By Anna Lynn Spitzer
Irvine, Calif., July 2, 2007 -- Guided by a panel of experts, a standing-room only audience came face-to-face with the future of the Worldwide Web recently during an Igniting Technology presentation at Calit2@UCI.
“Web 3.0: The Next Transformation of the Internet Experience” was co-sponsored by Calit2 and intellectual property law firm Knobbe, Martens, Olson and Bear, LLP.
Point-and-click access to the Worldwide Web is a mere 10 years old. Netscape’s 1997 Beta-version browser ushered in the new era, known as Web 1.0, which replaced the labor-intensive command-prompt environment of the 1980s and ’90s.
Then, along came Web 2.0, home to YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace and other interactive applications.
Today, the Web is on the threshold of an even more connective and user-responsive environment. Web 3.0 encompasses virtual spaces, massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) and augmented reality that once again will change the way consumers and corporations utilize the Internet.
Moderated by KMOB partner Mike Guiliana, the event took on a futuristic, international flavor when a group of researchers from Daegu City , Korea connected via high-speed video teleconferencing. The Korean participants are partnering with UCI and Calit2’s Game Culture and Technology Lab to develop game networks, devices, tools and techniques for beyond-next-generation online games.
The evening featured presentations by two UCI researchers and two corporate executives, followed by a question-and-answer session. In addition, several local companies and UCI researchers set up demonstrations in the building’s atrium.
Walt Scacchi, a senior research scientist at UCI’s Institute for Software Research and associate director of the Game Lab, shared his vision that the Internet of 2012 will merge computer games and game culture into a new literary form that increasingly will be powered by open-source software.
“The focus on computer game software development has become the number one source of activity in the open-source software development community from an applications standpoint,” he said. “The future of games and Web 3.0 is going to increasingly depend on [it].”
Scacchi said that UCI’s game researchers are receiving inquiries from corporations that “see games as potential work places where people can collaborate,” and that there is a blurring of the line between physical and virtual entities.
“Web 3.0 is bringing together games with scientific models, simulation and visualization, [creating] a new technology that can be made more accessible to people and maybe even transform future business.
In my opinion,” he concluded, “Web 3.0 is going to create a new engine for innovation.”
David Perry, a gaming industry consultant, believes eventually games all will be online, improving the developers’ profit models.
Perry has worked extensively with developers in Asia, who, he said, are light-years ahead of their American counterparts. They espouse a “free to play, lifetime to master” philosophy that doesn’t charge consumers to play online games, but instead, requires payment for upgrades to the gaming experience.
In addition, he said, Asian developers are exploring the use of human psychology to sell items within games. One “mystery box” item reaps $1 million a month in China.
Perry also discussed the evolution of advertising in online games, including interactive advertising that players must agree to watch; when they do, they are rewarded with valuable game tokens. “So people literally wait in anticipation to watch the advertising,” he said.
Web 3.0 will be powered by “community, community, community,” according to Perry. He has invited players to help him develop a game by posting an online invitation that drew 38,000 responses. “Even if only 1 percent actually ‘show up,’” he said, “I have 380 developers from all over the world helping to create this game.”
In the future, with all games online, people will use a Web interface to access more expensive computers and servers, renting time to stream content to their homes, he said.
The third presenter was Calit2-affiliated researcher Bill Tomlinson, a UCI assistant professor of informatics who studies multi-agent systems, human-computer interaction, real time graphics and environmental technologies.
Tomlinson said one of the core relationships in Web 3.0 will be between humans and machines. “Machines are getting better at interacting with us,” he said, citing user interfaces and heads-up displays that can be customized for more effective use.
Multi-agent and autonomous systems will facilitate human-machine interaction. “These autonomous systems will improve in Web 3.0,” he predicted. “It won’t be full-on artificial intelligence, but there will be more computational autonomy built in.”
A second key relationship in Web 3.0 is between machines that can be networked together, bringing together the humans who are operating them. “This is one reason games are taking off,” he explained, citing the ability of far-flung communities to interact through networked systems.
Improved computational systems will enable autonomous agents to become more involved with human interactions. “The ways in which humans learn about the world around them can become the model for how machines learn. That allows machines to participate more effectively in the communications that are parts of these online worlds.”
Augmented Virtual Reality
Matts Johansson, co-founder, president and CEO of EON Reality, an Irvine, Calif.-based interactive visual content management software provider, was the evening’s final presenter. He said three-dimensional interactive visual solutions in virtual reality environments will be adapted to form the backbone of Web 3.0. He showed the audience augmented-reality, portable, immersive machines that are being used to facilitate meetings, and said gaming can use the same technology to connect players in remote locations. “It will provide true immersion.”
He demonstrated a virtual checkers game that he said is “a few years out.” It will be played remotely with the help of a simple camera system at both locations. “We’ll see a lot more of this,” he predicted.
Further into the future, Johansson sees the possibility of connecting augmented virtual experiences with sensors to enable tracking and information exchange. “We’re starting to see a tremendous interest not only in online environments, but also in the mobile, augmented area,” he said. “In the next few years, we’ll see tremendous movement across the board.”