Different virtual worlds for different needs

10 05 2011

Thanks to a lack of convention in taxonomy, virtual worlds = virtual environments = everything online and the proverbial kitchen sink.

I won’t attempt any definition here, but I will try to provide examples of virtual environments and group  them in categories of similar attributes. Here Elluminate, Acrobat Connect, Blackboard, Web CT and the likes are NOT considered virtual environments.

Conferencing environments:
Pros:
provides audio, video and conferencing affordances to attendees.
pay per use
world already developed and ready to use

Cons:
no user creation (unless you use the developer kit)
limited interaction with objects to conferencing purposes.

Examples:
>> 3DXplorer
no download, browser-based
>> Avaya web.alive (worlds: Medieval, MilleniuM Hotel, Train Spotters, etc)
157 KB client microsetup download

Social environments:
Pros:
tabula raza for imagination, full user creation affordances
audio, video, building, scripting
free support from community (especially in education)

Cons:
steep learning curve
open to public unless set up private access to location

Examples:
OpenSim-based worlds: 3rd Rock Grid, Reaction Grid,

Second Life

Open Wonderland-based worlds

ActiveWorlds

Games:

MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft,

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