I recently wrote a term paper on virtual worlds (by managing to tie it into communication in electronic environments), and I thought of a couple ideas that might be an interesting twist on the future of virtual worlds. People have been arguing that ICTs bend our concept of time and space. (IE. Cell phones/handhelds allow your boss/colleges to reach you when you are on the road, turning personal time into work time.) Now, what made this class fun was I tried to think of every discussion in terms of virtual worlds. Looking at virtual worlds in this way, I wondered what might happen when an organization starts utilizing a virtual world for something like distributed teamwork. Perhaps, in the future of virtual worlds you get home from a hard day at work, you’re just chilling out living it up in The Sims VII and your phone rings. Of course, it’s your boss. He desperately needs you to give a presentation for some clients in China, so being the good employee you are you log out of the Sims and into your company’s virtual world. Here you meet with the Chinese clients and present an Open Office :D Slideshow presentation for them. Now we have virtual worlds changing the way we interpret time and space, and perhaps not really for the better.
Now, I find this as a very plausible long-term future for Virtual Worlds. And you?
On this issue, I just want to remark that one thing you'll surely need, and you start to see rough attempts of doing it, is integration. Virtual Worlds has become just one multimedia form of reality, and media has to conglomerate, trying to milk all possible value from their IPs. Maybe this will start massively to happen with the arrival of Ambient Networks? That, itself, can be a dangerous future. Will we be able to implement something like GNUnet over an Ambient Network? Or will we be "forced" to abdicate from Privacy and Anonimity?
I guess that the next five years won't be that exciting in terms of Virtual Worlds, but I wish I could be there to see in 15 years or so... Will we be walking towards a "Ghost in The Shell" world?