Washing away cave paintings – Live

This week sees me on the road for two presentations of Washing Away Cave Paintings.
The first is tonight for a joint BCS/IET branch meeting in Swindon to IT professional and Engineers.
The second is on Thursday on London at Workplace Trends. (Somewhere I spoke last year, so hopefully I don’t cover too much of the same ground). This time the audience are property and real estate managers for business.
The same presentation, and with a slight addition from the original one back in march at the Derry Awakening Creative Entrepreneurship. The addition being a picture of presenting the same presentation in Second Life is a different way and a Kzero chart.

(Not to self really must do a voiceover for this one day!)
The message fits people, as much as the specifics of a job role or area of interest. I think the diversity of audiences and the positive feedback from them (so far) shows that this still has a way to go.
It is not just about virtual worlds, nor about the tech to operate with them. We are all experiencing a change to work and social life where the tech is a conduit. Whilst it has fashions, trends and quirks we are very much more connected to a more diverse set of people than at any time in human history.

Virtual goods for marketing engagement

As I blogged on I am very much looking forward to the driving fest that is Forza Motorsport 3 (Xbox 360) this month. However I was just struck by how interesting and experimental some of the marketing in and around the game is. Forza is not just about driving but about the cars as content. User generated paintwork and art on the cars are tradeable as are specific tuning setups. The car is the container for the content. Many games recently have allowed early downloadable pieces of content custom to a particular provider or pre-ordering allowing you access. This particular example is a twist on that. (I am not saying its a first, but its certainly not the norm)
So the offer is that if you go to a blog article and comment by joining in on the “What are your top ten driving songs” you get to receive this Zune branded Audi when the game is released.
Zune Audi
So we have a marketing stream that is engaging us to join in on a blog, but talking about music as it relates to cars, and is “sponsored” by Zune the Microsoft music player. On receiving the car we then have a Zune advert, that is in fact limited edition, that we may choose to use in online races. This being an example of owning the 3d content, but being able to atleast show and use it with other people who don’t own it. Also the songs will start to form driving playlists on the Zune marketplace.
In exchange for being interested and sharing, we get to feel engaged yet also become the advertiser for the Zune. It does not leave me feeling exploited or sold too, its a great pattern, and now I am blogging about it. UPDATE: I forgot to mention the irony or otherwise that I opened my iTunes when compiling my list of top ten favourite driving tunes for the competition entry.
The article if you want to join in and have an Xbox Live Gold account is here

Artists, Creators, Copiers, Thieves, Supporters, Evangelists…

The last few days have seen some bluster created by Lily Allen in a very similar way to Metallica back in the early days of P2P file sharing. I was interested to see this sensible and well executed response to some of the arguments.

It is one of those subject that we see time and time again. It is generally regarded as a binary decision. You either do things and get paid for them or you do things and people steal them. This is an emotive subject in virtual worlds too not just the music business.
I do not condone theft, but I think that theft or sharp practice works both ways. A creator of something can be profiteering or milking a product for all its worth. There is a balance to be had here.
If I look at my own business here at Feeding Edge, there are things I do that are done for different forms of payment, or for things as loss leaders, I put things out there specifically for people to copy, a thought or an idea. That is because I am not motivated by high end greed, that is the corporate mentality that has caused the world so many problems the last few years. At the same time, of course, there are bills to pay and lives to live.
Finding that middle ground, being able to use some peoples things giving them appropriate credit (either financial or opening them up to audiences) needs to happen across all industry. Those that only take whether they are the apparent bad guys who copy and steal content, or those that take because they are being unreasonable in pricing and usage of their “product” are just as bad as one another.
If something really is of value, someone somewhere will have honour enough to pay in all sorts of ways. The music industry should not look on people are resources to tax. It is precisely because of passionate evangelists for emerging bands, products, ideas etc that freely distribute ideas and content that those become marketable and “successful”.
There is no easy answer on how to transition from that free thinking to a product/consumer mentality and it may be that old thinking clashing with the opportunities afforded by mass communication has yet to evolve.
If you like things, help the people that build them. Support them, talk about them, pay them if you can (me included).

