Google Metaverse, Made in China?

The Google Metaverse meme has popped up again. Michael Eisenberg, a general partner with Benchmark Capital in Jerusalem kicked off a fresh discussion about Google building its own metaverse, a.k.a a virtual world akin to Second Life. This isn’t the first time there has been talk about Google’s Metaverse dreams, and Business 2.0 had previously written about the potential of Google both creating a Second Life-style virtual world and potentially developing avatars to populate it.

What’s new is that Eisenberg heard about this from an academic source, and Google has been rumored to buy an in-gaming advertising company called, AdScape. We have been trying to dig up information on the Google Metaverse for a while now, and have had some modest luck. For instance, our sources in China say that Google has teamed up with a Chinese company to develop the “virtual people” or avatars, while an internal team develops the virtual world internally.

Our sources say that Google is working with a team of engineers who used to be key developers for, and they are building avatars for this new service. Back in August 2006, we had called Google to confirm the existence of this team and the avatar project, and the company declined to comment.

We did grab lunch around that time with John Hanke,

Reuben Steiger, CEO of Millions of Us, a San Francisco-based company that builds virtual presence of corporations, says that a virtual world like Second Life might be more difficult to control for a company like Google. He points out that a more obvious move would be to create avatars and then add them to a more real Google Earth type environment.

Google doesn’t always embark on projects that are destined to be moneymakers, but Google could bring in a sizable population to a Google Metaverse – at least one that is comparable to Second Life.

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