IBM to build bridges between virtual worlds
IBM and Linden Labs, the company behind Second Life, are working on ways to let people use a single avatar in different online services. Currently, people who create an avatar in one virtual world cannot take that identity into another.
An open system would let people create one avatar that would keep the same basic appearance and customer data no matter where it was online.
“It is going to happen anyway,” says Colin Parris, IBM vice president of digital convergence. “If you think you are walled and secure, somebody will create something that’s open and then people will drain themselves away as fast as possible.”
Linden Labs is betting that an open system will reward interesting worlds with more customers and punish dull ones with an exodus of users. Such a virtual passport system may be years away though, and will have to avoid getting bogged down in standards arguments.
IBM’s Parris says the effort would first focus on studying situations where the ability to travel between virtual worlds is most in demand. The technical details of how to make different virtual worlds work together will come later.
IBM and Linden announced the partnership ahead of a virtual worlds conference that starts in San Jose, California and is expected to discuss the formation of industry standards and other issues.
The event itself is seen as something of a coming-of-age milestone for an industry that is starting to be taken seriously as a provider of useful business tools and not just a quirky offshoot of the video game sector.