The year 2010 was a rocky one for virtual worlds and the public interest, with some setbacks and obstacles, as well as exciting new developments and projects launching in the government, nonprofit and educational sectors. As the year comes to an end, let's recap some of most dramatic developments and news in the metaverse.
Major Developments in 2010:
- The Web and Virtual Worlds Get Closer: This year, there was an exciting race among virtual world develoeprs to bridge the gap between the web and 3D virtual worlds. The company Rezzable was the first out of the gate in June with a working demo of a web viewer for their 3D world Heritage Key. They were soon followed by Blue Mars and Linden Lab who both demoed more technically sophisticated web viewers. Then in November, the company Tipodean announced their "Canvas" viewer that seemed to be the most accessible of all, working with both Second Life and OpenSim worlds.
- Linden Lab Announces Merger of Teen and Main Grids of Second Life: In August, Linden Lab announced that they were "closing" the Teen Grid and migrating some of the teens and the land to the Main Grid. While there are definitely downsides to the closure of this unique youth-led virtual space, on the whole I think there are more positives than negatives in this development. We'll see soon, when the teens get brought over in early January 2011!
- Blue Mars Launches : Blue Mars, from the company Avatar Reality, was the first major entrant in the public virtual world field for some time, launching in open beta at the end of 2009. While not specifically geared toward the educator sector, Ball State University has been using the world platform to create 3D recreations of historic sites.
- Linden Prize Goes to Virtual Museum Curation : The company Linden Lab for the second year in a row sponsored the "Linden Prize" contest to reward the person or group that "improves the way people work, learn, and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world." The ten finalists had a number of impressive credentials and accomplishments, but in the end the Tech Virtual Museum won the $10,000 prize for their work to support virtual museum exhibit creation that informs how real world exhibits are built.
- Daden Wins Federal Virtual World Challenge :In 2010, the US government also sponsored a prize for virtual world innovators with the "Federal Virtual World Challenge." While there was an impressive list of finalists, it was the UK firm Daden that took home the 1st and 2nd place prizes for their "Pivote" e-training modules and the "Datascape" data vizualization system.
All was not rosy in the virtual public sector though. There were a number of significant disappointments and setbacks in 2010.
Major Challenges in 2010:
- Linden Lab Doubles Land Prices for Nonprofits and Educators: In October, we learned that Linden Lab had decided to rescind the discounted rates for virtual lands for nonprofits and educational institutions, effectively doubling the cost for renting space for new virtual projects. This led to much public outcry and calls to abandon Second Life for other virtual platforms, notable Opensim.
- Linden Lab Restructures, Fires 30% of Staff : In a dramatic sign of the times, Linden Lab, makers of the most successful open-ended virtual world on the market, announced in June that they were restructuring and laying off 30% of their staff.
- Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Museum Closed by Wright Foundation: In a dramatic turn-of-events, the Virtual Frank Lloyd Wright Museum went from receiving official non-profit status from the IRS in August to having to close their virtual museum in December due to a dispute with the Wright Foundation. As one of our favorite educational builds in Second Life, the museum's closure was a huge disappointment.
- Demise of Metaplace: And lest we forget, January 1, 2010 was the last day of the Raph Koster's virtual world Metaplace. We're still sad about that one.
But enough doom and gloom. In 2010 we were pleased to see a bunch of fantastic virtual projects get off the ground. Here are our favorites.
Best New Projects in 2010:
- Virtual Mine: A well-designed game in Second Life to educate people about the coal mining industry and alternative energy.
- Stonehenge in Heritage Key: Travel back in time to learn about the construction, traditions, rituals and history of this wonder of the world.
- Virtual Worlds Support Haiti Relief Efforts: In January 12, a devastating earthquake wreaked havoc on the small island country of Haiti. Within days, several virtual worlds responded with fundraisers to support relief efforts including dozens of events in Second Life, SmallWorlds, Xeko and Heritage Key.
- Kansas to Cairo Architecture Collaboration: Machinima reporter Draxtor has been doing a great job chronicling a remarkable initiative sponsored by the US State Department, "The Kansas to Cairo Project." Students at USC and in Egypt are using Second Life to work together to plan an actual shopping mall outside of the Great Pyramid.
- 3D AIDS Quilt: A virtual tribute to lives lost due to HIV/AIDS, the 3D AIDS Quilt takes the idea of a patchwork quilt and expands it to have each section connect to a 3D room where dioramas, images, poetry and music can be used to commemorate an individual. In both Second Life and Joykadia Grid (opensim.)
So that's our wrapup. If we missed anything major, feel free to fill us in in the comment section. It was a wild ride in the virtual public sector, and we're grateful to be able to be a part of it.
And as we are only a few days from the end of the year, let me wish all of my readers success and inspiration in 2011!