business


Sports communities in Second Life – A new satellite dish?

With all my comments on needing to engage with virtual worlds and the olympics and the work I have done up to now with online sports representations is it really great to find an exemplar of a community driven collect of sports enthusiasts.
One great example is the Global Online Hockey Association
Hockey SL Style
In particular it is worth taking a look a Treet.Tv coverage of a live event held there on Jan 10th
Now there is a lot of passion and effort, plus community participation that goes into this, but when you think of the global budgets of the advertiser and sponsors of world sporting events this really is not very expensive! The same applied to Wimbledon in SL, which in reality I paid for the land and a few of us volunteered our time to build.
It is the fact that people with an interest and a passion can get an awful lot done themselves. However think about how all this could be made even better with just a little attention from an interested party.
For sports social media and virtual worlds need to enagage, for virtual worlds what could be more mainstream an example than sports? Much of the take up of Satellite TV in the UK was driven by people wanting to watch soccer.
Can virtual worlds and online interaction be the new Satellite dish?

Plato, a clever bloke.

I have seen this quote by Plato flying around a lot recently. It is particularly apt and correct when trying to help people come to terms with the benefit of gameplay in all fields.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Now bear in mind we have the ability to play and interact with one another on all sorts of digital channels. Social media is about conversation of course, but it is also the social side of gaming, be that a dedicated game or people choosing achievements that mean something to their friends and playing, competing and cooperating. e.g. unusual photo competitions on flickr.
Imagine too that we are playing multiplayer games. So you get to learn more about several people in 1 hours gameplay online than several years worth of individual conversation.
The amount that we reveal about who we are online through these gaming, and in the case of virtual worlds semi-gaming experiences should not be underestimated as a powerful reason to interact. The institute of the future has a post on Avatar Maximization around how people react to us and our digital representations.
This is not really just about identity, though its clearly a subject to consider as we see on New World Notes about real life versus made up vs augmented names. It is about what happens when humans communicate in ways other than purely talking face to face.
Discovering more about motivations, styles of operating and preferences do shine through in our gameplay. Games of all sorts help put people at ease and when at ease their true self shines through. Not all games of course, in poker the aim is to not give anything away and keep that poker face. However, the method by which you control your “tell” or discover others is equally enlightening.
I suggested in my predictions that Games as Work is a way forward and it would appear that Plato agrees (sort of).
It could well be that with fantastic creative tools like Unity3d and virtual world toolkits like Opensim we will indeed see even more “gamification” as David Helgasson Unity3d CEO has suggested
That can only be a good thing for understanding our colleagues, friends and competitors.

Virtual World/Augmented Reality Olympics, World Cup?

In a report just published by EngageExpo on the future of virtual goods there is an interesting comment by Tom Hale the Chief Product Officer at Linden Lab (Of Second Life fame) that says.
“Continue to see large brands experiment with engagement based investment to maximize exposure during zeitgeist events, for example the Olympics.”

Now I am hoping that it really does get taken seriously by the organizing bodies. The ways of representing sporting events are open for massive innovation.
I wrote that here in April and here and here in 2008 on eightbar and have proved the potential with the Wimbledon work since 2006 in Second Life.
I also received an invite to a conference (via Layar) for the M-Football conference whose aim is to ensure that the 2010 world cup (soccer) acts as a catalysts for mobile applications (inluding augmented reality ones).
Now with 2 years to go it really is time for the UK in particular to wake up and start doing things. It wont be enough to throw some things into Second Life or a quick Facebook app on there 2 mins before the event.
We are all here to help and to work that direction. We can indeed make this the best Olympics ever.
Wimbledon/World Cup mashup bleak times
Back in 2006 when England went out of the World cup Yossarian and I shared the experience enhanced with Second Life as a back channel at the prototype Wimbledon. It was simple, effective and very memorable (and I had Avatared up as Sven (The coach).
Head in hands as we crashed out.
Imagine what we can all do if we actually plan this !
Apologies to any agencies working on this in earnest already. I do get the feeling we have not really started yet though.

