Just got back from a presentation in SL by Lex Lardner of his "Jnana" smart agent builder, a powerful application that enables non-programmers to create a set of dialog menus using simple logic and query-answer statements. (Full transcript provided by Signpostmarv.) Lex showed us how easy it was by building a quick set of dialog menus on "How to make money in SL."
There are a number of interesting applications of this technology, but Lex's immediate focus is on e-commerce. He's bought a plot of land he calls Jnana Island where anyone can set up for free a virtual storefront using his Jnana smart agent system. And he's not limiting people to just virtual goods -- Lex wants folks to sell real stuff -- clothes, toys, computers, whatever. That's because Jnana is designed to hook into real e-commerce sites like Amazon, Shopping.com and Ebay. All you have to do is meet a fairly low bar of minimum sales a month and give him 2% off all purchases.
I remain unconvinced that we are at a moment where many people are ready to purchase real world goods in virtual worlds. I think we'll get there, but I think we're still a few years out. Lex has been working on this system for more than 10 years, so I guess he's prepared to wait.