For those of you who don’t know what the Metaverse is, I’ll post an article about that later. Briefly, SecondLife is one Metaverse, a “virtual reality-based Internet“.
As you may know, more and more big companies start to embrace SecondLife, particularly IBM.
This article at 3d-test interviews Ian Hughes, “Consulting IT Specialist, with about 16 years in IBM”, who “loves to enthuse and evangelize, and also is a part time futurologist”, about Second Life and 3D collaborative environments in general, with some insight about what enterprise wait from it :
Second Life appears to have started a wave of interest possibly because it is more like a 3d wiki and less like a 3d game. Communities exist in 3d worlds and are often centered around game concepts, clans, etc. Second Life has changed by having simple content creation tools and a real economy with a real US Linden$ exchange rate that allows exchange of currency both ways. So in many ways it’s more of a country, with a freedom to create social groups, manufacture and sell virtual goods or just be an interested observer and consumer.
You buy and customise Reebok trainers in Second Life. You then wear those trainers on your avatar. So its clothing, seen to be clothing and you develop brand affinity. In the future there is no reason not to be able to purchase the real ones. So this is the same model as a 2d website, but with more relevance in a virtual world where avatar expression is part of the culture.
Are 3D environments appropriate for collaborative work?
Yes. The entire reason 3d environments or metaverses as they are commonly known work is the presence of others. A web page is you and the page.
Awareness of others sharing that information is generally weak. In a metaverse I can attend an event, see the others at the event and they can see me. The nature of the event can change. A pure consumer experience such as a concert is enhanced by the personal appearance in the virtual world of the ‘star’ so they can react to the crowd. In a more corporate meeting we have seen that the added presence of the avatar and proximity to others helps add to the flow of a meeting. e.g. people gather a few minutes before the meeting, as in real life. Then they form into the meeting, e.g. they all sit down whilst the meeting leader stands and runs the meeting. When the meeting finishes people tend to not just leave instantly but drift away over a few minutes. During those few minutes they interact in social groups (which again are very visual as you tend to go over and stand near the people you are talking too. This is analogous to a real world meeting where conversations happen on the way out. Standard phone meetings or even video conferences tend to end in a more instant and dead way. Finally being able to point, demonstrate, direct and help people in a more human fashion leads to the ability to have ‘staff’ in your ‘shop’ so that when a customer comes in they can browse, or they can ask for help and have an enhanced shopping experience. Where the shop can be anything, virtual clothing to real world services like insurance, which is less possible in a regular website interaction.
It is not just the 3D element that requires standards. How do I move between 3D environments? How do I maintain my reputation across many different worlds? How do I scale in a virtual world? Does it make sense to have 5,000 people in a small space?
Enterprise needs scalability, robustness, security and open standards. We need to be able to integrate with any other system (which to some extent we already do). Already customers are asking about what a presence in something like Second Life will mean to them and their business. So the business requires people like us to have both the social and technical skills to consult, build, test and run either within the environment or the environment itself.
Do you think that virtual worlds like Second Life could reduce the business travels? Would doing meetings in VR be sufficient?
Now I hope that those virtual worlds won’t be filled with advertisement. Oh well, I’ll just run my destroy-ad-o-matic script !
Related article : The future of internet – the inter-virtual worlds