SAN JOSE, Calif.--I was walking around the Virtual Worlds conference here this afternoon when I ran into Jerry Paffendorf, the co-author of the Metaverse Roadmap report and the current co-founder of a stealth start-up called Wello Horld.
Paffendorf knows all, and so I eagerly asked him what was the best thing he'd seen at the show.
Without hesitating, he pointed me over to a small corner of the expo floor and to the little booth of a skunkworks project called inDuality developed by a company called Pelican Crossing and another known as IBM.
Well, when I finally found my way over to the inDuality booth, I was duly impressed. This is a very cool alpha technology that lets anyone--well, anyone using Internet Explorer in Windows XP or Vista--run a Web browser-based front-end for a whole bunch of different virtual worlds.
This is a pretty nifty little application. The idea is that you wander into a courtyard and are faced with a bunch of kiosks, each representing a portal into its corresponding virtual world. So, you could walk up to one and suddenly you're in Club Penguin. Back out--with a back arrow, since this is all Web-based--and you can then walk to the Second Life kiosk. Bam, you're at the sign-in screen for SL.
Pelican Crossing CEO Clive Jackson told me that by using an OpenID identity, a user could pop around the various virtual worlds with a single login, and that the inDuality client takes care of the grunt work of downloading and installing all the various virtual world applications.
In addition, Jackson explained that it's possible to build little controls into the various virtual worlds, or onto the Web interface that can launch different actions. So, for example, you could have a button in Club Penguin that would launch Second Life. Or vice-versa.
This is not interoperable worlds, however. Once you leave one for another, you're gone.
Anyway, this is very new technology, and it probably will be awhile before it has any measurable utility. But for now, at least, it's a pretty cool thing to be able to click through all these various environments without even needing to run a single piece of stand-alone software.