Those muppets prove they are not muppets

This whole Disney/muppets campaign for a volunteer workforce is really interesting rich web design with user created/personalized elements. Take a look at the main experience at the end of this short video.
The viral nature of how to get people to share with one another (as I am here) is also very interesting. There have been some similar pieces of technology most notably the BBC’s psychoville which I have to admit I was caught out with whilst on holiday in May by that pesky Roo 🙂

BTW, in case you are not familiar with UK slang its became quite common to call someone a muppet if they were a bit inept. Just watch Lock Stock and two smoking Barrels.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays one and all

Merry Christmas to everyone from Feeding Edge and epredator (one and the same thing at the moment :))
It has been an amazing year and I have to say a great big thankyou for all your support. To all the people I have worked with, and for, advising, building, directing in whatever capacity. To all the people who have offered to help, mentoring, contacts and to share ideas that created new opportunities thankyou too. It feels many of us are part of one big club.
feedingedgelogo xmas
Having very much helped spark this wave of the virtual world industry via Second Life and the other platforms, going from the apparent safety of a long term corporate job to a faster moving freer thinking world of entrepreneurs in this fascinating space has been quite a blast. Virtual worlds, social media, games and augmented reality with a smidge of 3d printing thrown in for good measure offer some amazing avenues of exploration. It has of course been a huge financial challenge, not least because of having to pursue and stick to my principles and honour system. I never do anything the easy way do I! There will be more on that journey as I sort the book out over the coming months. In some ways I have been waiting on a particular process to complete one way or another but enough is enough I think. Too many people have shown an interest in the journey to this point so far and what really happened the last few years. I had some great advice that much of what I talk about is so positive and with an attitude of “come on we can do it” that it would be strange to write a book targetted at the bad an negative actions of others. I think that is right. So whilst there are some things that need to be resolved I will no doubt work into the book that positive effect of others negative actions. It will of course be as press worthy when I do 🙂
I have had some great collaboration conversations the last few weeks in particular and having just had a patent filed on an idea that has been brewing for a good few months there is an exciting business avenue to start 2010 with.
I will of course have to do a predictions post later, but this is really a merry christmas one and a great excuse to abuse my logo a bit more. I checked with my branding guidelines, and I agreed with myself that this was within those 🙂
Have a great holiday, stay safe.

Copying is not theft – Contentious Issue number 47

Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow just put this article up with links to the original plea from the animator of this movie on questioncopyright.org for someone to help re-record the soundtrack and build upon this.
It is a complex issue, one that usually polarises conversations, but I do like the way this side of the argument is put.

The words are listed as follows.

Copying is not theft.
Stealing a thing leaves one less left
Copying it makes one thing more;
that’s what copying’s for.

Copying is not theft.
If I copy yours you have it too
One for me and one for you
That’s what copies can do

If I steal your bicycle
you have to take the bus,
but if I just copy it
there’s one for each of us!

Making more of a thing,
that is what we call “copying”
Sharing ideas with everyone
That’s why copying
is
FUN!

Don’t forget games! – The Good, The Bad and The Pixely

Charlie Brooker wrote a great piece in the guardian yesterday about why he loves video games. It is still something that many people seem to close their minds too. In a way the virtual world experiences they are having will be a gateway to understanding the many forms of expression that games bring.
I just completed the story line of Modern Warfare 2 (no spoilers BTW), it got to a point at the end that I was shouting at the screen. This was because the game flows in an out of being in control and having to just watch. In all movies you sit and watch, its that simple. The story may or may not engage you. However some of the set pieces have you on the edge of you seat. It may be the Terminator dragging himself towards an incapacitated Sarah Conner, it may be a massive army charging towards an outnumbered set of heroes or Bond catching up with the bad guy in a car chase. They all require you to become engaged for it to work. When you have switched into a mode in a highly visual game where you have been solving problems and that is taken away from you (in context) the sense of drama and engagement is heightened. Cut scenes used to just be a way to show some pre-rendered visuals to set the scene, but the blurring of the cut scene narrative with the restricted interaction I thought was brilliant. (I have been playing games since the 70’s).
So as Charlie Brooker said “If you don’t play games, you’re not just missing out, you’re wilfully ignoring the most rapidly evolving creative medium in human history.”
Of course games are not just one thing, one genre, one experience. They meet many different tastes and needs. The abstract cartoon style social games of Cafe World and Farmville focussed on the daily grind (just as many MMO’s such as World of Warcraft rely on) to the now much more open ended experiences. The latter being demonstrated here with Red Dead Redemption from Rockstar Games. It’s not just the graphics, physics and code its the potential for narrative and engagement for one or more people.
See what you think.

This looks very promising – A World For Us Unity3d meeting rooms

Henri just commented on my previous blog post about Unity3d and Opensim. It would appear we have an interesting to player in the game now.
A World For Us have produced a web based virtual world meeting application using, amongst other things, Unity3d for as the engine. I had a very quick look and got a good initial guy feel. Partly this is because I know and appreciate what Unity can do. Whilst there will be lots of questions (to be answered in depth later) about whitboards, web sharing, physics and dynamic interaction etc, this just worked. Voice worked, chat worked, I did some avatar customization (no green hair though 🙁 ) I sat in a chair, I zoomed into a presentation and moved through it. Most of all it ran on my Mac! A key point about Unity is that it does not care quite so much as many of the windows based plugin’s.

