Creation date: December 25, 2008.
Last update: August 15, 2009. Modified elements indicated into the text.
This manifesto is about listing all the conditions and tools for having a fully useable virtual worlds system, whatever the intended uses of it. The whole set of available virtual words is usually referred as the 3D Internet, the virtual space, virtuality, etc.
At first, what made the technical success of the 2D Internet (links, public and normalized protocols and file formats) must also be used in the virtual domain, to offer a seamless navigation from 2D to 3D, and between 3D worlds of different owners, with an unique software called a viewer, as we are accustomed to do into the 2D Internet.
Also contributed to the human success of the 2D Internet the fact that each site owner is free to set his content and presentation: there is a plurality of content sources, guaranteed by a plurality of content hosting solutions. This ensures a full freedom for everybody to express any opinion, philosophy or life style. Efficient search engines also implemented the actual freedom for everybody to find any information or opinion expressed anywhere on the net. This system made that everybody is free to make know his way, and also to know what the others think.
The 3D Internet, or the virtual worlds, will thrive and expand when a similar set of conditions will be gathered. However the experiences with the «Deuxième Monde», «Lively» and «Second Life» showed that an unique hosting company may not ensure permanently all these conditions. So we need a plurality of companies for world hosting, and a plurality of methods, tools and software sources to make run all this. And this plurality can only gather around a common specification, which must be stable, normalized, free to use and open to the general public.
-Let us call «the 3D Internet» or «the Metaverse» the set of all the virtual worlds which may exist.
-Let us call «virtuality» the fact of going into virtual worlds.
-Contrarily to a growing habit, it is avoided here to oppose the «real» world to the virtual world. It is rather said «the physical world». This is to make understand that the human or economical experiences in the virtual worlds are real experiences, and in some years with the addition of touch and smell they could be very realistic.
-It is also said a «virtual body» or a «character» rather than an «avatar», in order to avoid any disparaging of the great religious concept.
-An «user» is a physical person. One user may have one or several «accounts», each with one or several virtual identities or «character» Each character has its own name, virtual body, profile, friend list, inventory, etc.
-«Enhanced reality» is about showing virtual objects into a physical environment, through special glasses, holograms, etc. This implies mostly the same technology as of virtual reality. It is conceivable to also show physical objects or persons into a virtual environment.
-An «exoskeleton» is a machine which surrounds the human body and allows a person to control a virtual body in a virtual world, or to remote control an humanoid robot (sometimes called a «multivator») with enhanced capacities.
-The software into an user's home is the viewer, and the software to run the world is a simulator.
-A «world» is a virtual space where one can travel all through without teleporting. This is an Euclidian 3D space, although other geometries are possible. A world has one owner, except for platform Worlds or collective worlds, where each user may have a place.
-A region in a world is run by a given simulator, which is usually on a given server, and often with a given owner or group. The change of region (of simulator) creates a boundary in the world, that the user must not perceive, but which is a source of technical difficulties. (Added on July 25, 2009)
-A community (group in Second Life) is a set of people who share the same purpose, interest or vision, and who will use together a world, or a place in a world host, with their own set of rules. Eventually in a roleplay, there will be several «enemy» clans, but they still are one community linked by the roleplay theme and rules. At a pinch a «group» may be a loosely gathered set of people.
-A collectivity in this manifesto differs of a community, as it is simply people of different interests or purposes who are gathered in one place, such as a platform world, and have to share a common space and some rules. For instance Second Life is a collectivity.
-«World hosts» (like Second Life), also called «platforms», are operated by a company, where many users or groups with different interests will own and manage each one a place. A given hosting company may have a theme, but the full set of hosted worlds must be neutral and open to all. A world host like Second Life likes to be called a community, but it is not, as users inside may have very different or contradictory purposes.
-A world host or platform is the legal and technical equivalent of a web hosting, social network, forum, etc.
-A world owner is the legal and technical equivalent of a web site owner
-A world manager is the legal and technical equivalent of a web site editor
-A world user is the legal and technical equivalent of a web site user (for both using and contributing to content).
To properly develop a system, we must first know what it will be used for. Otherwise we shall find ourselves developing cars without engines, because we believe that cars are used to show a social status. Find why they don't sell, after.
The basic mistake that all the virtual worlds creators did until now, was to impose a purpose for the visitors of their worlds, and even to impose a lifestyle, for instance Google Lively's caricatural virtual bodies. Even Second Life did this mistake, by imposing an implicit SimCity-like roleplay (market, currency rates, land speculation, griefers) which is of no point for most users, just hampering their experience or creation. This was clearly apparent when Linden Labs cracked down on the open spaces on end of 2008: most open space owners preferred to leave the world than to exchange their freedom dream land, against a plot in the mainland, between a factory and a disco club. The only case where this assumption is correct is for game worlds, for instance World of Warcraft, which gathered a large community of players interested by the purpose of this world.
Another mistake is to think that there would be «serious» purposes opposed to «not serious» purposes. Usually business purposes are considered serious, and art, philosophy, entertainment, games, not. This is a profound mistake, as business will be viable in the virtual worlds only when it will have customers. And customers will come into virtual worlds with their own purposes. Nobody will ever come in virtual worlds just for looking at advertising. Nobody will ever buy virtual goods they could not use elsewhere in their virtual life. This is just Henri Ford's principle. This makes that software writers and hosting companies will have to accept all the purposes on an equal basis, and provide the same basic good service for all.
From the experience gathered, it must be recognized that users have a full variety of purposes, which are not necessarily what were expected by the theoreticians of Internet.
At first, today many people don't really have a conscious purpose when they try virtual worlds. It is only when they have enough learning and understanding of this new way of life that they realize what they can do with it. At this moment the desire awakes for a peculiar purpose, and the user engages into learning and actions to fulfil it: he has appropriated the virtuality. This may be a serendipitous process of exploration of our inner self, and of failures and tries.
