google in contrast are pursuing a bottom-up strategy in their creation of a Mirror World built upon its Google Earth platform.

While slower out of the gate with its Sketchup and 3D Warehouse initiative Google’s recent licensing of technology from Stanford University which produces 3D buildings automatically will put it back in the game. Hollywood has finally awoken from its slumber and taken notice of the emergent gaming cultures and industries which are eating its lunch. U2’s recent Cannes appearance is the first of many 3D related film projects in the works.

Early demos of High Definition TV used spectacular ariel shots of the Grand Canyon to promote its superior qualities. While impressive they were very much a passive experience. The arrival of IPTV along with the build out of Mirror Worlds, Virtual Worlds and Social Networks is going to herald a new age of interactive experiences. Players will emerge within this third wave of the web offering life services which will become integral to the Living Web. Time will tell whether Microsoft and Google will be among the winners in delivering these services.

UPDATE : Google Maps launch Street View at Where 2.0 2007

Virtual World Evolution

The idea of virtual worlds as essentially widgets is one that seems to be gaining currency, and it’s the opposite from the vision of an all-encompassing immersive metaverse. Rather than the web getting sucked into textures on a 3d wall, in this model it’s about the spaces being sucked into the Web we use today. Instead of the virtual world being the primary interface, it’s a secondary interface, and web browsing remains the primary way you interact.

The above quote from Raph Koster’s post on Myminilife in many ways encapsulates two of the current schools of thought within Virtual World circles. Successful pioneers todate within the embedded browser space have utilized tools most accessible at their time to market – Cyworld with animated gifs and Habbo Hotel with shockwave – new kids on the block are lining up to harness flash.

There are a number of exciting high performance 3D engines in development – Papervision3D in Flash (demo here) and Outsmart in Flex (demo here) – to name but two. Outsmart’s soon to be made public OSVirtualVillage will make people sit up and take note of the immersive experiences now accessible (as will Raph’s Areae when it comes to market).

Metaversed brings news of Linden Lab’s Windward Mark Interactive acquisition. Linden Lab CTO Cory Ondrejka believes that making the environment more visually realistic will attract and hold more users … all of which makes sense … right after usability, stability and scalability issues are resolved.

As with many developments to come in the 21st century we are entering a yes and era leaving either or thinking rightfully where it belongs – firmly rooted in the past. Virtual World’s are no exception. It is healthy to see the growing competition that exists for attention between both camps. Each have a place and a role to play within the third wave of the web.

Now that financing for the Mozilla Foundation is in place it is uniquely positioned to play a key part in the evolution of the Living Web. Time will tell whether Mitchell and her team remains focused on the task to hand. Given Virtual World’s are driving the acceptance of plays role within the work space as our gamer generation comes of age that would be a very good thing for all concerned.