There are a number of key differences here incomparison to more traditional Architecture-Engineering-Construction (AEC) visualisation tools.Principally that:
the user is embodied in the world as an avatar,rather than having just a “camera” view
the avatar/user can go where they like, andinteract with the build
the environment is multi-user, so users caninteract with other users
the environment is rendered in real-time, soalthough visual quality may not be as high, theenvironment can be far more dynamic andflexible, and renders instantly rather thanneeding an over-night render-farm.
Which Virtual World?
As the sidebar at left shows there are a number of “virtual worlds” around, and many are tuned to specificuses. However there is one criteria – which we think isvital to successful AEC (and other) use of virtual worldswhich separates out the “true” virtual worlds from theothers; can you build and change the world from insideit, or do you have to use a 3D design tool and importyour models?Whilst the external design & import is the mostapproach, for us it stops the virtual world from reachingits true potential. By putting the build tools into thehands of users inside the world you immediately makethe space more dynamic and interesting, and foster creativity and community. This is why Second Life hasbeen the most successful virtual world, and why it haskept going when others have fallen by the way-side.Of all the virtual worlds listed in the sidebar
Second Life (and its open-source counterpartOpenSim) allow in-world building. This is not to say thatyou have to let users build, or that you can't use a 3Ddesign tool (such as Collada) and import models (afeature just arriving in SL/OpenSim), but that fact thatthe platform lets you take both approaches will make itfar more flexible in both the short and long term.
Virtual Worlds - Built Environment 3 © 2011 Daden Limited
Both a consumer world(Second Life) and enterprisesolution
An open-source version of Second Life, still in beta
A relatively new entrant,recently placed its core code inopen source
A browser based solution, butstill requires a plug-in
An open source virtual worldwritten in Java. Was supportedand promoted by Sun, but Sunsupport was discontinued after their takeover by Oracle. Nowa community project.
An “enterprise” solution withmany Global 500/Governmentusers. Mainly used for training.
A meetings orientated virtualworld (or virtual meeting roomto be precise).
www.twinity.comA virtual world focussed on re-creating real cities - but devoidof facias or retail branding!