Virtual world users can express thousands of peculiar purposes, but these purposes can relevantly be gathered into a few categories:
-The most important thing to understand is that people want to BE in the virtual worlds what they cannot be in the physical world. There is no requirement to just imitate our physical life or appearance. Most will seek beauty, or a peculiar style. We can have clothes as we like, be of a different race, of a different specie, or a different gender (This is not necessarily sexual: many Second Life lady users play as men, precisely to avoid sexual propositions). Disabled people can have a normal social life without bearing the stigma and limitations of their condition. For this reason, the virtual body (avatar) is very important, and people must be able to choose or adjust their virtual body as soon as possible, with little learning. For this they must be offered a large choice of styles and models, as soon as entering, followed by a large choice of shapes, skins, clothes and accessories.
-Many people come into virtual worlds for having fun or socializing: parties, roleplay, games, etc.
-Many people come into virtual worlds for having their own place of their dreams, in privacy or to share it with a group. It is this category that Second Life chased out (15% of sims lost in two months), when they repressed the open spaces.
-Virtual worlds allow for a new kind of human relation, where our appearance reflects what we are in our hearts, instead of being limited by our physical appearance or social condition.
-Virtual worlds allow for like-minded people to gather, and create communities of their own.
-Few users try to imitate the physical world and societies. Most, on the contrary, seek to escape the physical world problems and limitations, and are here to create dream communities, in fantasy or imaginary worlds, which are often a pretext for an advanced, rich and beautiful social life.
-Virtual words are an excellent place for education in every domain from science to spirituality.
-They also provide with many human experiences that would not be possible in the physical world. World owners, place owners or community leaders often use this feature to propose advanced social, artistic or spiritual experiences. In this way, virtual worlds may soon appear as a major tool for the evolution of societies.
-Some people come in virtual worlds for virtual sex, or accept this experience when it is offered. For many it is a way to escape some of the problems related to physical relations. Others use it as a more romantic alternative, free of the disgusting besides of the physical thing. It is not the purpose of software writers or Internet companies to bring a judgement on this. And in some years, when sexual exoskelettons will be available, virtual sex will be strongly encouraged, as it will appear as an efficient solution against sexual diseases and overpopulation. We shall even see soon married couples meeting together in a virtual sunny flowered marvel, rather than in a trite bed.
Many other uses can be imagined, or will appear with the evolution of technology:
-Shops, administrations and services, business meeting, collaborative work, etc. will appear naturally when we shall have reliable virtual worlds systems. In some years people will prefer to shop with their virtual appearance, rather than travelling and burning oil to do so.
-Visiting physical places with a virtual body, or the contrary
-Being virtually into a physical work place and perform tasks
-Teleoperating industrial processes, remote control, work in hazardous environment.
In fact, it is impossible today to predict or even imagine all the uses of virtual worlds into 50 or 100 years. From there the need to be ready to everything and to pose no barrier. Already Second Life much surprised even its creators, and some of its communities obviously went beyond their understanding.
So the virtual world system, like the 2D Internet, must serve every purpose or motivation on an equal basis, and allow for everybody to visit and create virtual worlds, whatever their purpose, tastes, opinions, philosophy, religion, life style, etc. This is referred as being content neutral.
Another key rule is that there is no sense to impose the users of virtual worlds the neighbouring of other people or groups with different or conflicting interest (like in the Second Life «Mainland» where our flowery den has to bear the view or noise of a bike racing place... or the bikers must avoid making noise!). One of the advantages of virtual worlds is precisely to escape this kind of constrains, with adding as much distance as we need from neighbours, and create whole worlds fully dedicated to a given theme or group. This is why each owner must be able to have his own world, or at least his own place in a platform world, with a suitable neighbouring or no neighbouring at all.
At last, the lowering cost of technology will make possible new immersion techniques, such as exoskeletons and multivators (human-shaped robots controlled with an exoskeleton). In some years an exoskeleton closet with a 360° screen will replace the game console. The technology is known, it is only a matter to develop it in an affordable mass product. We must be ready for this, and make provisions in the standards, in order to be able to add new communication channels and devices in the viewers and simulators.
Exoskeletons will at last allow for a real immersion into the virtual world, much more realistic and involving than just sitting in front of a screen and keyboard. They will soon appear indispensible for quantity of uses: -exploration of virtual landscapes, -exploration of real places difficult to access -work -sport, fight games -sex -Flight simulators and driving simulators able to provide a realistic immersion into extreme situations. This later application alone would be enough to make the development of the system profitable.
(Reviewed in August 15, 2009. Former name «WEP» name changed to «WEM»)
The WEM protocol is the system which allows the 3D viewer to connect to virtual worlds, an to surf from a world to the other. It is a complete system defining all the software and companies working with it. It is to the metaverse what the http:// architecture is to the 2D Internet.
WEM and its sub parts must be stable, public, free of rights and normalized by the W3C.
As a connexion mean, the WEM is a metaprotocol managing a list of connexions, having each its protocol, toward a given service. This allows for a great flexibility and responsiveness to changes in protocols and systems architecture.
Example of list:
-An http:// channel toward the visited world server, for shapes, textures, etc
-Another http:// channel toward the personal inventory server
-A media streaming
-a chat server
-A Narrow Channel Constant Speed channel for movements. (The later is a new protocol which has to be created for technical uses of the Internet. Instead of sending packets at random times and paths, it establishes through the routers a stable and guaranteed channel with a small but guaranteed bit rate, like a teletype line. This will be necessary for reliable movements with exoskeletons. These machines will require a guaranteed response time, to avoid a great discomfort or injuries, or simply to operate correctly. I suggest the name NRMP://. Such a protocol will also open many Internet applications in remote control, telemetry, remote medicine, and others.)
The WEM is implemented in object programming, so that to easily allow for adding new functions, new protocols, in a forward compatible way.
In software, it is a module, and each sub-protocol is a module.
When a connection to a world is established, both server and viewer send the list of the channels they need, where to connect them and which protocol to use. It is a triangular connexion, between the user, the world server, and third parties like personal inventory server, media streamers... The only stable path is with our Character Hosting Company. Such a functionning will be necessary for a practical interworld teleportation system carrying all our inventory with us.
