Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

But both the new tool and Electric Sheep’s bots are dependent on tags labeling objects and places; there is no virtual-world search technology that can recognize objects without those clues. Constable notes that, when items aren’t tagged, the best his bots can come up with is “object.” “We can find them, we can see them, but we can’t make sense of them,” he says. Dzwigalski says that, while the new Linden Lab search tool filters out the useless list of “objects,” it’s no better at identifying them. As a result, residents are responsible for tagging items that they want indexed. Constable says that his company hopes to add tools that will let people label their items more descriptively and effectively. “People are looking for a very wide range of experiences and things, and it adds some complexity to the search problem,” he says. He points out that people need to be able to specify whether, for example, they want to buy a virtual replica of the Eiffel Tower or visit a virtual reconstruction of it.

But the search problem has consequences beyond whether or not users can shop efficiently within a single world. As developers work to let users pass easily from one virtual world to another, the problem of searching those worlds is becoming more important. (See “Moving Freely between Virtual Worlds.”) “This is the same sort of thing that we dealt with in the early days of the Web,” says Corey Bridges, cofounder and executive producer of Multiverse, a platform for virtual worlds. “If we’re enabling a whole network of virtual worlds, it’s critical for the user to find just the world that he or she wants. Odds are, it’s going to end up like the Web, where there’s a whole bunch of stuff out there, and you don’t want 98 percent of it.”

Although Linden Lab’s tool represents an improvement, it is far from solving the problem. “Search is important, but I personally don’t know of any answer in that space yet,” says Michael Rowe, manager of 3-D Internet and “intraverse” research at IBM. “I would say search [in virtual worlds] is going to be pretty exciting as it matures, since you’re not only looking for a link: you’re looking for a thing within a context of space and time.”

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Credit: Search box, Linden Lab; composite image, Technology Review

Tagged: Web

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me