Lets be clear, I can't see an alternate currency to be viable until the USD is in trouble, something that I have written I believe won't happen until 2015-2017, probably 2017.
I have written what is needed is a financial system overhaul that has hit most industries by technology advancements. Bitcoin is an initial attempt at this, and Amazon has put its toe in the water.
Now we have Google Ventures backing OpenCoin, the firm behind Ripple. OpenCoin is meant to be a transparent exchange for things like BitCoin or Ripple.
Transparent is good, it is a key tennant in my view of a new currency.
The level of investment is 5 to 15 million for different aspects of the new virtual currency. I call this as a groundbreaking event making this topic legitimate.