To ensure a full interoperability with the existing 2D Internet, the URL system should remain the same. However some fields have a different meaning:
-wem:// tells that the WEM metaprotocole must be used. (added August 15, 2009)
-domain and ext are the same as with the 2D Internet. They identify a site which belongs to a given owner. Extensions are the same as with the 2D Internet.
-world identifies a given virtual world for this site, as a subdomain does in an Internet site. For small creations, this field will be «meta», as with the 2D Internet «www». So the same domain can serve simultaneously 2D and 3D content.
-path may have the same value as with the 2D Internet, in the case of a standalone world on a local computer. But on a large server, they could indicate a hierarchical tree of places, or other divisions.
-file.ext will generaly be the executable file of the simulator.
-#landmark used in 3D match the anchors in 2D files. They should be defined by a name (eventually with a hierarchy, for instance France.Paris.Mystret.Myhome) of by coordinates (not forgetting the orientation of the viewer at arrival). By the way the bug of missing #anchor in some Internet functions should be corrected.
-parameters can be any, but written as in 2D URLs. It would be interesting to add a coma sub-separator, for vector and quaternion parameters, which are common in 3D.
Any object, and even texts, landscapes, etc. must have an ULR in the style:
A character must have an URL too:
Clicking on a link in a 2D page must open the 3D viewer.
Teleporting is to 3D worlds what hyperlinks are to 2D sites. Teleporting must be possible in one click from any world to any other.
-The viewer is a modular software, for easy maintenance, modification and adding of new capacities.
-It must be free, without advertising, logos or unwanted elements in the scene.
-It must be easy to install by people with poor technical skills.
-A 3D link or a 3D site must propose installation when the viewer is not present.
-It must work with all main systems, including game consoles, and automatically adapt to hardware.
-It must be able to work in a full window occupying the whole screen, for all worlds which request it.
-It must be written in a common language, available on all systems.
-It must use a good 3D rendering library, to avoid common bugs. If required, a new rendering must be developed to solve common bugs like transparent textures muddling.
-It must be able to add new file types, new functions, by automatic updates.
-To add new plugins at run time is more questionable: these plugins must be approved to avoid viruses and other misuses. They should run only when requested by a world, or disappear when not used.
-For the same reason, it is much better to deport as much as possible of special functions toward the world which uses them, the viewer being only used to render the scenes. However a custom function or a script in a world should be able to add a new menu or dialogue box into the viewer.
-The viewer must have an API and a DOM, to provide for easy way of automation, even with cheap and easy tools. These APIs must be available in all popular programming languages. There are 3 ways to automatize a viewer: -the viewer loads an animation file, -the user starts an automation with a menu or a key -another program takes control of the viewer. Simple animations like a dance sequence don't arise any problem. But when initiative-taking or decision-making software takes control of the viewer without immediate supervision of an human user, it makes of the character a robot, and in this case the viewer must send a robot flag to the world, for robots control.
-Some parts of the viewer can be open source and free to use. Others raise safety issues, and should not be edited. However these parts should still be available as modules or libraries, for designing alternate viewers.
-Each user must see the same things than the others. For this, objects must be calculated in world, and animations must run in world too. Only a complete and calculated scene must be send on line.
-With some bad OS, the viewer should force the OS to let it manage its own memory space and to use DMA channel for disk access, in order to run the computer to its real capacities.
-The viewer and all the components of the virtual worlds must be as stable and reliable as allowed by good software programming and development management methods. So called «serious» uses of virtual worlds will start only when this will be achieved.
In a general way, this manifesto aims at providing a plurality of hosting methods and hosting companies. This must implement the capacity for any content creator to actually find an interesting solution, about prices, but also about rules, philosophy, themes and ambiance of each world, in order for the 3D internet to be content neutral, as it is done in the 2D internet.
Several models of companies can be launched, from software creators to large hosting for collective worlds, inventory servers and connexion management, inter-world chats, identity check, etc.
In any of the three cases which follow, prices should be proportional to the capacity of the virtual world provided, in matter of number of users allowed in this world, and complexity of the buildings. This allows for fair and easy sharing of resources, adaptation of prices to the power of computers, etc.
The general remarks about writing the viewer software are also true about simulator and world hosting software. In addition, the worlds must have animation and automation languages.
The world is stored on the local computer, and the viewer directly interacts with it.
This is the simplest hosting tool. Cheap to buy and free to run products should be available for the basic functions. The large number of users will compensate for low price. Other products could be specialized and more expensive.
This solution is fit for individual dream worlds, or for builders and content creators.
It should however allow for some users to connect from the Internet, or from a local network (family, companies).
It can be a program installed on an ordinary server, or a fully dedicated server. For the simplest products, prices should be not much more than an ordinary server, and required skills should be as low as possible with running a server. Optimized settings should be proposed.
Individual servers must be connectable in a network, in order to create larger worlds. A fast and reliable protocol should be used, like the NRMP://
Web hosting companies could host such servers, as a general or dedicated service.
Hosting worlds are worlds (or sets of worlds) owned by a company, where many groups and users will have each a place and enjoy a common hosting service, and also collective services like customer support, anti-griefers, land sharing, etc. This method aims at providing cheap prices through scale savings, and also at removing the hassle of server running and world setting, for people with fewer computer skills. In this case many users have their own places in a large world, at the only condition or renting it. Second Life is the prototype of this. A given hosting company may have its theme, or even its purpose, like game worlds. But the overal system must be content neutral.
It makes no sense to oblige the users to live close together and hamper each other. Each individual user must be able to enjoy his own island, even if very small. (Google's Lively proposed very small but free islands or rooms). However groups of owners may have neighbouring lands, with common rules, to share a common purpose, vision or way of life.
It makes no sense to both rent and buy a land or other virtual place. Prices should reflect the uses in server business: a small setting fee and a monthly fee for hosting, and this is called owning a server. We can add to this a monthly fee for running and servicing a platform world.
