Many lives are touched by the use of augmented reality or spent
interacting in artificial spaces. In 2020, virtual worlds, mirror
worlds, and augmented reality are popular network formats, thanks to
the rapid evolution of natural, intuitive technology interfaces and
personalized information overlays. To be fully connected, advanced
organizations and individuals must have a presence in the "metaverse"
and/or the "geoWeb." Most well-equipped Internet users will spend some
part of their waking hours—at work and at play—at least partially
linked to augmentations of the real world or alternate worlds. This
lifestyle involves seamless transitions between artificial reality,
virtual reality, and the status formerly known as "real life."
Respondents were presented with a brief set of information
outlining the status quo of the issue 2007 that prefaced this scenario.
Overview of Respondents' Reactions
While most current Internet
interaction is found in the user-generated content and social networks
of Web 2.0, the 3-D Web-computing ecosystem is developing quickly.
Augmented reality enables the enhancement of real-world information
through the use and confluence of the Internet, RFID, GPS, smart-tag
networks and portable/wearable information technology. 3-D
environments, which are just beginning to be more efficient and
accessible, offer ideal design spaces for social and economic
experimentation, rapid-prototyping and customized and decentralized
production. Every item in the physical world is being mapped, tagged,
and databased, as humans build mirror worlds (data-enhanced virtual
models of the "real" physical world, also known as digital Earth
systems or the geoWeb), and innovate in new, virtual worlds (Second
Life, Cyworld, World of Warcraft). MIT's Fall 2007 Emerging
Technologies conference had a headline session titled "Second Earth:
Second Life, Google Earth, and the Future of the Metaverse," with the
explanation: "Social virtual worlds such as Second Life and mapping
tools such as Google Earth are beginning to overlap, perhaps
foreshadowing the advent of an immersive, 3-D 'metaverse.'" A 2007
Gartner study estimated 80% of all active Internet users will have
virtual selves by the end of 2011.
The majority of respondents mostly agreed with the idea that time spent
leveraging augmented and virtual reality for various uses will continue
to grow; some noted that by 2020 AR and VR will have reached the point
of blurring with reality. Many indicated this will enhance the world,
providing new opportunities for conferencing, teaching, and 3-D
modeling, and some added that breakthroughs to come may bring
significant change, including fusion with other developments, such as
genetic engineering. Some respondents fear negative ramifications,
including possible new extensions of the digital divide, an increase in
violence and obesity, and the potential for addiction or overload.
Because of this, some respondents noted that people may begin to "opt
out" of using AR and VR tools. Many of those who mostly disagreed with
the scenario said VR won’t reach the scenario’s level of acceptance or
sophistication by 2020 or said its primary users will "still be geeks
The following contributions to the discussion of the future of the Internet and augmented and virtual reality are from survey participants who chose to remain anonymous.
The next generations of software will add more believable icons, and our need to socialize will be met without ever leaving our homes.
Real life vs. "reel life." I still do not have a complete version of my real self.
Sadly, this will likely be very true and will continue to break down social structures and relationships that previously existed in the "real" world.
Immersive online pornography—as a commercial market sector—reaches a size and scope rivaling all other media forms...combined.
I don't necessarily see this is a good thing, but it is already happening now. People have forgotten how to interact in the real world without constantly looking at their phones and PDA's.
Absolutely; look at how popular Wii is for children. Virtual reality will become the next way to socialise, work, shop, learn, and communicate.
Virtual spaces provide opportunities to realize goals or dreams that may be difficult in “real life.”
We will work in worlds that allow us to test theoretical limits, and such tests will aid in the search for cures for cancer and poverty and violence, etc. Like most technology, virtual worlds will be absorbed into corporate environs and will be used for environmental modeling, product testing, etc.
I wonder how well people will be able to distinguish between the real and the virtual, and the effect it will have on flesh and blood interactions. We are the compilation of our memories (which are co-constructed in interaction with others), and we interact within the context of an assumed shared past. It'll be interesting to see the effects of unilateral experience of “shared” moments on the interactions that follow.
I hope this doesn't happen...what happens to true human contact?
It will take more than 12 years for everyone to be comfortable with an avatar, and for proper guidelines to exist within a virtual environment.
This will be the socially illegal drug of the future. For that reason, these forms of drift from reality will more frequently occur.
It's not going to move that fast. But virtual worlds will play a much more significant role in people's lives as bandwidth and computing issues are solved.