Explaining Second Life inside and out

This week I had the pleasure of driving to the NEC in birmingham and presenting the a body of people attending the Events UK trade show. The presentation was quite last minute, I was offered the chance to fill in for Linden Lab/Second Life.
The show came in two parts. The first was presenting at the NEC live, the second was doing the same presentation in Second Life so that there could be a compare and contrast.
The show featured myself, Justin Bovington(Rivers Run Red) and Kevin Aires(GPJ) with moderation by Adam Coulter for the Institute of Travel and Meetings(ITM)
The NEC version was an interesting stage open and in the corner of Hall 8. The other corner past all the trade stands was a battle of the bands expo. This made for some interesting competing sounds for us and the delegates. I was accompanied by a Michael Jackson tribute and Kevin was battling against a version of the Kings of Leon Sex on Fire. Justin had some guitars to compete with though it may have been an original tune.
This was of course out of anyone control in the hustle and bustle of a trade conference. It does of course highlight a massive benefit of a virtual environment where you can make sure that you only get the distractions you want, passers by etc. So it became part of the conversation when we did the SL rerun of it all.
You cannot get away from the irony of an audience question “So what are the measurable benefits of business meetings in a virtual world”, and having to ask them to speak up because the guitars drowned out the question 🙂
In world was interesting too, as clearly doing a pitch about SL in SL does not really need the powerpoints. For Justin he was really showing the Immersive Workspaces off by us all being in there, and for Kevin, as he was talking about alternatives and different ways of getting online interaction again we were already in there.
We were using streaming media for the slides, as we all know this is to stop uploading and giving away textures to Second Life for a ppt, to help show there is a secure way to share visuals. However as we all know some people have problems, the play button, the quicktime install etc. So I had some IM’s saying a few people could not see the slides. Handily I had my rezzable clothing presentation and used that to both illustrate the point was on, but also to illustrate the dynamic nature and benefits of being in a virtual world such as Second Life.
I think both shows went very well, reenforcing the fact that this is not going away, there are challenges, but also huge advantages and interesting tradeoffs.
The presentation I used is below. Some of the slides are really just the basics, a vehicle to explain what this is all about people and immersion and engagement with one another and with information.

As I was writing this post I also went over and commented on the great infoworld piece pointing out “19 Century thinking wont cut it in Second Life”
I have pasted my comment here too to avoid repeating myself too much 🙂
“I have been helping enterprises and individuals alike get used to the changes and ways of working online for a long while. As a metaverse evangelist I spend time with anyone who needs hear why, or what, virtual worlds are and what context they can be used in. Due to the visual nature of the environments people often have to go through the stages of exploration that start with “can I do exactly what I do at the moment in here?”. The classic being, if we have a serious business meeting can I show powerpoint? Once you get people into the environment it is much easier to show that there really is no need to restrict yourself to one screen or one room layout. We use ppt in real meetings because we only have one projector and one screen, we cant alter the size or mood of a room or environment. So locking into this area of mirror world thinking is really missing the point and benefits of a dynamic evolving space that can be used to explore the data or subject of any gathering. There is also an assumption that because we are dealing with a technology that in some way this is just one thing, one way of working or engaging. in reality it is a vessel for people and the things people need to communicate. It is the web, but with people live in it too. Hence I am never surprised at any objections that people throw at the technology, but really is is that they are being challenged to work with people in a richer way. You are not hiding behind a mass email you are in the place with the people who need to hear what you have to say. When people attempt to classify any virtual world but focus on one thing they dont like about a particular one it really is like saying they don’t like all literature because some people write historical dramas and they don’t like historical dramas. Many of us in the industry are quite used to these potential misdirected objections and fears (though they are valid if people have them). “I don’t have time to contribute to x, to blog, to twitter to go into a virtual world” – I usually ask what they do spend time doing, wasted travel time, responding to CC emails, waiting for teleconference calls to start rather than being more efficient. “I am not a gamer” – Well its not about games, it can be but its not games. You can send something playful in an email as much as a serious statement, you dont regard email as a game. “People lie and cheat and misrepresent” – Some do yes, but they do that in the office and con men convince people via all sorts of means. Again this is just a medium, a place for things to happen. “There is sex there” – Yes there is, it is the internet, you do not choose to not have a company website just because other people use the web for other means. The list goes on, but the benefits of the degree of engagement that you can have, not to replace face to face, but to enhance your online interactions when you cant move your carbon atoms around the planet are undeniable. You don’t have to use all the tools all the time either, this is not an either or. For me the greatest benefit to a virtual world gathering is memory of where it happened and who was there. As with all memory aids keying into a space and place gives a common context. Which is easier to reference when following up “In the course of the teleconference held on the 9th September at 2:45 pm you mentioned a new product development” or “You know when we were sitting on the park bench in Dublin last week and you mentioned..” or “We were just coming up to the 9th hole at the golf course and..” Space and relative context to one another is important to human communication, social and business, and yes business and social can mix and do already very nicely.”