The only relevant criteria on which to share and pay the computer resources of a host world is the rendering cost and disk space. However, in host worlds, there is often a need to assign places on the ground, for individual properties, and also to limit the place size. In space-like worlds, a volume can be assigned, or just a building limit (For instance each user owns a spaceship, cruising among others, with no fixed place). In paradise-like world hosts, everyone has his own space, which is limited only in content.
Some world owners or host words may request a fee just for entering into the world. This is a common practice into games like World of Warcraft. The character and inventory hosting system must manage this.
Collective host worlds open to the general public should follow the Common Behaviour Rules Set described further, with some flags depending on content. They are also mandatorily in charge of discipline, land placements, etc.
The collective worlds (or the softwares for hosting individual worlds) must offer a choice of physical conditions: sky, wind, lights, day and night, visible stars and planets, flat land, rounded planet, free interstellar space, realistic space with gravitation and planets, weightlessness, non-Euclidian space, paradise-like spaces (made of flying islands, or with many different small worlds, not geographically connected, but linked by a teleport system and belonging to a unique group or owner.)
Teleporting from a 3D world to another is much more complicated than following a 2D hypertext link. The teleport must bring the inventory, especially the virtual body shape and clothing, together with the user. But these may not be appropriate with a themed world, of regarding age flags, sexual flags, or company hierarchy. So that some automation is required to appear with an appropriate outfit, or to deny the teleport if the world flags and user flags are not compatible.
The idea here is to have virtual bodies hosting companies, which would ensure all the steps:
-Creating an account
-Ensure a physical world legal identity check (The logs of the checking must be unerasable and follow the user even if he changes of hosting company)
-Create a virtual identity or «character» (or several) The use of federated identities is mandatory from the very start.
-Manage the character's name, virtual body(s), friend lists, profile, belongings...
-Editing the virtual body shape and clothing
-Storing personal inventory such as clothes, builds, etc. (an alternate solution is to store them on the local computer)
-Managing money and transactions, or delegate this to the user's bank.
-Managing disciplinary issues such as bans, ban chains.
Character hosting companies may check and store data such as identity, gender, age, parental authorizations, company belonging, working contract, nationality, sexual flags, sexual tastes, race, religion, etc. But the purpose of a character hosting company is to ensure privacy, precisely by hiding these personal data to the world owner or manager (and to other users). This is why they must be separated companies, third parties. The data they store will however be used automatically to accept or refuse the user into a given world, depending on the flags or information requested by the user or by the world owner.
From privacy preservation, many users will not feed all the data. But then, world owners have no obligation to accept anonymous users, unchecked users, or with no appropriate info. So a world owner will have the ability to accept or refuse characters, depending on their degree of identity checking.
Some worlds may also want to know the physical identity and other information on their users. For instance a company wants to know its employees, or a meeting service to know the race or religion. In this case, the users must be warned that some of his data will be known, and which. Then they may accept or refuse to enter into such a world.
At last the users must be informed, before entering into a world, of the degree of checking of people in there, in case they don't want to enter such unchecked worlds.
Only a legal suit could make the stored data available to inquirers, depending on the laws and procedures on using such private data in a law suit.
Character inventory may contain costly objects and data very precious to the eyes of their owner. For this reason, a failing character hosting company must maintain it available to its owner.
A mistake of Second Life was to have the inventory of a character, his texts, graphisms, sounds, etc. available only in world, using a special browser, necessarily limited. These elements must on the contrary be available from the Internet, using standard browsers, and with the same URLs system. For instance we would have:
http://www.dream-world.com/john-doe/poetry/luthien.htm, opening a 2D browser.
http://meta.dream-world.com/john-doe/clothes/hat.wrl opening the 3D browser, where the hat appears into its 3D context, for instance a shelf.
An interesting feature for character hosting companies to offer, would be a small virtual scene for the only use of te character, in the Lively or Vivaty way. It could contain stores for the objects of the inventory, together with a small personnal place: office, lounge, garden, spaceship... This scene could be isolated into an empty space, but it could also be inserted into a larger world of our choice. We could then step out of office and enter directly into World of Warcraft...
In fact these character hosting companies are to the 3D what access providers are to the 2D internet. Logically they should be the same companies, and it is what will happen, sooner or later. But to circumvent the oppositions against 3D and federated identities, it will be better to start with separate companies.
For the sake of plurality, several chat servers should be available. However users with different servers should be able to communicate into complete transparency, as if they were into the same system.
Some communication systems (text chat, voice chat, email, document exchange...) could be secured for professional use. Anyway the WEM system just connects these channels, but these channels don't pass throught the WEM, ensuring a build-in safety and insulation.
As seen about the motivation of world users, the creation of the virtual body has to be made as fast, flexible and simple as possible, according to various methods, depending on the user's needs. This is a crucial step into the user's appropriation of virtuality, where the user has not yet any understanding or self confidence. Success of appropriation much depends on the ease and flexibility of building a loveable body shape, that the user will be proud to show, and at ease in. However users with greater skills must benefit of the best methods.
Character hosting companies may propose to the beginner hundreds of ready made shapes. This is not very difficult for somebody to choose, if these shapes are classified by style (modern, Middle Age, Fantazy...) and specie (human, animal, furry...).
It must be simple to exchange elements like face, body (athlete, average, stout, slim, gorgeous...), hair, clothes, attachments, etc.
After these elements may be edited in details, when the user gets more skills.
Today it is important for any user to quickly build a body shape in which he will feel self confident, beautiful, and also welcome where he intends to go. In the future, people will learn and start the process very young, so there will be no more emergency.
It also happens that an user wants to change of shape. This must be easy to do.
The gender of the character must be identifiable with a public tag, to avoid embarrassing situations. Some sexual flags would be profitably made public too, such as «no sex», precisely.
There must be no imposed specie or body shape. Many human or non-human shapes must be proposed, but tools must also be provided to change the size, or to add other species, animals, etc.
It will be necessary to have voice benders, to correct or modify voice, for ensuring privacy, or for fitting with a character.
Editing the virtual body should be done in the best possible quality environment, with tools easy to use and learn for everybody.
