Jan 162009
 

The Metaverse… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of  Search Engine, Meta-mole. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly google where no search engine has gone before.

metamole

OK the folks at University of Teeside will probably not be calling to get me to write their taglines yet what they are doing with Meta-Mole is pretty adventurous and most importantly critical at the moment to glue the discontinuous metaverse. The Meta-Mole in simple terms from their press release is:

The Meta-Mole, created by the Centre for Design in the Digital Economy (D-LAB) based within the University’s Institute of Digital Innovation, will ultimately be a dedicated searchable online resource for the 350 plus virtual worlds currently existing on the Internet.
Philip McClenaghan, Deputy Director of D-LAB explains: ‘We were analysing virtual world platforms and realised that there doesn’t appear to be a comprehensive service offering to list and compare key data for major 2D and 3D environments. This surprised us considering the current popularity of virtual worlds. We intend to fill the gap with the Meta-Mole.’

The metaverse as we know is the entity that forms when all virtual worlds have useable interoperability, you are able to move inventory between them, have a common profile (to a degree) and be able to communicate across worlds – even teleport between them (Habbo to vSide anyone!). At the moment it is all about walled-gardens, locked in economies/commerciality/currency and propriety tech – basically the metaverse doesn’t yet exist, it is disconnected. So to build a dedicated VW search engine that will trawl and spider as many as “350” worlds is an ambitious vision – down this long and winding road. The benefits particularly to business and education is obvious (finding consumers or interest groups) but also making many social virtual worlds, more social – finding a long lost friend in IMVU whose into football, then setting up a match in Football Superstars, followed by a bit of post match role playing in Second Life – all ‘fueled’ by one search engine – means social activity will increase. Sadly the Meta-Mole is only digging around a few lower level worlds presently (see below) and I would encourage everyone to support such an initiative -  as long as it isn’t sold to a commercial entity who start advertising all over the search pages!  I would also suggest to the team they look at the open API’s of the big 2D social networks also – migration from 2D to 3D will be far quicker if the 2D (FB, MySpace, Twitter)  folk could actually sample the wonders of 3D social space 🙂

Meta-Mole.com is a comprehensive database of Virtual World environments designed for public, corporate and government use.

Created by d|lab at the University of Teesside in 2008, Meta-Mole.com provides users with a total solution that includes:

  • comprehensive search facility
  • generalised and detailed technical information for a wide array of platforms
  • images and streaming video media
  • dynamic matrices for comparative analysis of environment functionality

The Meta-Mole.com application has been built from the ground up as a unique service offering for Virtual World users, developers and researchers to increase the profile of the market, ensure environment/consumer compatibility and enable new development of Virtual World markets through corporate education, relationship building and continued innovation.”

The advanced search, is not very functional or all encompassing yet, but suggests a lot about where they are heading with this. It will need to be pretty generic and high level to be able to map & interrogate elements such as scripting support or development tools. One thing it may bring about is a wisdom of the crowds ‘standard’ – just think for example if (on the development side) 8 out of 10 worlds allow importing from Blender or uploading of AIFF stereo sound then the other 20% might get busy on their backend! Lets hope so. The other key area is being able to link in existing out of world databases, especially from a eCommerce perspective the likes of SLExchange (a big out of world catalogue for Second Life consumers) and where searching for a world that lets you drive an Aston Martin is made easier for Mr Mole as databases such as SLEX are already half way there.

metamole

The Meta-Mole will initially be released as a Beta version focussing on 3D virtual world platforms. Forterra, Blink 3D and Twinity are among those who have already uploaded their details. Future developments will cater for all platforms, including 3D, 2D and MMO environments. Platform developers are able to participate in the Meta-Mole by contacting developers@Meta-Mole.com or visiting www.meta-mole.com.

For more information contact:
Philip McClenaghan
Deputy Director (D-LAB)
Tel: 0044 1642 738103
Email: p.a.mcclenaghan@tees.ac.uk

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