Being dynamic in virtual worlds is a strength and a weakness

Second Life and Opensim alike share a particular attribute that is not quite as common to many of the other virtual worlds and games platforms. That attribute (well known to anyone who has been in and looked around) is a completely dynamic and potentially ever changing environment. Creating and moving things on the fly either as a user or through programs and scripts means that any space or event can change almost instantly. It is this attribute which means that sometimes you have to wait a little while for new things, like textures or new shapes to start to appear when the world changes around you.
There is a constant debate between this flexibility and the need to keep things locked down, how much dynamic streaming should something do versus highly detailed, preinstalled graphics.
Whilst that debate rages, and bandwidth improves, or we have hybrid video streaming and broadcast services to get around some of the problems we should not forget that whilst in games pop-up (a rendering engine not managing to raw things as fast as you want to see them) can be distracting, yet in a virtual world like second life watching something rezzed from scripts can be fascinating in its own right.
This is a video of one of the many building designers, rather than leave static buildings lying around the vendor boxes let you see dynamically created versions of the building you wish to purchase. In this case these buildings are not that expensive US$20 in some cases less. So you try before you buy, even show other people. Then pay the designer for their work and take a copy of the building with you to your own place.
This examples is on Creations Estate in Second Life one I just arrived at serendipitously.

I still like watching buildings rezz from boxes, it reminds me of the first clubhouse we had on Hursley back in 06.
Remember if you want to Rez you own houses and places you can always come and join Hursley and rent a plot or two.
There is a direct link here and IQ is next door if you are interested in a much larger half sim plot

Second Life Enterprise – A good addition to the mix

Yesterday the enterprise 2.0 conference saw the official release and announcements relating to Second Life Enterprise and of course featuring some preferred content in the form of Rivers Run Red’s Immersive Workspace and more to come via the Work Marketplace. It is interesting to see this happen both at something like an enterprise 2.0 conference and focussed as a packaged product in the way it is.
Back in April 2006 thru to Dec 2006 (which seems a very long while ago now) we said to one another as we (those early eightbars) realised that there was a huge scope for internal corporate communication…. wouldn’t this be great behind our firewall?
By September 2006 (after the first Wimbledon in Second Life) the US based CIO office had realised the potential and a few of us from places not just in the US ended up on that growing project to understand SL and all the other platforms and their implications to an internal corporate audience. This also started to lead to the more commercial based business unit forming, which interestingly is now part of the CIO office according the communications out of IBM.
This journey and the things that happened on the way (good and bad) all form part of the story I share with people in various ways including the in progress book on the subject.
Linden Lab focussing on enterprise and producing a product, however it is priced and packaged is an important further catalyst to this industry, one that those of us in IBM, Cisco, Sun etc. started to generate corporate and public interest in through our patronage. However this is now happening (unlike in 2006) in an era that has very many more potential direct competitors. many have been there for a while but will now be dropping into even more invitation to tender conversations, Proton Media, Forterra Olive, Teleplace, web.alive…. Equally there will be an increasing drive in take up of the hosted and self hosting services based on Opensim (SecondPlaces, ReactionGrid, Rezzable and SimHost ). Other platforms and standards such as Vastpark, or Wonderland for those who want to still explore and drive forward and develop things for themselves and get a step up on the packages. Services such as Venuegen, specialized in providing a particular quick access service also start to take a share of the market.
It is of course a huge market, business/enterprise communication relates to every employee in every company that has any form of electronic or remote communication. Like email, web and increasingly instant messaging and voip and social media in general it is essential business addresses the communication gaps we have generated. All these options may be confusing, but just pick one and get on with it!
I also still expect an actual games company to realize that their middleware and massive scaling and runtime abilities can be applied to a spin off market. So rather that enterprise business trying to figure out how to use games, games will figure out how to use enterprise business. With some of the developments this week too such as Unity3d becoming free to develop with and also Unreal 3 doing the same to some extent the future looks very rosy and very interesting.
However….. remember that the problems and challenges are not wholly technical. We are dealing here with social and cultural change. Something else I have experienced both the good and bad of and happy to share if you need to talk about the implications to your business, industry or life.

Blink and you miss the future of sports broadcasting.

On the last Formula 1 race of the season (well done Jenson Button for becoming world champ the race before) not only was the coverage by the BBC brilliant, if nothing else for the fact that we had no adverts destroying the action and we had the return of “the Chain” as a them tune, but there was a little hint at the future of sports broadcasting.
This example may have come from the F1 company feed, or been part of the upgrade in racing brought by the Abu Dhabi circuit but it was the sort of thing we need to see more of.
The live video (replay) was blended into a rendered 3d model so that camera angles and analysis could be made after the event.

This is of course a little after the event and probably done manually in the tv suite, but as we did with Wimbledon and Second Life way back it is possible to rebuild live elements from data and allow viewers their own perspective on the action.
I hope the Olympics 2012 people were watching!

Art, U2inSL and experiences in Second Life

My feeds today led me to look at a brilliant YouTube video that is over on New World Notes called Impressions by Willow Caldera. This video is wonderfully shot and shows a the very creative and expressive side of Second Life. It acts as a reminder (probably to those of us who preach about “business use” or who are starting to finally grok it all that there is much much more to all this than a bit of powerpoint and some business dressed avatars. I would recommend popping over to NWN and taking a look.
In following the links I saw this video too on the same channel about the U2inSL Warchild benefit gig.

