Google Earth Becoming Virtual World

A 3D rendering of downtown Boston in Google Earth.

A few weeks back I gave a presentation at the MIT C3 Conference on advertising in Second Life. The main point was to urge marketers to experiment with advertising in Second Life because even if the SL's 200K-strong player base might not be attractive enough in itself, the game should be used as a massively multiplayer sandbox for honing skills that very soon will become useful elsewhere. This "elsewhere", the argument went, could be Google Earth that on the previous day had released its SketchUp 3D modeling software to the public, which means people can now add their own assets to this virtual environment, much like they do in Second Life. Add physics, scripting and avatars and -- wham! -- a new virtual world arrives on the scene backed by Google's cash vaults. Well, Business 2.0 says that's exactly what could happen:

"The result could be that we'll soon populate a virtual version of planet Earth instead of the made-from-scratch metaverses like online games or Second Life. The main element Google Earth is missing today is avatars, but at least one observer believes those to be added soon.

"I would expect to see someone using Google Earth as a virtual social space by the end of the year," says Jerry Paffendorf, research director of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, a futurist organization."
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