Virtual worlds have been overhyped and under-delivered, and will continue to be for some years to come.
The holodeck is almost here...
Virtual realities will allow users to explore different cultures, countries, organizations, and technologies in a relatively safe and inexpensive manner. These virtual realities will be a primary source of education where users can vicariously experience different social situations and develop advanced knowledge and needed skills for eventually negotiating real situations.
Rather then our real world being enveloped by the virtual worlds, aspects of the virtual world will become a greater part of our real world. The virtual technologies will be used to create TV shows and movies, used for workforce collaboration, and will turn into a huge boon for people with disabilities.
This will probably happen, but be driven more by online shopping sites than social sites. Also, I think 2020 is a little early for it to develop to the degree described.
This will be great entertainment, but "real life" will still come with all the trials and tribulations we have today...maybe more.
Yes, and Second Life (v.2008) will seem quaint!
We will mostly be wearing our networks, interacting with them without even thinking about it.
This statement ignores the fact that virtual worlds are inhabited by real people represented by their avatars. So when I play World of Warcraft with a guild of players, I chat about children, work and a host of other things related to the real world. So "seamless transition" is really "seamless living."
Education will change to include use of these augmented-reality tools.
It could go the other way, in terms of a backlash against such technology.
The geoWeb will grow and become more accurate due to the ubiquity of mobile computing. However, the geoWeb is an improved way to interact with geographic data, not a metaphor for the real world. Online gameworlds will continue to grow as well, but I don't see a place for a truly ubiquitous metaverse. People will have to make decisions about how much time, effort, and money they put into an entirely fake experience that only complicates the shared experience. Most will choose to keep it real instead.
This is just video gaming in disguise and will take away far too much from productive time to be anything other than a leisure activity.
It's not hard to project this popularity continuing to increase.
All this and more was nicely predicted in non-fiction form in the 1991 book “Cyberspace First Steps” from MIT Press. A rich literature grew around that book, itself inspired by the work of William Gibson and Vernor Vinge, and it's a pity that the term is apparently being shunned now in the competition, it seems, to brand the phenomenon anew.
As far as "advanced organizations and individuals" are concerned, that is probably no more than 20% of mankind at that time, if it still exists.
It won't be a single metaverse or geoWeb, but multiple ones.
A tiny fraction of the moneyed Western world populates "virtual space." Yeah I read about Chinese game players too. It's a tiny fraction.
Not by 2020, maybe by 2030.
I'm not an expert on the metaverse but it seems likely to me that it will develop and expand. We shouldn't assume this is a positive development. The fact that people increasingly live their life in an artificial space can alienate people from the desires, emotions, and experiences of human interaction and lead to an escape from interacting with and changing the real world. We wouldn't assume it was a good thing if people watched TV every waking hour—we need to be equally careful regarding the Internet.
Sounds great in cyberpunk books of the ’80s, but not going to happen.
Probably will happen within three years.
Man and machine will become one as prophezised by Ray Kurzweil (“Age of Spirtual Machines”) and Bill Joy. Artificial reality and virtual reality will replace real life, which ultimately will lead to the demise of human free will. Whoever owns the Internet will ultimately control the virtual beings—i.e. the world. Kurzweil's predictions of downloading the human mind into a machine seemed ridiculous in 2000; however, improvements in intelligent robots and technology in general should make us rethink what we are doing and consequences for humanity.
Second Life will be history. Metaverse indicates another world. Transmedia will come up, offering opportunities to transverse back and forth between environments (not worlds).
Computers are becoming more and more important parts of our lives, and we are getting closer and closer to virtual reality with every software update.
Our immersion in further-augmented realities is reflected by the state of non-augmented realities; a green, wild natural augmentation might be preferred over the concrete-and-steel urban landscape.
Virtual worlds allow the anonymity to be maintained while duplicating real-life situations has practical value for both work and entertainment.
Augmented reality will continue to be a pastime of a few groups. Its impact will most likely be realised by market forces. Imagine a world where augmented HUD displays show marketing and pricing information for real-world objects—this is probably where the majority of people will encounter it. In the supermarket or in the street
Predicted way back by Michael Heim.
I hope most people will not be consumed by this virtual world. At most perhaps 20-30% of the population with good Internet access will have a serious presence in AR, etc. From an organisational perspective, they may use RFID, GPS etc., but it does not need to be in an AR—fundamentally what business driver will there be for commerce in AR? Some niche markets as are already springing up, the ability to do some shopping worldwide, or to order takeaway in AR etc. is viable and of course virtual participation in meetings may be of some interest.
