Ian Hughes from our IBM Hursley Research Labs led me onto this company that does 3D Printing of objects from Second Life. Essentially, any 3D object in Second Lifecan now be "printed" as a physical sculpture/model out of foam or waxfor about $30 or $60 up to a size of 9" x 5" x 5". I can't quite tellwhat kind of 3D milling/printing device they use but you can contactthem for more info.
I was thinking of modes of real business services in terms of virtual environments and came up with this list:
- realuser2hoster services - where the user pays the company that runs thesystem for some kind of service (typically, a monthly fee)
- realuser2system services - where the user pays the system forsome kind of service (e.g. buy more credits with online payment likePayPal)
- realuser2realuser services - where the user pays another useroutside the system/game for some kind of product/service (e.g., thelegal/illegal exchanges that take place outside the game for Everquestor World of Warcraft items, on sites like eBay, or this 3D printingservice above)
- virtualuser2virtualuser services - where the user pays another user forsome kind of service or product within the system itself (usually ingame dollars)
- realuser2virtualuser services - where a real world person pays avirtual character for some service (I can't think up specific examples)
- virtualuser2realuser services - where the user in the system/gamepays a real world entity for some product or service (e.g., ordering areal Domino's pizza from inside World of Warcraft)
I bring this up to consider where the business opportunities lie. WhileI considered the above scenarios for SecondLife (SL) in particular,this is really a generic model that may apply to any online retail website. In the vast majority of such retail web sites, the trade is forcurrency for real goods, but this exchange can occur between a realperson and a virtual identity (it might be one person, it might be awhole company of people). E.g., on eBay, when you bid and buysomething, you never really know if that person on the other end is asingle real person or multiple people.
This is a factor to consider for conducting business. I tend toconsider all interactions significant. The more you interact withsomeone, the more trust (or distrust) you build with that person. Youmight remember fondly of previous exchanges or, after some few basicexchanges to build familiarity/trust, you suddenly find that you aresuddenly suckered out of your money when that big exchange happens. (atypical con-job as we say here).
Trust models thus play an important part in exchanges and mostmultiplayer environments these days have to build in some sort oftrusted exchange system. Most MMORPGs that allow users to exchangeitems have a special "Trade" window where both parties must check a boxto accept the trade for it to complete. This is a scenario that happensin type 4 virtualuser2virtualuser exchanges.
On the other hand, on eBay (realuser2realuser),since the actual exchange involves some form of physical exchange orshipping, they need another another way to designate each identity'strust level, within the system. Thus, you have a rating system tosymbolize that level.
One thing to note is that there is a continuing rise in virtualuser2virtualuser as well as realuser2virtual usertrades. In fact, the latter even applies between you as a real personand your character. E.g., in SL, if you transfer your Linden$ into realdollars through Paypal (i.e, withdraw currency from the game), you arein effect doing an exchange between your physical and virtual selves.
Also interesting is that there are some virtualuser2realuser servicesemergine like the Pizza example. I would daresay this isn't the firsttime this has happened. Some in the late 1980s (if I recall right), atMIT, you could actually order real sodas from the soda machine throughyour emacs text editorenvironment on your online Unix account identity which would chargeyour school food account (one of those cool hacks that Stallman andcrew did with emacs). If this 3D printing service was paid entirely inLinden$ then it would fit into this mode as well.
The biggest deal out of all this is not just in the types of exchangesbut the value applied to virtual objects. That'll be a future post...