Heading for the NEC Birmingham

I have just been asked to present on the subject of Second Life and what it is all about at this event next week (23rd, and on the 24th in Second Life itself). I don’t think this is the right venue for all of my washing away cave paintings pitch but one that needs more of the whats this all about then style that I have of course done a fair few times :).
The event is for the Institute of Travel and Meetings so it is a great audience to help along the path with a bit of evangelism.
I am sharing the card with two well known names. The first being Justin Bovington from Rivers Run Red and the other my fellow ex IBMer Kevin Aires now of George P Johnson.

Augmented Reality API – Build your own future, pixels or atoms

Thanks to @abc3d for tweeting this link on ReadWriteWeb for the Wikitude Android Augmented Reality open API

One thing to not forget in all this is that whilst we can augmented physical locations with information we can also augment virtual locations in the same way. So not only are the virtual worlds visual databases and user created content wikis that can be used to provide information out to the real world, they are also clients that can receive augmented data from multiple locations. The mobile phone magic window application clearly has some future, but there is so much more we can do too 🙂 Don’t forget we can also augment our reality by creating physical instances of things with rapid fabrication and 3d printers too.
Wash away those cave paintings people.

I will talk and Hollywood will Listen

There is a great article in the LA Times I saw Twittered more than once today about the coming batch if Game/Virtual World related movies about to entertain/annoy/discredit or legitimise the sort of things we are all up to.

, originally uploaded by OfficialAvatarMovie.

Avatar obviously sounds like one that fits the current avatar and islands models, though of course it really looks like it is not about virtual avatars as much as about mind and body sharing. This of course fits with the fact that Avatar (or a derivative) is related to a more supernatural/religious use of an incarnation. So yes we have geeked out and assumed it only means a digital representation, but language is fluid.
I am sure these films will be entertaining, but we may have next generation of the “hey I know this operating system… tap tap tap” “logoff now!!!” etc… which I suppose we will just have to pretend isn’t happening 🙂
Movies, TV and general entertainment culture do start to bring a mass acceptance even if the movies are exploring the potential darkside and off the rails side of social and technology innovation.
I have heard (and probably used myself) the example of Minority Report style interfaces when talking about AR and gesture based interfaces. It is that that I think most people remember and lock onto more so that the serious implications of judging someone based on a precognition of what crime they might commit.
That’t not to say we don’t have to keep a watchful eye on all the misuse of tech, ID cards, CCTV, spying, hacking, DNA databases but in general I find it better to focus on the positive uses and we will evolve ourselves around the power mad control freaks.
I am not sure any Hollywood script writers/film makers need a 42 year old brit to play an ex-corporate metaverse evangelist with an idealistic streak for the common good of people interacting and making work and life more interesting. However if they do, just tweet me 🙂

