Ars Technica has an interesting hands on with a creation tool that the Stanford Virtual Worlds Group released last month. It's called Dryad, and is the first example of what the Stanford team hopes will be an easy way to create (realistic) user-generated content in virtual worlds:
It may not be completely obvious why research like this is so important, so we'll spell it out at the risk of over-simplifying matters. If virtual words are to proliferate, one major bottleneck to that proliferation will be visual design. Let's face it: few of us can draw something as simple as a tree well in two dimensions, let alone three. However, if a system could be devised that would allow everyday people to participate in the crowd-sourced construction of virtual worlds, then that particular bottleneck could be done away with.
While it's limited right now to trees, the team clearly hopes it won't be too long until even the least artistic among us can design buildings and objects for virtual worlds. It's an interesting read (including thoughts from Prof. Vladlen Koltun, who headed up the project) on how some academics are trying to do research that will applicable in the not-too-distant future.
Researchers hope to enable crowdsourcing of virtual worlds [Ars Technica via Worlds In Motion]