Virtual reality is still more about the visuals than anything else, and I don't see it as all that efficient.
Even among technology geeks, virtual-world applications are not nearly as popular as people make them out to be. They just aren't that interesting. Many people ask “what's the point?” For sure there will be overlays of tagging and mapping the real world, but most time people spend online will not be in Second Life-type applications.
In order to stay up-to-speed, people will be forced to participate in this venue as a way to communicate—the next generation of social computing.
Augmented reality will grow yes, but I think there is a limit to mirror worlds and virtual worlds. Linden Lab’s ambitious plans to grow more popular than the World Wide Web won't be achieved by 2020, if ever.
Increases in fossil-fuel prices will make travel more and more difficult. Virtual spaces allow us to still feel that we're together without the expense and pollution of long-distance travel.
The drive towards networking is fundamentally human, and we will operate on multiple levels at multiple times.
"Augmented reality" will, like mobile phones or e-mail, merely be added to existing forms of social interaction rather than replacing them.
These technologies, despite all the hype, are more than 10 years out for the bulk of the population.
I just cannot see the virtual world replacing the "real" world anytime. The "real world" is just too big of a leap of faith, and the "virtual world" is not going to be that interactive. Second Life, for instance, has boundaries, and it allows you to do only so many things. You can’t do whatever you want to do!
We have always incorporated tools into our lives. This is just a tool. There is only a real life, which may have more and more aspects that take places in an artificial 3-D environment. That is just as "real" as a phone call (which is also virtual). The whole virtual thing is a crock-of-hype BS as being somehow different than other technologies that have come before it.
As the MTV generation makes more virtual worlds, the text-messaging generation will use them, and eventually people will live secondly in VR.
If and only if the interface into virtual environments is as easy as interfacing in physical environments, with natural language interfaces and intuitive information access displays.
As the old joke goes "those who are involved with second life, are usually the ones who don’t have a first life." Virtual worlds will be a niche market, but most people don’t have time for this stuff unless it provides real additional value i.e. gaming
I don't believe these are “ideal” design spaces...Google Earth and the geotagging concept holds the most interest…I actually believe we are in the middle of more of a "get a life" backlash, as forces of social control and hegemony attempt to rein in the geeks, whom some perceive have gotten a little too mainstream and are not keeping to their designated place. Not that I have any intention of becoming any less eccentric and "geeky" in my obsessions on technology and learning. If these things are wrong, I don't want to be right!
None of the needed technology is in the lab today, so it can't be deployed in the next ten years in order to become widespread and common, almost normal, in 2020.
There is still a significant portion of the population in 2007 for whom virtual worlds hold absolutely no interest. They may become more popular but will never become a majority.
There are flat-worlders in today’s time as there were in Rome. There might be more in common between them than the actual shape of the world in the last 2000 years. Virtual realists who transcends both of the worlds in their make-believe are similar creatures; they were always a few and equally capable to perform altruistic levels of stoicism, despite the physical barriers around them.
Will only affect a small proportion of the world—the rest have real work to do (and lives)
Not everyone uses a computer in daily life and not everyone will want to interact outside of real life. An immersive 3-D metaverse will be available but I don't think that a large proportion of people will be involved in it.
Certainly I expect the current teleconferences to evolve into this sort of thing, and that is where most people will experience it. Of course, there will always be a gamer community, but in the same proportion as now.
This [scenario] is accidentally right. Most people in the developed world will be linked in regardless of their intent, in that they will be augmenting the "enhanced" models of the real world. Most people will also "view" multiple of these enhanced models, e.g. seeing the traffic in the city, as a very simple, basic example. I do not expect the Second Life model to become ubiquitous, it may not become more common than it is. Other "realities" will come along, in medicine for one.
Without a compelling need to do so, existence in a metaverse will not be necessary.
More addiction to online worlds. More augmented reality. No standards for online worlds.
It could mean many different things—more Second Life than "Neuromancer."
I see great adoption of this in the education field, and continuing in the gaming field, but not widespread use throughout society.
Hopefully by 2020 our 3-D worlds will be more tied together so that our avatars can go in and out of different spaces.
Maybe in 100 years, but not 12.
I think people are starting to value personal interaction, and while virtual reality can be an outlet, it won't take the place of personal interchange.
World of Warcraft is different, but is essentially still a game. Gaming in 3-D worlds will probably be bigger than ever in 2020 but why would you want to go do your banking in some 3-D world, when it's easier to just use a regular Website?
