image credit: Raph Koster, of Ultima Online, Metaplace, and more, via Cory Doctorow's Flickr Photstream
"No," seems to be the uniform answer. The reasons say a great deal about the directions in which virtual worlds may not evolve. I put the question of "why haven't we gotten something like Gibson's immersive Matrix?" to my first-year seminar class.
I'll paraphrase the answers the came back:
- Immersive engagement is best saved for when it is worth the extra work / software / time
- Students prefer easy applications done "on the fly." In other words, they don't need an avatar to check the weather or send a short text to a friend or a relative
- The less hardware needed, the better. Any rig like Case's would be tedious to use and hard to carry. An iPhone or similar fits into a pocket.
We should look to other types of game-environments if we want something akin to Simstim or Case's rig. As I'll report soon, two technologists from a major defense contractor who spoke to VWER recently argued exactly that.
Will those emergent forms of 3D engagement replace our 2D Web? If my students are correct, no. It would, however, open worlds for gaming and for meetings, an ironic realization of Castronova's thesis that work and play will merge in the decades ahead.