There’s A Sparkle (IM) In My Virtual Eye

Source: Genkii

Source: Genkii

Related coverage: TechCrunch – “Sparkle: The iPhone Gets Its First Virtual World (And It’s Completely 3D)”

There’s a sparkle in my eye – it’s from a Tokyo-based company named Genkii and the product is, of course, Sparkle.  Genkii announced two products – Sparkle IM and Sparkle 3D.

Sparkle IM is an app available in the iPhone App Store (for $4.99) and supported on both the iPhone and iPod Touch.  In essence, Sparkle IM is a lightweight gateway to Second Life and OpenSim.  So you get to send and receive IM’s with your Second Life or OpenSim avatar, but without the download of the thick client.  Instead, you do it all from your iPhone.  You can find a short YouTube video on the Sparkle web page:

Why is this exciting to me?

  1. This is the first step in the placeshifting of virtual worlds experiences – analogous to what podcasts and portable MP3 players did for music consumption.  Now, you no longer need to be tethered to a laptop or PC to experience a virtual world – you go in-world from wherever your iPhone takes you (assuming adequate cell coverage).
  2. This could foreshadow virtual event support on PDA’s (see my prior blog posting on the notion of virtual events in a wireless world).  I’ve participated in many virtual events where exhibitors told me they were on the go – but, able to check in from their BlackBerry.  And today, what’s the most critical “application” in a virtual event?  Most would say it’s the chat application.  So apply the Sparkle IM “gateway” principal to virtual events – and presto! – virtual event chat on BlackBerry’s and iPhones.  Exhibitors would love it.

On to Sparkle 3D.  The TechCrunch post provides full details (with images).  Essentially, Genkii has developed their own 3D virtual world – for use on the iPhone and iPod Touch.  The support on the iPhone is interesting enough – but what might be the game changer here is Genkii’s vision of integration – they’re considering an integration with Sony’s Playstation Home virtual world and there’s speculation concerning integration with browser-based clients, the Nintento Wii and non-Apple phones, such as those running the Android OS.

Sparkle 3D can be quite powerful and pervasive if they’re able to integrate their platform this broadly.  No other virtual world is supported across this spectrum of devices and platforms (e.g. gaming systems, PDA’s, browsers), which could make Sparkle 3D the de-facto, cross-platform standard.  What other platform has been able to gain a footprint across an equally broad ecosystem?   Adobe’s Flash.

5 Responses to There’s A Sparkle (IM) In My Virtual Eye

  1. It will be interesting to follow where Sparkle will be headed with its virtual world on mobile phones. From what I know virtual worlds, the real 3D virtual worlds, not 2.5D flash picture based ones do need a huge amount of calculation power and CPU. The Second Life client for example needs about 1 GB of ram just to run on an end user pc. Logical as all this CPU power is needed in order to render 3D environments.

    If Genkii tells they have created a real 3D world I am really curious to see how this would function on these tiny CPU’s and amounts of ram that mobile phones have these days. Genkii only showed a few pictures, you can’t tell what is 3D and what isn’t, the backgrounds can be just made out of sprites and the world can be made out of little rooms that can hold 10 avatars. Until we see a movie it’s to early to tell the first 3D virtual world for the iphone is there.

  2. Dennis Shiao says:

    Good points regarding “true” 3D and whether Genkii supports it. That being said, I would have to imagine that the trend for PDA’s and smartphones will be towards more powerful processors and increasing amounts off RAM. So I don’t think CPU or RAM will be a limiting factor.

  3. dusanwriter says:

    Interesting that Mark Kingdon directly addressed SL for phones while in Paris recently and said that one of the goals is to “give access” to virtual worlds from more places – but then specifically said that “SL on an iPhone is a dream, but it’s still a dream that is a very long way off”.

    However, having other ways to communicate and keep linked to the community and social networks in these spaces is certainly a plus.

    I’d add one other platform that does what you’re talking about and that’s Metaplace – which will go a lot further than either of them in providing “3D content” across a wide variety of platforms. It has been built from the ground up on this very premise.

  4. dusanwriter says:

    Oh – and hope this is OK, but to follow M’s discussion and links etc. I blogged it here:

  5. Dennis Shiao says:

    Thanks for the pointer to Metaplace. Interesting to note that its Wikipedia entry notes that the initial release will utilize Flash and deliver 2D or 2.5D renderings.

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