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Virtual Worlds 2008 NYC comments

April 11, 2008

These last two entries are pieces I wrote for SL Entrepreneur 


Friday April 4th, 2008 – 11:00pm
“Tired and on a train from NYC to Boston”

Are virtual worlds actually useful?

“During the early phases of any new product comes the questions ‘Why
should we adopt this? How can we benefit from it?’ Virtual
worlds are certainly cool and interesting early adopters demonstrate a lot of passion for them, but is their passion justifiable?

The best evidence for the frustrations of the non-passionate early
adopters and development firms emerged from a Fidelity Investment representative when she asked, ‘You have given us reasons why it is a great
tool, but no true value-add definitions and case studies. How do those of us
that believe in the product go back and explain it to our superiors? Can you provide us with this information?’ This question was met with
many nods from the standing room-only conference room.

(NOTE: Fidelity has had a private Second Life location for two years and has been experimenting with the collaborative nature of
virtual worlds.)

The fact is that there are no case studies available
as reference material, no way to show results over time, as there has not
been much time since the technology first became available. This leaves us
with educated speculation. For example, it is a commonly use argument that
the technology can save travel money, hotel expenses and it’s obviously “green” friendly. However, so are other meeting tools already well
established in the 2D world. So we need more pieces to this puzzle–areas
where the technology can enhance functionality and add new value. We need hard developments that assist with collective creativity and organizational innovation potential.

If we all go with the assumption that virtual worlds are valid in that they are visually engaging and can thus increase the attention
spans of participants, then we find the base
line needed to build a valid case for the value a virtual world can
bring to a company. The fact that 80% of people on conference
phone calls or 2D web meetings are, in fact, multi-tasking and not
participating, has significant impact here as well. The loss with these distracted multi-taskers equals lost potential and time. The value of the virtual world begins to be
seen a bit more clearly.

Cisco had a great presence there and offered a couch seating area with coffee for those with cramping legs and caffeine addictions.

(Cisco had a great presence and they offered a couch seating area with coffee for those with cramping legs and caffeine addictions.)


Virtual worlds have the ability to engage participants at a much
higher level than other conference tools in existence today (it is all about immersion after all). However, they lack the necessary tools to make them
business friendly. Perhaps a better way to look at this scenario is to recognize that virtual worlds are
not as advanced as their 2D cousins advanced tool kits. This leads
us to the obvious question and next step of integration: leveraging both
tool sets to create a product that enhances end user experience and that
collects necessary information like voice and text logs
of meetings, shared documents, and collective ideas. Once these
features are integrated, we can add the layer of social network elements
that distribute the collective ideas to others within the
organization. It’s in these modes that the true power of the medium comes to fruition.

Panels of virtual world makers and their clients riddled the show with their products and stories.

(Panels of virtual world makers and their clients riddled the show with their products and stories.)

We have yet to quantify all of these things and provide a roadmap for
others to follow, but we are getting closer. The distant image is gaining clarity daily. Significant progress is happening with firms like IBM, Rivers Run Red, and the myriad of virtual world’s providers and developers. These tools will gain strength, case studies
will be made, and value will be added. Perhaps the most profound
evidence of this is in a complex data command center presented by IBM. Located on a private Second Life sim, the display tracked real world data and
displayed it in a manner shockingly simple to understand.
The tool identifies data bottlenecks or faulty servers and solves these troublesome issues using the virtual command center, increasing response time and making distance irrelevant. The best part is that the command center has a
certain Star Wars feel to it, making for a very cool and enjoyable work environment.

Virtual Worlds Conference 2008 streamed live into Second Life












Tools, immersion, integration, collaboration, enhanced offerings, and
collective innovation all combined can be extremely valuable to
an organization. Yes, this medium has great potential and we have yet to
see where it can really take us.”

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