How many dimensions are there in our existence? We live in one reality but believe in so many others including the world of spirits, the Bermuda triangle, etc. There is another reality that is fast taking over lives in the twenty-first century – the virtual reality of the Internet. How real has the Internet become to us?
In the Net we are represented by avatars. We can dress up our avatar in a virtual Levi jacket or Gucci dress. We have our own space where we can decorate with knick-knacks of our liking and wallpaper it to our satisfaction. We can play virtual games and win real hard cash. We can send virtual flowers to our lovers. We can meet and discuss ideas with strangers from all over the world. All these used to be simply fun but when people are willing to pay for virtual goods or services, the Internet becomes a serious and lucrative business.
According to Gartner Research, 80% of all broadband users will have avatars in the near future. Virtual worlds, which literally started from zero, are getting listed on the stock market. Virtual worlds like Entropia, Habbo, Stardoll, and Second Life are making big profits beyond the physical world. Multinational corporations such as IBM and BP are also rushing in to catch a piece of the action. In South Korea, 43% of the population subscribe to Cyworld, so every consumer brand must have a presence in this virtual world to survive. China, the factory of the world, is busy churning out virtual goods that are only consumed in virtual worlds including clothes, art, and toys. When consumers worldwide visit China’s virtual mall, it encourages them to buy direct from the manufacturer, which keeps costs down and eliminate the need for middlemen.
Business and pleasure will definitely move into the world of virtual reality because it is more convenient, cheaper, and hassle-free. Money and credit card are just pieces of paper or plastic without the value we give to them. The Internet is, likewise, a matrix created by human beings for work, entertainment, and daily living, although it only exists in our mind and imagination.