Visionaries Multimedia

One of 24 Metaverse Summit question-answer sets:
Helen Cheng shares her thoughts on the networked future

This page contains one of a set of 24 transcripts including remarks made by interview participants at the Metaverse Roadmap Summit at Stanford Research Institute in May 2006. Each person was asked a series of five questions regarding the future; only the most "telling" responses were transferred from the recordings into these transcripts, thus, some of these interviews will include five question-answer sets, some will have four or fewer. 

To jump to another interviewee's set of answers, click on the person's name below.

Bridget Agabra
Betsy Book
Corey Bridges
Iveta Brigis
Jamais Cascio
Helen Cheng
Esther Dyson
Doug Engelbart
Randy Farmer
Guy Garnett
Will Harvey
Daniel James
Raph Koster
Mike Liebhold
Julian Lombardi
Bob Moore
Jerry Paffendorf
Marty Poulin
Robert Scoble
John Smart
David Smith
Sibley Verbeck
Malcolm Williamson
Ethan Zuckerman

  >> Return to Metaverse interviews lead page for links to recordings of these comments

Helen ChengHelen Cheng, assistant product manager for Seriosity, develops enterprise software based on principles of interactive game design. Cheng's accomplishments include leading a 200-plus-member guild in the online game World of Warcraft, building applications within and for virtual worlds, and contributing to Wired magazine. When she isn't writing, designing or powergaming she also works as a project director for the Accelerating Studies Foundation, and she helped plan the Metaverse Roadmap Summit. She previously worked at Electronic Arts and MTV Networks.

What is your greatest fear for the future of networked technologies? I'm afraid of the tendency for people to get too involved in games and online worlds. I've seen a lot of people who will displace their normal lifestyle in order to participate in something that's happening in the game. There are reasons pro and con. It's up to people to be more responsible for their real-life commitments. But if someone could harness the power of what's so compelling in these games and actually use them for something productive or in order to solve a problem, and if people had that same fervor and wanted to achieve social goals in the same way they now want to achieve dungeon raiding, then I think that would be incredible.

What is your most fervent hope for the future of networked technologies? My answer is based off what I'm seeing now, which is virtual worlds and online games. My background comes a lot from gaming and massively multiplayer online games. The things that I have seen in these games that are exciting to me are the emotional connections that people make with one another to somebody who lives on the other side of the world who they've never met but whom they've shared days and weeks and months of in-game experiences with. That really is very powerful to me. It's the game that first draws you in, but it's the people who make you stay and want to keep playing.

What technology will have the greatest impact on our everyday lives the next 10 years? You could talk to somebody you don't know from somewhere in the world and make friends with them and learn about them and their background and share experiences with them and even work together toward a common goal and have fun doing it. That's possible now, and I think that we'll continue to think of great ways to do that in the future.

Looking out more than 10 years, what development will have the greatest impact on society? When I look at the landscape for the next 10 years, it's kind of easy to predict where the hardware will go. You see the iPod and handhelds and X-Boxes that are now your personal home entertainment center, and I think that the direction that that's going to go is fairly obvious. What I think is really cool about virtual worlds is there's so much possibility there, but right now our tools for interfacing with those virtual worlds are still sort of primitive. We're still using mice to maneuver around, we're still looking at screens and using keyboards, and I think the next revolution that will really change this environment is going to be a new form of input from the human user to the 3D world, so we're more ingrained in it, so you're using a glove or whatever, a peripheral headpiece or whatnot to more easily be able to turn your head and navigate and see something on the horizon or just be able to grab things and pick them up. I'm really excited to see that start happening.

What do you think policymakers should do to ensure a positive future for networked technologies? A lot of consideration has to be given to control and privacy issues. Those would be the things that I would be most concerned about. When you have an avatar or some kind of existence or representation in a virtual environment, usually that character has assets that – more or less – that person worked for. If we do move toward a metaverse as a goal, (there should be) some way for that person to be able to keep their assets that they have earned and possibly transfer them if appropriate. Laws that can help users maintain the things they have earned that are rightfully theirs.

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