My children don't fight over the TV remote anymore. In fact, they go hours without fighting at all--they're too busy roaming virtual worlds like RuneScape and Club Penguin. We have to haul them from their keyboards kicking and screaming when it's time to eat dinner.
But the kids aren't just frying their brains in front of a glowing LCD, they're learning how to navigate the 3D Web. In a few short years, you too may be shopping, attending classes, snoozing through meetings, and socializing via an online avatar that looks just like you--or how you wish you looked.
Of the many 3D worlds aimed at adults, Second Life probably comes closest to how the "metaverse" will actually look. Created by Linden Lab in 2003, SL now generates nearly $2 million a day in revenue for its residents, mostly through the sale of virtual real estate or objects. Companies from Adidas to Wells Fargo are buying land and erecting offices inside SL, hoping to carve out turf while it's still fresh and new. (Mindark's Entropia Universe is another 3D world with its own internal economy, but it's still playing catch-up to Second Life.) I decided to log on to SL and see what the future looks like.