Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Virtual Contractors

Designing an online home or environment is getting easier.

Fully navigable online worlds are flourishing, and all that virtual real estate needs to be furnished. Fantasy worlds such as Linden Labs’ Second Life and even reality-based environments such as Google Earth are built to accommodate user-generated houses and other objects, which anyone can design using in-game tools or Google’s SketchUp 3-D modeling software. But if you want a modernist masterpiece on your plot of virtual land, you don’t have to build it yourself. Several companies and hundreds of individuals have gone into business as virtual contractors, designing items and structures that they can sell for real-world cash.

Electric Sheep built Second Life’s New Media campus. (Courtesy of Electric Sheep)

The group most fully integrated into Second Life is Electric Sheep of Washington, DC, whose 11 designers and developers can build anything from a stately pleasure dome to an entire interactive island. For the New Media Consortium, a not-for-profit group of more than 200 teaching organizations with a focus on new media technologies, the company designed and built such an island, where the consortium held virtual classes and events attended by the digital “avatars” of people around the world.

Electric Sheep declined to discuss the fees it charges for original designs. But the company also runs SLBoutique.com, where citizens of Second Life spend about $20,000 a month buying other members’ digital creations, from skyscrapers to body parts, according to the company’s CEO, T. Sibley Verbek.

The 3-D environment of Google Earth isn’t shared or interactive like Second Life – but users can still customize their virtual experiences. Google’s 3D Warehouse lists user-submitted models of real-world structures such as the Taj Mahal, which users can download into their copies of Google Earth. Enthusiasts can create new models using the free version of SketchUp or a $495 “pro” edition that offers animations and walkthroughs.

Though Google Earth models aren’t bought and sold, Brad Schell, product director for SketchUp and the 3D Warehouse, suggests that corporations could one day create virtual versions of their stores – which could then be placed into Google Earth, perhaps allowing users to roam virtual aisles for products they could order online.

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Embracing CX in the metaverse

More than just meeting customers where they are, the metaverse offers opportunities to transform customer experience.

Identity protection is key to metaverse innovation

As immersive experiences in the metaverse become more sophisticated, so does the threat landscape.

The modern enterprise imaging and data value chain

For both patients and providers, intelligent, interoperable, and open workflow solutions will make all the difference.

Scientists have created synthetic mouse embryos with developed brains

The stem-cell-derived embryos could shed new light on the earliest stages of human pregnancy.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.