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Metaverse: a New Dimension (June 2008)

For some time, we have been talking about Virtual Worlds, 3D on the Internet (Web 3D), Web 2.0 and other social media. But what is the common point of all this? Information. A website is in fact the formatting of content from databases, a chat is an exchange of information between two or more individuals, an avatar is a (symbolic) representation of information about an individual (fantasized or not)...

We have always given technological constraints and limitations to the representation of Information. We tend to confine it to one or more dimensions, to a particular interpretation and even sometimes to a certain temporality. Don't you think Information is rather timeless and without a particular form as the term "in-formation" (no-form) seems to suggest? We at ConceptSL see the Information as a whole: a fabric of information or ectoplasm, which takes shape depending of the context and to serve particular needs. We consider apart the original "shape" (or "no-shape") and the final form and its purpose.

When In-formation Takes Shape
How Observation Freezes Information
Let's make a (small) parallel with physics: before the advent of quantum physics, scientists have always thought that one could predict the future. In theory one would need to know the position, direction and speed of every particle in the Universe at a precise moment in order to calculate their next positions, directions, speeds at the following moment. In theory only… In fact they found that when you measure the state of the particles you will inevitable alter one of these parameters. This is due to the very act of measurement that involves interactions between the instruments and the particles. But it is precisely these interactions that will, at infinitesimal levels, lead to the modification of the state of the particle…

We see here that the observer, through its measuring instruments, will lead to "freeze" the particles in a particular state, whatever their original form, and for each new measure. If we connect it to our "fabric of information", when one displays a webpage, it asks the machines to go pick the information to the right and left to eventually freeze it in a specific state to allow the end user to see and understand it. A website, partially or globally, acts therefore like an open window on the fabric of information from which machines will catch the relevant and interesting elements on-the-fly and in real-time to finally serve the user with the resulting data/information.

Can The Observer Stay Passive?
If we take into account the concept of personalization - the famous fifth "P" of the Marketing mix - we must then consider the user with his tastes and preferences as integrated into the overall "fabric". Indeed, the form that will take the information will be amended according to the different users, different browsers used, screen resolutions, hardware and software constraints, display options, selection of pieces of information that we want to see and so on… The list of parameters is almost infinite.

The Chain-Reaction of Information
In the end, the combination of users and their various inputs will affect indelibly the information for the rest of the community: If I publish an article on a blog, it will be reflected in the RSS, emails, newsletters, aggregators and other portals. The information thus evolves with time and inputs from users, observers and contributors to this information. An observer will himself leave traces in site statistics, in his profile, in the database, etc. Traces which will affect at the other end of the chain what the other observers will receive and see. The question is: can there really be "passive" observers in the current context of the Internet? In our opinion, no...

Chain Reaction (here nuclear fission)
Abundance of Information and Challenges of Tomorrow
With today's abundance of Information, constantly renewed, its various "frozen" forms, end users are completely lost. They often spend more time sorting their mailbox and spam emails than reading what is really interesting! And note that we have not yet introduced the concept of dimension...

In reality, the challenges that corporations will face tomorrow (and are starting to see today) will require to create a new dimension, beyond the 2D, 3D, hypertext and other vertical and horizontal exchanges.

We actually need to create a dimension - mixing the real and virtual, the temporal and the timeless - where information is sent to us when needed, in the form needed for its understanding, whatever its original form.

This will be done through the combination of different technologies available today - mobile, Internet and other multi-media devices - and technologies yet to develop - communicating & intelligent objects, sensors, widespread WIFI, RFID, new interfaces with machines, A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), augmented reality, nanotechnologies,...
Perhaps this dimension, smart and goal-oriented mixture of all other dimensions, is called "Metaverse"... a world / universe where technology merges with philosophy.

Let's finish with this sentence by Arthur C. Clarke, famous Science-Fiction author, worldly known for his novel 2001, A Space Odyssey: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic!"

Yohan Launay & Nicolas Mas
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