Applications and Tools, Virtual World Platforms

Microsoft’s Future Vision: Immersive, 3D, and Surface-Deep

Craig Mundie, research Chief at Microsoft, painted a vision of the direction of interfaces, cloud computing, and immersive worlds at the EmTech08 conference at MIT last week, according to SearchCIO.

In this view, the future of computing will be about computerizing the physical environment – think a mash-up between Bill Gate’s Seattle house, I guess, PhotoSynth, and Minority Report.

“If we are to realize the potential that a combination of local and remote computing offers us. The next computing evolution, he said, will be defined by multi-core processing and parallel programming; it will be context-aware, model-based, personalized, humanistic, adaptive, immersive, 3-D and it will use speech, vision and gestures. The new “spatial Web” will interact with the user’s physical world to further blur distinctions between the physical and virtual worlds to provide an enhanced reality.”

PhotoSynth, about which I’ve written before, gives a hint of how virtual/3D spaces can be created to “fashion a “First Life” reality where users shuttle between virtual and physical environments to do all sorts of things.”

Mundie sees future mash-ups between this sort of technology and the MS Surfaces ‘touch’ interfaces:

“In a demo…Mundie regaled the audience with a gee-whiz exercise involving tracking down a piece of Eskimo art he had admired in a “physical” magazine in an airport newsstand. The journey progressed from snapping a photo of the magazine cover with his smartphone, placing the smartphone on a hotel surface technology table to retrieve an online copy of the magazine and from there taking a virtual tour of the Seattle gallery where the piece was on display. The audience watched as Mundie, a collector of Pacific Northwest art, conferred virtually with wife Marie on the artwork’s merits, spinning the piece virtually to see it from all angles and even chatting online with the artist, before deciding to make arrangements (including a lunch reservation and taxi) to view the coveted item in person.”

PC World, reporting on the same presentation, picks up Microsoft’s dismissive comments about Second Life and that pesky user-generated content stuff:

“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.”

Um…construction of avatars? Enamored? Like we’re enamored of Microsoft’s Vista I suppose. And if they’re so ambivalent about user-generated content, why are they supporting a competitor to Google’s Sketch Up?

Regardless, Microsoft’s involvement in the OpenSim project, and their advocacy for using virtual worlds for meeting and collaborating, a ‘virtual world’ on the X-Box platform (OK, well, avatars anyways), and their work with Calligari and 3DVIA, clearly put Microsoft as an emerging player in the 3D Internet space.


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