Interview – Dr Mirko Caspar, Twinity co-founder

Twinity is one of the growing swathe of mirror worlds in development. We took the opportunity this week to fire some questions at Dr Mirko Caspar, who’s the CMO and co-founder of Metaversum, the company behind Twinity.

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Lowell: Can you outline the history of how Twinity came about?

Mirko: Connecting the real with the virtual world will be one of the major Internet trends in the coming years. Such a virtual world will be both playful and useful, with positive benefits for the ‘real’ lives of those who explore and populate it. Twinity is designed to enrich people’s real lives. Most of the current virtual worlds focus on fantasy environments without reference to the real world. Twinity will blur those boundaries and create that missing link. With that vision in mind, Jochen Hummel (CEO), Dietrich Charisius (CTO) and myself (CMO) founded Metaversum in 2006. Metaversum has since developed Twinity, which is now in private beta.

Lowell: You’re competing in an increasingly crowded space – who do you see as your core market?

Mirko: Basically, Twinity is for everyone who wants to communicate, seeks entertainment and fun or wants to run a business. It is for social networkers and chat-fans who want more emotional, human communication in 3D. It is for the virtual world and 3D entertainment aficionados who want their real life with all their friends and interests represented.

In short, Twinity is for everybody who has Internet access and wants to share experiences with other people via the Internet. The core user is probably between the ages of 18 and 49 years, but it certainly extends into older demographics that enjoy the real life approach.

Lowell: Is it correct in saying Twinity is a mirror world platform? And for the uninitiated how do you define a mirror world?

Mirko: A mirror world is a world that mirrors the real world. Naturally, such a world would show a selective reflection. It isn’t a one to one mirror. Twinity is a social 3D platform that blurs the boundaries between virtual reality and the real world. So far, our members can create indoor spaces – but you can be geographically located anywhere in the world. Also we encourage and enable our user to create realistic avatars. So, Twinity does have facets of a mirror world already. We think the real world is fascinating. It sets a great stage for interaction and communication – real people in real places who share real experiences. What it comes down to is this: more direct, emotional, collaborative, and immersive interactive communication within a familiar environment.

Lowell: Is the beta program progressing as expected and do you have a firm timeline for a release candidate?

Mirko: Twinity is currently in its private beta phase. In this phase, members already have the ability to create their personal avatars, design their own apartments anywhere in the world and communicate with other members through bubble chat, VoIP or animations. We’ve taken the feedback of our beta users into consideration, and we’re currently focusing on two main areas of development: implementation of the outside environment and preparation for the open beta release. Our roadmap is firm. Our timeline is as firm as it can be when you are developing a virtual world. Our next step will be the announcement of the open beta.

Lowell: What are the plans for Macintosh / Linux users?

Mirko: We want to give our users as much choice as possible; but doing that takes time. At the moment, Twinity runs on Windows XP and Vista. For Mac users who want to use Twinity, we recommend using Boot Camp and running Windows on a partitioned Mac. However, this should only serve as a temporary solution. As soon as we can communicate an easier solution, we will do so.

Lowell: You’ve been on record as saying that avatars will only be able to be human – does that remain your position and do you think this will limit your market appeal?

Mirko: People want to connect with real people and be as emotional, interactive and authentic as possible – this is also true when engaging on the Internet. Twinity is a platform that allows for this interconnection. We believe such an approach will open up virtual worlds to mainstream audiences, in much the same way that people are now accustomed to using real-to-real communication on platforms like Facebook and MySpace.

Lowell: Are you able to give any further information on Twinity’s economic model?

Mirko: You can use Twinity without paying any fees. Members only have to pay in Twinity if they get something special in return. Premium features require a subscription. Virtual items and real estate will be offered by our commercial members or us for a price. There will be some advertising.
Our in-world economy will be similar to the real world. We have a payment method, a “virtual currency”, which we call the Global! If you want to create and offer items or services and market them to the community, you can become an active commercial member. If you are a consumer, you can buy virtual goods or services including real estate.

Lowell: You’ve mentioned previously that user-generated content will be one option – to what extent will users be able to generate content and use it within Twinity?

Mirko: Members can generate content in Twinity, as long as they follow our Terms of Service. The simplest forms of user generated content are pictures and music, which can be easily uploaded to your apartment. If you become a premium member, you can also use converter tools to upload items that have been created using modelling tools like 3dMax. We are currently testing those tools and will announce when they will be made available to our members.
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Lowell: What is the pricing model likely to be for use of Twinity?

Mirko: Basic usage of Twinity is free. We will also offer premium services to premium members for a monthly subscription. For now, all those features are free and we will announce the introduction of subscription fees well in advance. Our members will also have the opportunity to buy, sell and rent real estate or purchase virtual goods. To a large extent those prices will depend on the prices that our commercial members will charge for their goods and services.

(Disclosure: Twinity’s Singapore marketing is done by Andrew Peters from The Pacific West Communications. Andrew also does Global Marketing Communications and Sales for Big-Bit Australia, which is an advertiser on The Metaverse Journal)

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