We're wet-ware for a reason. The human connection is never going to disappear. It will remain the primary force in people's lives. Virtual worlds are great for specific tasks, like architecture, engineering, simulations, and gaming, but those interactions are inextricably connected to real-life needs.
Absolutely will be true, and already a source of addiction that will certainly increase.
You could make a pretty good argument that the words you use for 2020 apply today. You could also go back 20 years ago and find descriptions that sound just like your 2007 status quo.
2020 seems a bit fast for this for me, since this has been the prediction since about 1994. Seamless interactive 3-D menus and displays, yes. Entire metaverses and worlds (like in Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash") by 2020? Not quite. Fairly soon after that, maybe. And I highly doubt that the status known as "real life" will be that far sublimated for most people.
This or something like this is going to happen I believe. Whether it is true by 2020 or surpassed by something else in 2020 is hard to say.
Play may expand but work is still going to take up most people’s time, and jobs will not be in "mirror worlds."
Other drivers to this trend are increased pollution, too-high fuel prices, etc. People are programmed to be social and safe.
It will become very blurred.
People will find meaningful ways to connect digitally but will offset such experiences by increased travel—going to visit the places and the people they have connected with in artificial worlds.
This may not be a good thing. Life in the artificial world opens you up to reactions that may be partially hidden in the real world. Avatars have a way of being a lot more direct—and some people may have trouble dealing with that honesty (or whatever).
10-year-old kids who are growing up with computers, Internet, and electronic games will have been graduated from college in 2020. They will have devised all sorts of applications for work and play by that time and probably will have much of a seamless life. My only hope is that virtual reality is used to promote the human race, not destroy it.
Gaming will continue to be a big attraction and will undoubtedly get more sophisticated. The scenario you describe, an alter, cyber universe would definitely blur reality as we know it and have detrimental effects on education and work productivity. It may become a problem for some people, but I don't think it will become the standard.
I'm already seeing early adopters reducing their time on the Internet/wired world because the true human interaction is lacking and it's too easy to get sucked back into the virtual world.
To be honest, this 2020 scenario scares me. I think we have enough complexity in our physical world—I'd hate to see a virtual world become a path for denial of challenges in the physical world.
Slightly overplayed. Although VR will be increasingly important, the idea of "seamless transitions”" to real life makes me think that some people ought to get out a bit more
Artificial spaces will expand and their uses for education and for entertainment will continue to increase, but I'm not sure that it will yet be "many" lives that are touched.
Bad times like the coming global recession will force people to look for new escapes—talking movies boomed during the Depression and WWII, virtual worlds will boom during our Third Millennium Recession.
For many reasons, we no longer have the time and/or no longer know how to connect in the real world. Due to that malady, we will seek other ways to satisfy the human need to connect.
You have touched on one of those possible inflection points that may rapidly change society. This may be one of them that evolves in ways we cannot imagine.
The increasingly virtual universe will motivate an interest in returning to basics—as exampled by the increase in brand marketing technologies (from e-mail to advergaming) has also motivated a renewed emphasis on physical direct mail simply because, at the end of the day (real or virtual) the objective will be to have an impact—and that is not always the same as doing the newest thing.
AR technology is still primitive and is not ready for consumer use. I do not see this changing any time soon. Ten years ago you would have used the term "virtual reality" in this scenario and you would still be wrong. True AR is much less useful to the average person than the ability to use Mapquest on their telephone. Find a consumer application for this technology and you'll have a "metaverse" of sorts; until you do, this stuff is science-fiction.
I agree, but for me this is a horror scenario. Augmented reality will also augment crime and favour the isolation of individuals in virtual reality.
As most technologies have evolved, they have been driven by the pornography industry, so I would expect augmentation to begin there before moving mainstream.
I don't think the infrastructure/costs of using the infrastructure will have advanced sufficiently for this to be an option for most individuals.
I think we're a looooooooooong way from virtual worlds. Maybe in 2040.
I think that the 3-D worlds will be a huge part of the 2020 Internet, and the interfaces will be improved a lot, according to the bigger computational power of PCs and Macs.
Augmented networks will exist for certain functions (perhaps conferencing), but in general they are too cumbersome for the multi-tasking typical user. Improved computing power will make augmented realities better than ever, but will not be the major paradigm for networking.
This is already happening.
I think this scenario may occur in the future, but 2020 is not quite far enough out.