The standard should be the use of most advanced technologies. Ideally the virtual body should be a NURB with N dimensions: 3 more one dimension per joint's control parameter. The knot vector will be calculated simply from movement command parameters (articulated skeleton model), more the body shape adjustment parameters. Movement command parameters must be easily accessible by animations and programming languages. The «erection» command parameter has a somewhat special functioning: if it is given the value 0%, then sexual organs disappear completely. This is very practical for putting a cloth on (a cloth is a texture laid on the body in place of the skin), or for entering a no-nudity zone: the organs can be made to disappear automatically without manipulation and without the risk of forgetting to remove them. And the puritan nutters will no more be shocked by the «penis graft», as the penis will be provided by default.
The learning curve of virtuality is another obstacle for users to appropriate it. For this, we can set sandboxes and tutorials for new users. In Second Life a common fault is users not knowing to reply to an IM. This however can be learned easily with a robot IMing the new user and explaining how to do. Content helps or robot companions will be very useful to warn of errors or sorting out embarrassing situations.
As noted above, rather than adding one dedicated language, worlds should have APIs and DOM for all the popular languages. However there could be animations similar to the ones used in VRML, which are sets of numbers describing key positions and achieving interpolations between. NURBs animations would be fine.
Today virtual bodies are animated with some key strokes, or text commands, which start animations. In return the world sends an actuated position, which is what everyone sees. Exchanges are using a packet http:// protocol, which is too slow and unreliable. This results in situations where the user goes through a wall, or another impossible movement, just to be recalled back to his former position. But with the use of exoskeletons, this method will lead to unpleasant or dangerous shocks, if the world corrects an impossible move after the user's body actually achieves it. Anyway new applications such as teleoperation or virtual working place, will require a more accurate, faster and more reliable virtual body control.
This is why it is proposed the NRMP:// protocol. The availability of such a mean will greatly increase the useability and realism of worlds for either work, entertainment or game purpose.
The working of NRMP:// with an exoskeleton is as follow. The exoskeleton sends a continuous flow of about 256 bits about 16 times per seconds, describing the position of all the body joints. The world must send back about two times more for force feedback and blockage detection. The channel is established on a permanent basis. This allows for a reliable hazard avoidance system, which works for slow or average movements. For faster movements, some anticipation is necessary, to slow down the user when approaching a hazard, and avoid shocks and injuries. A limitation in communication speed however happens from the distances on Earth, which introduce delays up to 300 milliseconds (forth and back to the antipode) making a faster system physically impossible. This is a serious limitation to fast corporeal activities, vehicles driving, etc. However the time is still very acceptable at shorter range, in the 1000-2000kms. But this makes that the NRMP:// must not go through geostationary satellites, each introducing an unacceptable 400 milliseconds delay.
Such a system will however be fast and useable enough to do a manual work at a distance, to have realistic fights, or to add a sense of contact to virtual sex, or at least virtual hugs. Some computation on shape feedback could even modify the perceived body shape, in order to match the virtual body shape, for instance to correct obesity or a missing limb.
Before exoskeletons are useable on a public basis, NRMP:// can be useful right today for the viewer to send complex custom animations in world, such as dances. It can also be used for remote control and telemetry.
Building commonly refers to the creation of landscapes, objects, houses, vehicles, clothes, body attachments, etc.
Building is the first basic activity of content creators.
We must account with very different degrees in building skills, and provide a variety of methods.
Second Life offers a simple and appropriable system of basic shapes, called «primitives», in short prims, which allows for a great variety of constructions. This system is useable in world, without any other tools than menus in the viewer. It is relatively simple, allowing for a fair percentage of users to build with interesting results. This system, or a similar one, should be retained.
However this primitives system is very frustrating for artists or professional level creators, as it forbids many curved or complex shapes. It even not provides with basic shape creation methods such as addition and subtraction. So there must be a way to build meshes in world, or to import 3D files created with common modelling tools and formats. Things like texture maps and normal maps should be edited automatically. It is urgent to implement NURBS, as it is often much more convenient to set a mathematical (or CAD) definition of a shape, and they are required for a satisfying definition of body shapes. (modified August 15, 2009)
In the primitives system, there must be a way to convert an object made of many primitives into one mesh, for bettering the rendering cost.
In fact, the shape rendering system must be modular, to cope with any new shape type (primitives, meshes, NURBs...) which may be added with the evolution of uses and technologies.
NURBS are usually «tesselarized» (transformed into a mesh) in order to render them. But there should be a simple method for placing NURBS directly into the Z buffer, without first converting them into meshes. This would definitively avoid rounded shapes to appear angular, while gaining on frame rate.
When we see the huge difference in rendering quality, bugs and frame rate, between a game like Oblivion and a world like Second Life, it is obvious that this difference cannot be bridged with just «optimisation of the content», this also requires a viewer which is built according to the real state of the art.
A seemingly benign mistake of Second Life was to divide a flat ground into square «sims» forming the «grid», to the point that now people use the word «grid» to mean a world. This fits well with the real estate roleplay imposed by Linden Labs. But in reality this division in squares arises serious problems of poetry or realism, and groups have to edict rules in order to make it invisible. This real estate roleplay also imposes the project leaders to own their whole place, to avoid the appearance of incompatible neighbourhood or enclaves. In reality, an ideologically neutral platform must left each project to develop without limitation of surface, without interferences with other projects, and without imposing a square style or any other. Billing must be done, not as a function of surface (which makes no sense in the virtual), but as a function of the calculation load: the rendering cost (which, on its side, requires computers), and other secondary services like custommer support, organized games or safety.
Rendering cost is the only relevant criteria on which to base objects and characters limits, and on which charge the use of computer resources. The prices should be roughly proportional to the resources used, with everything else equal.
However rendering cost should be evaluated on an accurate and objective basis, such as the measured lowering of frame rate when we introduce the object, or the time required to render it.
The maximum load allowed is when the rendering cost is such that it lowers the frame rate below an arbitrary limit. This limit may be calculated in fuzzy logic, to avoid too much rigidity.
Basically, all objects created by an user must remain his property. Only the actual creator must be able to set permissions for copying an object, modify it, use it in a group, give it or sell it, etc.
