What happens when video games meet Web 2.0? When virtual worlds telescope themselves with maps of the planet? what happens when simulations become real and life and business become virtual? When you use online maps of the earth to physically manipulate the Earth? When your avatar becomes the money that represents you everywhere, even in the real life? … We call what is happening: the MetaUnivers (Metaverse). Jamais Cascio.
The future of virtual worlds is high in and opens to technological discoveries, as well as social and commercial innovations, as it showed through the echoing success of a «virtual world» such as «Second Life». Virtual reality allows a user to interact with a simulated but realistic environment (three-dimensional vision and sound, or even intervention of the touch or other senses), almost as if he was physically there.
In its most advanced expressions, it uses almost direct interfaces with the senses (immersion glasses – then retinal projection; audio headsets, gloves and other clothing «coming back in force»), as well as artificial intelligence technologies, which prove to be necessary so that elements of the virtual environment could act in a realistic way. Today, research aims at interacting directly with the brain to stimulate senses, then – later on – to act directly starting from brain impulses.
After having stimulated many expectations, this field is condemned today to certain modesty. However, the provoked research has known tremendous progress, as it was thoroughly used in many fields of activity.
Video games (especially multiplayer) take advantage from virtual reality to produce more and more wide and realistic environments, in which the player can sink for hours. «Virtual worlds», almost rid of the «playful» excuse (Second Life), operate like real alternative universes. Around 2010 – 2015, standards and «worlds» construction generic tools could allow these worlds to interconnect, creating thus very wide virtual «societies». The simulation field, on a large scale, also originates from these researches: flight or driving simulators, learning medicine or how to repair certain machines, military training.
Besides, the simulation of evolving living systems is at the origin of a connate discipline, the «artificial life». If, also in here, the objective of numerically recreating living systems in all their complexity, has not been reached, research allowed to better understand certain mechanisms of living systems, with very concrete applications: evolutionary algorithms, capable of searching, by «natural selection», for solutions within many choices; optimization of collective behavior (of automatic agents or robots) through the observation of insect swarms, migratory birds skein or ant colonies; machines capable of adapting to difficult environments and to repair itself, etc.