Real life will be secondary.
I definitely agree with this one. I only hope that it doesn't become a repressive, dystopian nightmare.
The real question is whether being so connected has value for the majority of people. It has potentially significant entertainment value, but limited economic value. We are already seeing a fundamental assumption about the Internet debunked by business economics—namely that the Internet would reduce the need for, and value of, face-to-face business. Economic research has shown the exact opposite to be true; that well-connected firms have increased need for face-to-face interaction, as consistent with the general increase in productivity increased computing power and connectivity has afforded them. So, I disagree that the metaverse has great potential in the business world, as long as people make decisions and require the type of information about other people that is predominantly contained in non-verbal communication.
It has to be used carefully so people still have skills for interacting in a non-online environment.
The couch potato will win. Holodecks will become real.
People's real-world geography will still be much more important in their daily lives than their online presence.
Games have had this "immersion" for many years already.
These artificial spaces are ways to learn new ideas which can't be easily accessed through our modern megalo-politan/corporate lives. However, those who are off the "metaverse grid" will stay off—about 20-30%—as they simply don't need it. And more people will find they don't need it to gain their own spiritual "boost."
Virtual worlds will remain a niche interest for certain people, but won't go mainstream.
As the technology improves to the point that it nearly disappears, this will indeed happen. What it will be like, how people will share and split their real and virtual lives is way beyond me.
Distance education which may have been merely the experience of online text and online chat, becomes an experience where everyone is virtually in the room together and can virtually experience each other. As the fuel crisis reaches increased levels, face-to-face meetings can take place in virtual realities. Friends can come together for something as simple as a Friday-night game of cards. We will live in a world where traveling great distances as we do today will become more the exception than the norm—and this will be compensated for by increased use of online tools.
There has always been a lag between technology and human will. Just because it is physically/technologically possible doesn't mean that folks will readily take to it. I believe (and hope) this level of technological integration into reality will invite some fairly in-depth thought and discussion on the nature of reality and the universe, and, ultimately, the nature of man.
Technological infeasibility and cost mean that probably only social elites will have access to these kinds of technologies.
Second Life hasn't gone away, as was predicted. People will move towards the "geoWeb" as they did to the once new World Wide Web.
Real life will become ever MORE satisfying as people see how unsatisfying cyberlife is.
We are in middle of a tremendous revolution.
For experts ICTs will become more and more integrated with everyday life and the boundaries will blur; for the basic users ICTs will continue to be tools more or less removed from the rest of their lives.
Augmented reality will be an essential tool, for communication, but also to replace lots of items we use that don’t need to be physical.
Most likely life will be this way, and it is really a misfortune for the human race—being exploited for profit. That is the bottom line of these artificial spaces.
As technology increases the ease of use of these 3-D environments, making them more and more like "real life" they will be seen as a valuable communication tool when face-to-face contact isn't possible or desired.
This relates to a previous elaboration on driving forces competing to create multiple identity "sets." The dilemma in education to produce critical thinkers and skilled laborers that transformed the physical institution in previous centuries now takes a cue from border-free spaces of 2020 to enable learners as voyeurs to experience study curricula vicariously. Mathematics, e.g., re-takes the questions of philosophy.
I believe the tendency to interact in virtual realities is connected to the social realities of the individual. Therefore, while some subgroups of society may become more involved, there are other subgroups that will not become more involved and the overall level of involvement will not be changed substantially.
While I believe that the generation that has grown up with cyberspace will have less difficulty in traversing the different dimensions outlined, I would think that the real world will continue to be the space for "living and working," and the alternative virtual worlds will be another escape valve that certain segments of the population have always used.
Living is more than information flow.
Hopefully access will no longer be an issue with mobile technology integrated with 3-D Web.
Today's Websites and the new virtual worlds will combine to offer more immersive experiences for doing everyday tasks—not necessarily as a new activity, but as an enhanced feature of the site.
This scenario is most likely to become true after 2030 because the technology is still not affordable for everyone.
Allowing us to live, work, and play with people who are physically distant from us will be one of the major appeals of these spaces. I am still nervous about what this means for "real life."
This scares me, but I agree that it may be the case in 2020. People want to find an outlet and the Internet provides a very easy one.
These demographics are already doing most of what is projected by 2020 anyway.
Only if the user-interface becomes much easier to use.
All this in 13 years? Maybe for younger people, but what about older technology users?
