Mobile devices: the red herring or the diamond in the rough?
Using mobile devices to access virtual worlds pops up every now and again on the radar. For example companies like Vollee and Sun have developed applications allowing Second Life on a phone. That’s all well and good but….
I’m just not sold on this idea and just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. On a very simple basis the screen size of a mobile phone is too small to effectively serve up a virtual world. Then you have the issue of control and UI – standard device keys are unable to offer equivalent controls. Thirdly bandwidth – there’s not enough. So, combine these three factors and I don’t think it works.
This topic came up on the 3D web panel last week in London (drill-down into 2009 growth areas is at the bottom). An audience member pointed out the upcoming feature of beaming projector-style the screen of a mobile device onto a wall. Okay, so this gets around the screen size issue but there’s still problems.
Firstly, you need a wall to project onto. If you’re in public then firstly it’s not your own wall and secondly you’ll have other people seeing what you see. This means you’re basically broadcasting so it’s notconduciveto some activitiesin a virtual world. Plus you still have the UI issue.
But what could be the uses of mobile devices and virtual worlds? My answer to the audience member referred to using mobile phones to manage VW communication – receiving and sending messages in and out of world – a text based activity. In the short term if there is a role for mobile devices then this is it.
Thinking more longer term, mobile devices have an incredibly important role to play but not in the virtual worlds sector but instead in the augmented reality category. Here’s some examples of what’s possible but in the meantime I think we’ll have to stick to our monitors.
However, for more static environments and the overlay of information, one application that does appear to be useful has just been released by Google – the iPhone app for Google Earth, as reported by Techcrunch here.