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The Metaverse Is Coming
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Wired has an interesting story on the infancy of the Metaverse, a networked 3D universe of interlinked graphical worlds running on thousands of independent servers.

This idea has been a mainstay in sci-fi, especially cyberpunk, but it sounds as if we're near a crude version of it, and not one lorded over by corporations or evil AIs, but one built up piece by piece by dorky coders.

Here, for example, is the link to the Open Source Metaverse Project:

The Metaverse project was created because there is a strong demand, and large developer following, for virtual worlds that allow customization by the player and creation of one's own worlds. ClosedSource virtual worlds exist already - SecondLife, There and ActiveWorlds - but we needed a metaverse engine that is flexible, scalable and that we can customize to an extent not possible within individual proprietary worlds.

The key deliverables of the Metaverse project are a server engine and a client component.

The server engine can be installed, configured and administered by anyone to create their own metaverse, somewhat analogous to an Apache webserver for webcontent. Instead of webpages, a Metaverse server will serve up the data and contents of a 3d virtual world that can be customized by the administrator.

The client component interfaces with any compatible Metaverse server engine in order to render the Metaverse as seen by that player's avatar, and to communicate the player's desires - movement, ingame chat and so on.

The Metaverse project is analagous to the web. You can create hyperlinks to any other Metaworld running on any Metaverse server worldwide. Your avatar uses hyperlinks to move to other worlds, submitting to the Game Control Logic in force in the new world.

The Metaverse project is OpenSource, modular, flexible and extensible.

So if you have the requisite knowledge, you can download their code and set up your own little piece of the Metaverse yourself.

Pretty cool, huh?

Of course, the evolutionary AI geek in me imagines free-range agents in such a universe, with evolvable neural network controllers, and a simulated artifical ecosystem. Basically you just set up the protocols for the avatars to grow, develop, reproduce, and die, then just let 'em rip.

Now that would be cool.

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