This is commonly predicted by many, and that alone is a good indication that it would not happen that way, based on the score cards of future predictions from the past. Some elements of this will be there, but most likely it'd look markedly different than this vision.
The author(s) of this scenario assume a level of competence and insight on the part of most, that I think goes far beyond reality. When you look at the lack of competence in intellectual activity as demonstrated in public education, post secondary education, and the complaints of employers as they attempt to extricate productivity from a dysfunctional workforce, I cannot even conceive of the projections of the Gartner Study, let alone the scenario you suggest.
This could be very helpful in bridging gaps between cultures. In turn, more tolerance and acceptance could be a positive byproduct.
Fantasy always has a part in life.
Not by 2020.
It will be mostly universities and companies.
The opportunities will be great for those who wish to work, play, and experiment in this arena, but I do not believe that it will be a necessary cost of doing business for all businesses and individuals.
Given the popularity of reality TV and the apparently diminishing ability by Americans to separate fantasy from reality, I wouldn't be surprised. Especially if reality becomes increasingly difficult and frightening (e.g., traffic making it more difficult to go places; drastic climate change affecting well-being; more wars, etc.) It would be more likely that people would take cover in their virtual selves.
I hope not. We need to directly interact with each other. Hiding behind these alter egos is not healthy. I tried Second Life and got nothing from it.
Most people who "have a life" would be spending there time in the real world rather than an artificial one.
Use of virtual worlds could eventually displace the science fiction fantasy of the “transporter.” Rather than needing to “beam” yourself around the country for meetings, you could interact with business colleagues thousands of miles away by instantly convening a virtual meeting. While the use of such technologies to conduct business is likely, I would quibble with the timeframe. It may not be in the next 12 years, but certainly it is coming.
We have been talking about virtual reality since the ’90s and Second Life is the most effective presentation. It's not very good, overall. Instead, social networking will encourage more face-to-face meetings, and more travel.
I disagree. In part, this a hope that we don't end up in escape environments regardless of whether this is “Brave New World,” “Star Trek,” or “Second Life.” Yes, I do recognize there is a great likelihood that there is a growing income potential for those who can cross populate traffic from Second Life or other social network site back to their own Web sites.
I am only interested in such a scenario if it helps me more smoothly conduct my real life here on this (not Google) Earth.
Unless there is a direct benefit to doing so, e.g. making money, enhanced security, etc., then people will focus primarily on their “real” selves and surroundings.
Artificial environments remain artificial; folks can tell the difference.
To meet consumer needs, companies will make a big push to enter this arena.
More people are interacting in artificial spaces on a daily basis. Wii is another good example. With the elderly playing games in these artificial spaces even more, people are interacting in them and are involved. It will inevitably become a part of our daily lives.
Online interaction is mostly favored by men with poor social skills. Everyone else will always prefer in-person interaction. Humans as a species are adapted to small-group, in-person interaction and talking.
Having a secondary 3-D body is not the way to deal with the limitations of a physical universe. Having a secondary 3-D body will hardly enhance someone's spiritual life; if anything, it might confuse a whole lot of people on the priorities in life.
Yes large organisations must have a presence, etc., and the Koreans are leading the way in showing the great extent to which a population can take up using avatars and interacting in online worlds. BUT, the real world is still a beautiful place and people need exercise.
If it's not useful in business, then it won't be pervasive.
People who find virtual reality satisfying are not likely to do well in the real world for some time to come.
These technologies will be very useful to people dealing with complex datasets involving multiple experts and simulations. Things like urban and environmental planning, medicine, engineering and design. These technologies are useless to anyone negotiating human issues; who can tell when your avatar is bullshitting? Direct human interaction is ultimately the way we judge honesty and develop relationships. Avatars might work after that. Outside of simulations and interactions, most people today are overwhelmed by data stimulus—e-mail, cell phones, texting—which are low-bandwidth compared to the extra stimulus provided by artificial spaces.
In 2020, as people continue to move away from traditional physical interactions with each other in favor of remote electronic interactions (via e-mail, blogs, virtual worlds, etc.), psychological studies will come along suggesting that humans have a deep-seated instinctive biological need for human touch and a direct interaction with other humans who are physically present. Since biological and technological evolution occur at vastly disparate time scales, these concerns will slow the headlong rush toward virtual worlds.
2020 is too soon for this to be totally immersive and easy to use. Give it another 5 or 10 years beyond that.
As the current generation of gamers matures, presence in virtual worlds will be ubiquitous and seem perfectly natural.