Copyright is among the legal protections which remain valid even in virtual worlds.
To meet these two requirement, a set of tracability and permissions tools must automatically ensure that objects or resources (shapes, textures, sound files...) must not be given, modified, copied or sold beyond the authorizations set by the creator. These authorizations must be clearly visible, together with the copyright licence type.
Also, objects should be easily transported from a world to another. This requires a permissions management by the character hosting company.
The creation and running of every kind of communities is the second major occupation of content creators in virtual worlds. For this a full set of social and communication tools must be provided, some of them between all the worlds:
-Public, group, and private text and voice chat
-Automated translators, into natural or invented languages. Today the main limitation of these tools is the number of typing mistakes when one type quickly. So there is a need to first apply a spelling corrector highlighting the corrections. The viewer must work in every language. For this the texts are all gathered into a database with one column per language.
-Text or voice conference with selected users, with the ability to add and remove some on the fly.
-Users control in a place (private houses, companies, etc).
-Groups and group tags. Setting members categories and rights in a group, for roleplay, companies, etc. These categories may have different rights in the group. (Added october 6, 2009:) Second Life experience showed that we need different kinds of groups: simple chat groups or mailing lists, land management groups, dating systems, roleplay groups with a hierarchy of sub-groups, up to complex organizations with different sub-groups and several communication channels. Is also useful a mean to put on hold inactive members, without however firing them.
-individual or collective ownership of land or objects (non-profit group, company...)
-Land tools: authorized or banned list, terraforming, objects authorization...
-Some worlds may have several categories of users with different powers. Host worlds may have concierges, children worlds may have children and educators, roleplay worlds may have game controllers, etc.
-Powerful and comprehensive search or indexation tools, customisable event calendars, etc. These functions especially must be inter-world, so that the exploration by any user could lead him in any place.
-Complex and varied game engines and game tools. They could replace the closed game worlds.
-Social tools like marriage or working contract.
-Shop and business tools.
-Money transactions. These exchanges should be managed by a legal bank, like a bank account, or by the bank of the user. A nice thing would be that prices appear in the user's currency.
-Other money organisations should be available: coupons, distributive money, etc.
-To avoid injustices in worlds, an hour of work must be paid the same for everybody, whatever the country, instead of being indexed on some national currency.
-Money transactions traceability, to check for frauds, uncompleted transactions, after sale servicing, etc.
The very first purpose of virtual worlds is to escape the limitations of the physical society and life. In more, virtual worlds are only simulations, and all the more out of any national territory. For these reasons, many laws and moral rules lose their justification, and must be discarded as irrelevant into the virtual worlds, where they uselessly hamper the user experience. So laws about virtual worlds must at the very first recognize this fact and protect this practice, as an extension of the freedom of expression into a new situation and with new means.
(Especially we must not left puritan morons invent new laws and forbid into virtual worlds things which are allowed into the physical world).
However there is still a need for some general protection of the person, or when virtual activities have consequences into the physical world:
Right to a virtual identity, inalienable, stable and enjoying the same protections than the physical identity (Added in April 2010)
-Protecting intellectual, virtual and physical property
-Protecting the person against physical, sexual or moral violence (bullying, stalking, defamation, violation of privacy, identity theft, use of the image...)
-Protecting the person against exploitation of work (working into virtual worlds must obey the same laws and conventions than into the physical world).
-Forbidding discrimination, hate speech, calls for violence, extremism, etc.
-Leading and organizing harmful activities from the virtual worlds into the physical world. However this need must not be used to repress political or social views, especially into non-democratic countries.
-A specific issue is about the representation of extremely harmful, violent or disgusting activities into the virtual world, even without actually doing them into the physical world: representation of paedophilia between consenting adults, virtual prostitution, dictatorship, representations of violence against animals, representation of extreme violence or shocking behaviours. Appropriately solving this issue requires the understanding of the non-duality between freedom of expression and avoiding the unpleasant view and bad example to the society. So all this must at least be forbidden in public, as indicated in the Common Behaviour Rules Set. Law may come case by case for complete forbidding, even into privacy, as already done for paedophiliac images. However this need must not be used to impose pseudo-moral rules or pointless taboos.
Laws in worlds can be set as follow by the world owner:
-The owner can set the laws of one country.
-Any world owner must be free to set no national law for in world activities. This freedom must be recognized, and it arises from virtual worlds being non-local. In this case, international laws apply, like aboard a space station or in Antarctica. These international laws anyway should be better known and adapted to the virtual space, as explained above.
Any legal action between two users, or one user and an hosting company or platform, must be practically possible even if the parties are in different countries.
This manifesto opposes laws encroaching on Human Rights, or uses of the virtual worlds for war purposes.
In order to regulate these problems, a Moral charter of the Character Hosting Companies and of the WEM management is also provided.
It is very important for users to have a safe and pleasant experience, free of any small or large annoyance, and to be able to achieve their purposes or desires in confidence. This is all the more true for newbies, who can be disgusted by a bad first experience with somebody unpleasant or malevolent.
It is also important for users to know what they can do or not, and where, to avoid any misunderstanding or faux pas. From this the use of, for instance, sexual flags, combat flags, political flags, etc. Newbies still more need to be guided on this point.
For this, behaviour rules can be enforced in a given world, in more of laws. Breach in behaviour rules can bring disciplinary actions in a world, but not a legal action. Behaviour rules in Worlds are set by the world owner or manager. They can be any, so long as they don't go against the laws above.
However it would be tedious to read a set of rules each time we enter a world. It would be much more practical to have a Common Behaviour Rule Set, known by everybody, like the netiquette, which requires three parts:
-Be nice with other users.
-Not cheating in roleplay.
-Respect the theme of the world.
Such a set of rules would fit to nearby all situations, with as only requirement to define the theme of the world.
However the Common Behaviour Rule Set is just a convenience, it is not mandatory for worlds owners to adopt it. They may add to it some specific rules or exceptions, or propose other rules sets, which may partially or totally replace the Common Behaviour Rules Set, for instance chivalry rules, religious rules, etc. However the multiplication of such rules sets would go against their purpose, by making them difficult to remember.
