Sep 24

Google’s Second Life Competitor?

Category: Second Life News, Virtual Worlds by Stone Culdesac

Word has been circulating for awhile now that Google has been preparing a virtual world that will use Google Earth, especially since you could already create 3d models using Google Sketchup and then add them as a layer to Google Earth. The thought was, all that was missing was an avatar and a virtual economy. Oh, and probably loads of new servers to actually allow the avatars to roam Google Earth. Here are the pics on Flickr of the questionnaire the student saw, here and here. I hope those avatars have nothing to do with it, that’s all they would need right there to drag more pedophiles inworld.

Now, pictures have surfaced from a student at Arizona State University who got an email with a link to MyWorld, I assume you have to be logged in to see that page, and a questionnaire that asked if the student had a Gmail account, it said there was a “major internet company” behind this and it included hints relating to social networking, 3D modeling and video games. From Google Operating System,

So where’s Google in this picture? One of the questions from the form asks you if you have a Gmail account and if you are willing to get one. The product’s name is “My World” and the logo shows a globe - this could be related to Google Earth. Google also owns a 3D modeling software that could be used to create avatars.

Arizona State University has a very close relation with Google: it’s one of the first large universities in the US that uses Google Apps, the site search is powered by Google Search Appliance, the university uses Google Maps and the ASU campuses already have 3D models in… Google Earth. But there’s actually more than this: the university offered photos for the Google Mars project, Google employees serve as guest speakers or adjunct lecturers at ASU and Google has an office on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University. Source: A Social Network for Google Earth?

So, ASU definitely has a big connection with Google. Duncan Riley at Techcrunch says,

We know for certain now that Google has big plans for social networking, from SocialStream to Google’s planned November 5 launch of the mother of all open social networking platforms. Whether the planned service will be a true Second Life competitor is still to be seen, however I suspect that if Google is prepping a virtual world it will be closer to IBM’s Virtual World chat platform than Second Life. To deliver a full UGC world is a not an easy step where a basic 3D world which builds on Google Earth, SketchUp, and existing Google social networking platforms including Orkut would seem more likely. Source: Google Prepping A Second Life Competitor?

Hey Duncan, what’s your avatar’s name? Would like to meet you inworld sometime. Anyway, I seriously doubt this will be an actual competitor to Second Life, but, it could surely help people move over into virtual worlds, if this is just some form of mashup between the web and Google Earth, tied together with avatars and social networking. One of the founders of Google Earth, Avi Bar-Zeev, has this to say on the subject.

But I do know that their CTO has publicly stated that Google Earth will remain true to the real world. In other words, it won’t turn into Second Life with new islands, fictional fantastic places, furries, and so on.

He didn’t rule out avatars at some level, and I do think they’re likely at some point — specifically, when GE offers the ability to walk down the street and enter virtual stores. Once you can do that, it makes sense to be able to do that with friends, or just meet on a street corner in virtual Paris and go sightseeing. Street View is a step in that direction. The same data could be used to make 3D models at street level. And there’s an effort paying people to digitize the insides of stores in major cities, at least in 2D. I’d give it two years or less for the technology issues to be worked out and for this to be possible.

However, I still don’t expect that to be a full-blown social network. The next generation of 3D social networks will have the concept of your “home” in the virtual world in the same way that MySpace offers you a home on the web (or at least a bedroom, messy as it may be). You need some kind of anchor point to tie all of your social links together and form a big social space (a graph without nodes is just a bunch of lines). And making a virtual home for yourself is most likely to be a highly creative (read: fictional) activity, not in GE’s main mission to represent the real world. Source: A Social Network for Google Earth?

So, everyone here seems like they are on the same page, big changes would need to be made for Google Earth to scale a virtual world based on the real world, millions and millions of servers would need to be added, and scaling issues would need to be sorted of to cover the inevitable crowding of avatars into the more popular sims. I guess if anyone has the funds, the knowledge and the horsepower to do it, it would be Google, but this seems like a big project for anyone to attempt so early in the evolution of virtual worlds.

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2 Comments so far

  1. [...] Life Competitor? Posted September 25th, 2007 by Kevin Jarrett in In the News The Grid Live offers this well-researched post detailing what appears to be preparations by Google to enter the virtual world space. In short: a [...]

  2. [...] Google’s Second Life Competitor? Word has been circulating for awhile now that Google has been preparing a virtual world that will use Google Earth, especially since you could already create 3d models using Google Sketchup and then add them as a layer to Google Earth. [...]

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