Property-Based Object Management and Security

Property-Based Object Management and Security

Torsten Reiners (Curtin University of Technology, Australia & University of Hamburg, Germany), Sascha Wriedt (University of Hamburg, Germany) and Alan Rea (Western Michigan University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-891-3.ch009
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The hype of Second Life is over. But the experience of this truly exciting period lives on in many disciplines and research areas, which are developing emerging technologies in virtual, as well as augmented worlds. And as is the rule with new forming developments, the path is not yet determined and weaves through different stages and platforms, calling for additional prototypes to understand the true impact of virtual worlds, Web 3D, or Augmented Reality. Using broad strokes and looking for a common denominator, most people conclude that it is Web 2.0 with all its (social) functionality and 3D objects as the embodiment of virtual existence. Many publications discuss Web 2.0 features and applications, but most do not focus on the 3D objects in the context of virtual worlds and their implications. In this chapter, the authors examine and observe what (virtual) objects are, as well as which properties should be used for inter-world interoperability. The past technological implementations demonstrate that protecting digital media – i.e. music and video – is an endless endeavor and that no security feature is simultaneously unbreakable and usable. This does not need to be the case for 3D virtual objects because we can learn from the past and achieve a new level of protection in a rising media. In this chapter the authors propose such a solution by putting forth a general 3D object understanding that includes a look at virtual worlds such as Second Life with a feasible concept of object security. They suggest that with a new framework objects can be secured and promote additional growth within, and among, virtual worlds. They propose our Global Object Management System (GOMS) architecture as a potential solution to this challenge.
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1 Introduction

When we think about security in virtual worlds, our first inclination might be how we login into the system and verify our identity. This single-factor authentication by username and password is meant to protect our identity, and privileges in the world. However, we are also protecting the true value of the virtual world avatar: its owned objects. Of course we can consider the experiences through play (Castronova, 2003) as well, but what we might value the most is not just the avatar (and by extension, us) but owned objects (e.g., property) (Horowitz, 2007). Of course these objects can be placed in the virtual world, worn on the avatar, or stored in a virtual inventory, but they generally exist in a single virtual world. Depending on the world, users might have invested massive amounts of real or virtual money, or copious amounts of time to upgrade items. Because of these investments, securing virtual objects within specific worlds, and potentially transferring them to others (in the case of virtual world closure, user choice, etc.) is quite an important issue now and in the future as we see greater virtual market penetration via 3D environments.

Managing objects is already a critical need even with the majority of current virtual worlds as closed environments. In closed environments avatars and objects are restricted to just one environment and a direct transfer is seldom possible or even favored. Even though the object encoding standard for the graphical representation of objects (nodes, edges, textures) is shared, additional scripting or environment specific modifications cannot be exported. Virtual worlds, such as World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 2010) or Habbo Hotel (Habbo Hotel, 2010), do not allow object imports to protect the in-world market. In these worlds, providers place the objects in the virtual environment's economy, and offer them in specialized stores or reward users after they complete a series of tasks (e.g. quests). There are some trades completed in marketplaces like eBay, but many times these violate the specific virtual world's Terms of Service (TOS). Within a virtual game realm, there are reasons for this control, such as the provider needing to control the game flow, balance, and economy. Virtual worlds are different. Development over the last few years indicates a stronger desire for object interchange between virtual worlds (Watte & Systems, 2009). In order to effectively facilitate this interchange, the interoperability of objects beyond the specific world's aspects and controls is crucial. In other words, users' objects need to retain privileges, functionality, and interaction with the chosen virtual world environment whenever possible. We propose that the replacement of the current paradigm of environmentally-controlled static objects with dynamic objects that communicate their properties, much as newer object oriented programming languages.

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