So the Common Behaviour Rule set and a theme will be enough in most of the cases.
Words like «theme» or «roleplay» must be understood in a very general way. It can be a game, but it can also be a business.
So the Common Behaviour rule set more a theme should be enough in most cases.
The theme defines things such as allowed species, clothing style, technologies, magic, story line, some additions or exceptions to common rules, etc. Common themes could be predefined: fantasy, medieval, modern, science fiction, fight, work place, religion, school, kids, teens, general public, naturism, sexual content, etc.
Rules should be displayed automatically when entering into a world. But for this to be efficient, these rules must be no more than some sentences (including the reference to the Common Behaviour Rule Set, or a link to another rule set)
This rule business is a real need, so far that in Second Life nearby all the places display their rules at entry, even for extreme sex.
(Added Sept 15, 2009) We must be well aware that owners of worlds or groups can also misbehave against their visitors or members. In Second Life we could see sims which owners were covering acts of griefing against their visitors, as at random in association with delinquency acts. This is only the logical continuation of the stalking forums of the Internet. So the Common Behaviour Rules Set must also commit the worlds owners toward their visitors, to use their special powers only to defend themselves. A world owner who may use his powers to humiliate or harm his visitors must encounter the disciplinary or legal consequences, as with any other user of the Metaverse. For instance it must be possible to mark a world as inadvisable to visit.
It is important to have age flags, sex flags, combat flags, political flags, etc. for both users, objects and places. These allow for the user to be confronted only to the appropriate content, depending on his age and tastes. Matching age and sexual content is a legal requirement which is valid into the virtual worlds.
However in Second Life this selection is too rigid: the teens have no choice but a poor content into the teen world, or to enter illegally into the adult world, with plenty of interesting content but no protection for them. So the least correction is rather to have all the generally interesting content available for all, and push away the potentially inappropriate content into separate places, rather than excluding the most sensitive persons from public life.
A suggestion of age categories for collective platforms:
-Children: 0 to 11, educators, some visits of background checked parents.
-Kids: 11 to 15, educators, some invited background checked adults
-Teens: 15 to 18-21, educators, more invited identity checked adults. («teen grid» in Second Life)
-General public: all ages, but only identity checked users. Kids or children under supervision. Teens. No sex. Mitigated violence, into games only. Most public content should be available here, including games, social themes, education, science, culture, etc.
-Moderated adult: identity checked adults and teens with parental authorisation. Safe sex. Mitigated violence, into games only. This is because people may want to engage into love activities, but this doesn't imply that they accept to have risky or harmful relations with people who will just disappear after.
-Non-moderated adult: No mandatory background check, but nobody under 18-21. («main grid» in Second Life)
-Seniors: 60 or more. This flag would tell the availability of specific content, without limiting access to any other.
It would avoid much useless suffering if these age limits are made flexible, on advice of the educators.
Also, the whole identity, friend list, inventory and places of the user must follow him through the age transitions. Becoming of age must not kill us to the eye of our friends.
Private places or worlds are under the responsibility of their owner. Up to them to bring children here, and confront them to appropriate content.
Also, we may have parents authorizing a teen to invite his friend into a private place, knowing that this may result into sex. This is called a parental authorization, and it has a legal value in most country, even if unwritten or implicit. For a teen user, parental authorization can be a flag giving access to some moderated sex places. It should be reminded here that no law or moral principle forbid teens to have sex, provided that they agree, are prepared, and under the responsibility of their legal tutor. It would even be much safer for them to start with virtual sex, than to be confronted with diseases, inappropriate pregnancies or violent partners. There are other legal exceptions, such as naturism, or some cultures where nudity is a common and safe social practice, for adults and children together. This may result into other categories, such as naturist, or ethnic.
We note (August 15, 2009) the unilateral decision of Linden Labs to change the meanings of the «PG», «mature» and «adult» ratings. After the actual selections of sims they made, «PG» is now for monasteries only (no sex either in public or in private), and «adult» for prostitution. Everything else, from normal life (sex only in privacy) to scatology and sadomasochism, through romantic love or naturism, is muddled all together into only one «mature» category, and appear all in the same filter. Many sims are now forced to enter the «mature» rating, even if in fact they are PG in public. This, once again, forces the neighbouring of users with incompatible tastes, leading many to think that nudity or sex are allowed everywhere. No doubt that still more hundreds of sims will again disappear... We on the countrary propose more detailed filters and categories, to fit all the tastes, and left each place owner decide of the statute of each of his place, plot per plot. Each user must be able to find what fits his taste, and never be exposed to what hurts him.
Disciplinary actions in world aim at more or less limiting the power of an user, when there is a legal breach or a behaviour breach:
-An user can mute another
-Teleporting the user in another place of the world, or in another world
-Temporary banning, of a place or a world.
-(The notion of automatic ban chain was removed on October 6, 2009, and replaced:) When an user is banned of several related groups, alerts must be sent to the other groups. But each group must remain able to master its own ban list.
-Legal complain if there is a legal issue. In this case the physical identity of the persons are remembered and made available to relevant police officers.
World owner or manager set the rules for the world. However, especially on large public platforms, there must be some judgement or appeal method, to avoid them becoming too arbitrarian. Abusive banning of platforms can be made a legal offence.
(Added October 6, 2009:) The involvement of a person into a group or a world may become important, as much in emotions as in economy. So an abusive ban (not motivated by a discipline problem, but by a personnal hate or a discrimination) rather ressembles a repudiation, and is anyway a vexation or psychological violence. Laws on these situations apply.
Tools must be provided for discipline matters:
-Unlimited ban list.
-A world owner may exclude all users with unverified identities or unsuitable age and flags,
-Excluding on the basis of the virtual identity
-Excluding on the basis of the physical identity
-When an user deletes his account, a delay is provided for the world manager to continue interacting with it, in order to fix disciplinary issues, scams, etc. The account data is still hidden, but retained according to law, in case a complain may be filled.