Picture from A World For Us
A world for us

We have all the pieces – Unity3d, Opensim, Evolver, Smartfox

I have now had this conversation several times with people about the potential future that a mix of open source and open minded development may bring to the virtual world industry. Much of what is happening seems to be driven by some of the direction Second Life has taken or is taking, though not so much to follow it into corporate lockdown but to breakout and provide the flexibility and creativity that is needed for the next generation of virtual worlds.
In the early days of 2006 many of us said it would be great to be able to run a Second Life server, our own one under out control. That has taken a while to start to emerge, but it has emerged as an expensive product aimed at corporate IT departments. Luckily the opensource community had rallied and created the excellent Opensim. This ticks all the boxes of being able to be run locally, be run in the cloud, be provided as a service. So we have an extensible virtual world server ready to be built upon.
The other component missing was a more controllable and rich interface. Yes there is the Second Life Snowglobe open source client but the need to certify and lockdown variants to align with the product needs for Second Life means that lots of the flexibility is lost. Likewise the initial open source Linden based client was under a GPL licence which caused all sorts of development to not happen at the time it really could have done with it.
This is where Unity3d steps in I believe. It was Rob Smart who first started to show me this way back. Unity3d is a great front end, very flexible in how you build games and content for it.
This was a movie form back in September 2008, using a message from Second Life to several unity clients to create a cube. This is loose integration, telling one place something has happened and letting the other place get on with it.

Unity3d has a plugin architecture too. It runs in a browser or deploys to application platforms like mac and windows. The visuals can be made very good very quickly too. Unity3d needs a server of some sort to operate as a multiuser platform (though it does do some peer 2 peer) hence applications like Smartfox are ideal for producing Unity multiplayer and MMO style games.
However Opensim has all the other layers of things needed to maintain a virtual world. It has assets databases, chat, positional awareness, server side scripting (as does Second Life that is was originally based on of course).
So we have an extensible and easy to get hold of Unity3D client engine, and extensible and easy to get hold of Server/Persistence VW engine in Opensim. There may well be challenges in making the two understand one another but with the flexibility both sides of the equation that makes them very solvable. This is a high level view, Rob has some more detail here on the challenges. Add in some interoperation definition with Vastpark to help bind the two and make some mappings.
Throw into the mix an open minded avatar wizard such as Evolver. There we can build avatars that we know definitely can be dropped into Unity3d.
So…..I create an Evolver avatar, dropped as a resource bundle into a web deployed Unity3d client that tells the opensim server where I am in the coordinate system, and which bundle I am using. Other people with a Unity3d client see the rich detailed avatar and the shiny Unity3d environment. However we do not have to stick to that one client. Other people using a Second Life style client see the Second Life style rendering of the world?
This is already happening in some respects, the Iphone application Touch Life lets you logon to the public Second Life. In a sort of bugblatter beast of traal moment everyone can see you, but you cant see them. You navigate your avatar around the map, have full chat, inventory and economy access, but a very different view of the world to everyone else. (Of course Unity3d runs well on an Iphone too, so imagine that as an extension to Touch Life?)
Once there is an acceptance that there can be more that one view of the data, one where people without the full equipment can still see what is going on and participate things get a lot easier to consider. Whilst a gaming assumption tends to be we all need the same view at the same speed in order to be able to have balanced gameplay (lag gets you killed) in collaborative spaces, education, meetings and art galleries this is less of an issue.
As the parts of the jigsaw come together over the next year the ability to have the same experience will re-emerge.

An interesting perspective on value

The BBC breakfast programme today featured an interesting report that has been written that considers the value of people to society versus the amount they get paid. The full report can be found here on the New Economics Forum site
It will of course grab some headlines and it is qualitative in what it examines but it does look like providing a more interesting way of thinking about peoples value. We generally assume the money wins all the battles, the more you get paid the more you are contributing. In many cases people do become more philanthropic as they gather wealth, however as recent economic events have shown that is not always the case. Greed often sets in.
To quote the headlines in the report and from the BBC tv piece.
For city bankers “While collecting salaries of between £500,000 and £10 million, leading City bankers to destroy £7 of social value for every pound in value they generate.”
For hospital cleaners “We estimated, however, that for every £1 they are paid, over £10 in social value is generated.”
I am not making any judgements here but it does make you think a bit more about what you do and which value is the real value.
I relate to this as many of the projects I work on I now look for something that is more socially valuable, not just ones that pay.
If all companies and people considered this report and the social value of their contribution in general then the world would be very different place. No Mr Gecko greed is NOT good.