Browsers, plugins and virtual world steps in the right direction

We have great conversations in the virtual world industry about mass adoption of virtual worlds and how that might happen. Usually all the barriers to adoption are human not technical. Social resistance of world x or practice y or risk z within a particular business or social community. Some of this is based on fear or on thinking there will be a lack of control. However in all this is the great saviour of mass adoption. “Oh thats OK it works in a browser, no special hardware/software/IT Policy/training/implementation… etc is going to be needed so lets just adopt it.”.
That of course is a fallacy, but none the less I will take adoption trigger wherever I can and the more avenues to enagage with a virtual world the better. Of course Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Youtube etc all run in a browser and require little effort to access them, but still those scared of a revolution in communication will want to block them just in case people waste time on them.
That said there have been some very interesting developments the past few weeks with browser integration and virtual worlds.
Second Life announced and let out its Media Plugin framework into the wild (and a much improved website for us residents too). For those who don’t get involved in the details at the moment Second Life is able to do various things with content from outside of the virtual world. 1. Play a quicktime movie on a surface using the quicktime installed on your computer (or stream audio) 2. Place a read only version of a webpage on a surface, 3. Make requests for data out into the ether that is the internet and respond to that data (That was how Wimbledon worked).
The new plugin architecture lets that principle of using quicktime become open to people that want to write new plugins that we can then all take advantage of and use accordingly. Hence we have seen demos of remote terminal with VNC already crop up.
It is interesting that this stops the Second Life client being an extra client on the desktop and starts to make it actually a Browser that does streaming 3D as well. Web browsers really are just collection of plugins that do various things, the most used plugin for graphics tends to be Flash, but as you will have noticed this is not a download free plugin anymore as constant updates are required.
As we all become more literate with updating plugins ( or plugin providers become more more lazy with permanent updates), and as plugins get validated or certified by more IT departments and virus checkers then the always on nature of the web means a plugin is not the issue it once was.
This video from AimeeTrescothick uses the test client for a plugin (rather than a deployed one) but it shows using VNC to remote access into other machines. An example that anything can be wrapped in a plugin and delivered onto a surface in Second Life.

All the example we are seeing tend to be flat, but with a little bit of work and thought we can texture any surface with any data and this may act as a way to bring content rendered on another platform in world at least for viewing and with some interaction without actually copying assets from one place to another and causing copyright issues. I demonstrated this with a live rendered video avatar placed onto a sphere back in March 2008. The aim being to show that even with simple video replace you can get deliver content across worlds live.
The other interesting report was that of the the 3Di opensim viewer in a browser. This time a plugin to a web browser to enable access to the virtual environment side by side with web content. This was covered on New World Notes, and is well worth an investigative look.
A whole host of plugins already exist (and more on the way) for browser ultra rich content, Unity3d, Torque3d, Flash.
Of course Web.alive, Metaplace, ProtonMedia, Forterra, Qwaq, Vastpark, and vanilla Opensim all provide various degrees of this too, some have plugins, some are plugins but the key is nothing is isolated. These are not supposed to be locked away structured game experiences, they provide live integration between people, experiences and data when they physically cant be together in a real space.
So we have an increasing number of technical implementations to show information, some of it 3d, in web browsers, in custom clients even on handhelds. We have network connectivity to allow live interactions between people in those environments. Clearly the more ways to access and interact the more likely people are to just do that.
So just as we have seen the open letter to your boss, and an open letter to your metaverse evangelist we need a very simple open letter to everyone.
Don’t be scared, it will be alright, you can benefit from this revolution.

web.alive it’s looking good to me.

epredalive2In exploring various virtual worlds it is always good when you are able to try some of your own content and interact with a space. My friends at Nortel let me use some space in web.alive to experience what the basic building blocks can be within the space.

Many of you will have visited the eLounge the Lenovo Thinkpad customer facing environment, which is very effective indeed. Remember Web.Alive is a web browser plugin powered by unreal.

I should add this little image was from me also experimenting with vmware and running NT on my MBP.

The key for me was that whilst logged in to this web plugin I was simply able to right click upload my Washing Away Cave Paintings pitch and there it was. Of course this sort of interaction is something that is key to many enterprise virtual worlds. They key here though is the web plugin nature of the client.

There are many other types of objects and surface behaviours but everyone always wants to see ppt working 🙂

Some other interestingly useful features are things like sound/voice proof offices. A particular feature I like as it was the glass cube offices that you could see a meeting occur but not hear it that I thought were important in the very old icelandic SmartVR system that I got to evaluate back around 2000. The dynamics of location, seeing who was gathering but not being party to it is a an important part of many offices. It is a degree of organizational and political transparency, but still keeping the conversations as “secret” as they need to be.

When you also see some of the things the guys have in the pipeline I think many of you will be very impressed as I was. That is there’s to unveil though.

Also if you want to visit a public web.alive instance that is not elounge Mellanium have a build of a furnace. It is a demonstration of an engineering visualization. A handy hint if you want to see you avatar (3rd person) hit v or scroll wheel out. I quite like seeing my avatar in these environments yet prefer first person in games and driving sims for some reason.

I hope there will be more to come on the who, what, where and why I was noodling around in web.alive, so watch this space. That sounds like my Second Life post from 2006 that kicked this all off 😉