-Reporting behaviour issues to the Character Hosting Company, to avoid the faulty user to enter again with another character or another account.
-Placing a mark on the user's computer to forbid creating a new account, etc.
The four latest measures aim at avoiding a banned user to re-create a new account immediately, or a crook erases his account and just disappear into thin air.
To avoid in world abuses from any kind, from harassment to copyright theft, through scams and bots abuses, a physical identity check of the users should be required. This must be done by the Character Hosting Company, to ensure useability for all the worlds, while ensuring the privacy of the users toward the world owners and other users.
In case a world accepts unchecked users, and it is impossible to track an offender, then the world owner or manager is responsible. This is because he makes the action possible.
In case of systematic disciplinary violation, or rules purposely violating the rights of the person, disciplinary cases may be brought in front of courts.
Roleplay may lead to punish or constrain an user, within the frame of this roleplay. Tools may be provided for this, but this is not a disciplinary or legal issue, and do not lead to legal or disciplinary action. All this however must result of a consensual roleplay between the users and the world owner, in a clearly defined setting and place.
Roleplay may lead to exceptions of some laws on respecting the person, such as in fight, some sexual plays, etc. However not all laws should have such exceptions in roleplay, such as for instance hate speech, extreme violence or paedophiliac images.
It is important to seriously cope with cheating in games. Cheating spoils the experience of the players, which already makes of it a serious disciplinary problem. But we quickly come to judiciary problems, as cheating also harms game editors, and beyond any activity which would use the game tools. Anyway tools designed for cheating also allow for scams or attacks, when it was not their primary purpose. So we must from the beginning provide with tools and rules to avoid things like characters who communicate through other channels, several characters for one user, or a character led in turns by several users, see sold to another user. For this, game organisers or editors will need special powers, such as to allow only one character per user. This is obviously possible only if the real identity of the user is checked somewhere. Cheat can also take the shape of software help to a human player, a robot playing in its place, tampered browsers or objects provided with special capacities such as hearing at far discussions, or limited browsers.
Robots (Characters animated by software) can be very useful, or very harmful. They can be used as roleplay characters, vendors, guides, educators, etc. But they also can be used for scams, spam, harassment, sexual harassment, encumbering space and abusing resources. But the worst issue appears when they imitate human behaviour, and engage into pseudo-friendship or pseudo-love. This is because our human experience has a value only when it is shared with another consciousness, and it becomes a caricature or rape if shared with an unconscious software.
For this, robots must be flagged as such, automatically by the viewer when it receives automation commands. This flag is then displayed in world, for other users to see. World owner or place owner then has the choice to forbid robots, to allow some identified robots, or to mask the flag of some robots they own (for roleplay) etc.
Lack of declaring a robot as such will be an infringement in Common Behaviour Rules Set. It can be a law infringement when used for scam, or to engage in love or sex activity (the legal definition of rape fully includes manipulation of the victim by lie, false representation, etc). Of course the owner or the programmer of the robot are responsible.
It is noticeable that already several political activists or intellectuals are busy to disparage the virtual worlds, limit their uses, or try to take control on them. These people present virtual worlds to the ignorant general public as horrible places filled with paedophiliacs and violence, and their users as misfits and dreamers.
However there is nothing intrinsically bad or questionable into virtuality. Some specific contents may be questionable, like in any other place, but this is addressed into the previous part on legal and discipline issues. A better implementation of disciplinary tools will make the virtual worlds as safe as physical places, and even much safer than many. Even today there are no more paedophiliacs in Second Life than among school teachers, and the rates of griefing are lowering into properly managed lands. Still some easy steps, and it will be as safe to bring our young children into public virtual worlds as into a religious charity fair.
Virtual worlds are not a kind of political revolution (it is not bolshevism) or moral revolution (it is not libertines) or mind hazard (it is not drug). They have no claims to change society or economy, and they pose no specific threat of any kind. Right on the contrary, we can be confident that properly managed virtual worlds will bring many good things, for individuals and for society as well.
So this opposition is just the usual psychopathic opposition against any novelty, good or bad. It is just one more of these unimportant and idiotic prejudices (like fear of long hairs) or dangerous antisocial reactions (like anti-ecology) which uselessly arise each time a positive and normal evolution of society is under way. So we just need to firmly push the opponents to virtual worlds out of the way, and ignore their babbling. But this situation makes that today, an important part of advertising virtual worlds is to insist on their innocence, and eventually to present the opponents as obscurantists or ignorants. Without forgetting of course to actually implement the laws, tools and methods for this advertising to be true.
Selling virtual worlds today is like selling cars to people who heard only of crashes, don't know to drive, and don't know that there are other places out of their village. We must first show them the good, learn them, and show them what exists elsewhere. We however cannot propose purposes to users. We must rather help them to find their own purposes, in a maieutics process.
The hesitations of companies like IBM and Orange (French Internet access provider), the failure of Google's Lively, also tell us that we cannot really sell virtual life. Especially we cannot sell virtual communities (Orange) or virtual content (Second Life mainland) or do with advertising (Lively). However virtuality is not so exotic that all business models should fail. In reality selling virtuality is just like selling cars: nobody makes business with selling driver's communities (Orange), shepherding cars into mandatory travel plans (Second Life) or putting advertising into free cars without engine (Lively). But very flourishing companies live with selling useful objects and services: selling cars, building roads, providing fuel, learning to drive, etc. without commanding to drivers where they should go or not. So making business with virtual worlds is similarly selling software, hosting worlds, selling virtual objects, providing services like disciplined worlds, themed worlds, games (already done), character hosting and identity check. And after, DISAPPEAR and let the users drive into their virtual life, without bothering them. The most important service to sell is being content neutral. Just like car companies sell to everybody without asking questions on our religion or sex tastes.
As examples, World of Warcraft lives with admission fees, while Linden labs earns a fortune with the renting of «sims» (to an insane cost it must be said, nearby 8 times an equivalent 2D server) while Both are cash flow positive and can (could) easily afford efficient teams of moderators for a safe experience. But this success does not arise from some subtle business model or marketing magic: simply they provide a service to a community of users.