U2 are back in the news again for using Youtube themselves (as opposed to this U2inSL who are a tribute act). However I still always manage to get U2inSL into any explanation of what this is all about.
There are several reasons for this.
1. Most people know who U2 are they are both part of the establishment and known innovators.
2. People listen to music all the time on the Radio, Ipods etc.
3. Bono is particularly known for charity work too.
Each of those have a way to reach people who don’t yet understand why we are all harping on about virtual worlds. Love or hate U2 it acts as personal conversation rather than a business one.
What happens at the concerts (as you can see from the video) is effectively a tribute act puppet show/impersonation. Yet it also has a crowd of people willing to watch listen and feel part of it. They are all passionate U2 fans, and they have gathered together to raise some real money for charity by collectively listening to their favourite tunes together.
Underlying all that we of course end up with copyright and image rights conversations, but in the case of U2inSL this really is a passionate fan base enjoying feel connected rather than someone making fake gucci bags for a quick buck.
As many of us keep pointing out, engaging and supporting these passionate fans whether you are a band, an author, a manufacturer of widgets is the key to the world today. Where those people happen to be and the way they are choosing to interact with one another is where you need to be joining in. Not a huge capital investment, not masses of PR and spin but just good old fashioned human to human conversation. Twitter, SL, Facebook…. whatever comes next, you just have to be there.

Thankyou to the audience at Smarter Technology

On tuesday night I was invited to pop along in Second Life to a Smarter Technology (sponsored by IBM ironically). Jon and Rissa kindly asked me to show and tell on the various elements of presenting in Second Life that I stumbled upon when preparing for the conference in Derry earlier in the year.
I basically had a pop at all the single screen powerpoints that we end up doing in world, just replicating what we do in offices. The space and dynamic nature of virtual worlds means we can do so much more. Part of what I do is wear the presentation elements, this is of course a hack around not being able to rez, but it works and has some nice side effects.
I used most of the flavours of the pitch that I wrote about here and yes we did get onto 3d printing. So whilst the presentation was about presentation styles I also tried to inject elements of the content in aswell so it was not overly meta.
I got Jon to set up my first page on the big screen, then also to break the build with a long wide collection of slide similar to the ones that can be seen on IQ which is a presentation trick people use to show the entire pitch and move along it (which is well on the way to breaking the PPT metaphor)
Getting ready for the show
I had also built some examples of the quest for 2d whiteboarding (which we still need) but how that can be done in a different way in these environments, we have dynamic creation, we have 3d immersion why stick to 2d?
chalk and talk
chalk and talk 2.0
(These shots were from when I popped along to check the space out so I did not grief people too much)
Still the favourite was the giant hands though I think.
Ian Hughes, CEO of Feeding Edge, Ltd @ Smarter Technology in ... on Twitpic
Photo by Ishkahbibel
So a huge thankyou to all who tuned in or attended. The discussions and questions we great. It was mixed mode in that text flew past and I answered mostly by voice, something that still takes some getting used to. However the sheer amount of text activity meant I knew everyone was there 🙂
I know right at the end we descended into Mac/Iphone/Xbox/Windows 7 discussions but its kind of like the parrot sketch for Monty Python its part of a gathering to discuss such things.
If anybody missed an answer to a question they asked, or I missed the question altogether in the live flow then please feel free to ping me inworld, or comment here or twitter or….. I am not hard to find 🙂
IQ and Hursley are still there in world, there are a few plots left to rent on Hursley and the half a sim on IQ is also available though it has a furrie colony borrowing it at the moment let me know if you need some SL space.

Sculpty fingers – Crossing worlds – Moving data

I just bumped into the excellent iphone application called Sculptmaster 3d by Volutopia it lets you build and manipulate a 3d model using touch and some simple tools. You can then take that model and export it as an OBJ file via email or just snapshot it.
It produces very organic results, it feels like modelling with clay in many respects. The key for me is that is is using a different interface, in this case the iphone. This makes it very accessible and available to people who want to just have a quick go.
IPhone sculpture
Given what I was up to yesterday I had to try and export it and upload it to 3dvia, which of course works fine.
Once it is there in 3dvia it is shareable via the 3dvia mobile app, just search for handmade by touch as the model name.
Again I know this is not live augmented reality but I added the sculpture to my garden.
In situ
That geotagged photo is then actually appearing in the live Flickr Layer in Layar so its another wheel within a wheel.
This is interoperability. Data and presence of that data is able to flow, people allowing import and export of user generated content, either live, or in more old fashioned batch means that we can combine applications and try ideas out instantly.
This sculpture could of course now be manufactured and created on a 3d printer, the data pattern could be sold, licenced adapted, dropped into other virtual environments. The loop is complete.

3dVIA on the iphone

This video (thanks to @andysc for tweeting it) shows the 3dvia iphone browser for models in action, and providing a degree of augmented reality. The ability to view and examine3d objects on with the touch interface of the iphone is the important part. The elements of superimposing on a static photo is really AR lite. At the end the piece that is thrown is as a joke is really something that is happening with rapid fabrication.
So now someone needs to combine the realtime AR elements of video with the excellent modelling renditions from 3dvia. Hang on, I have an iphone now and I am a registered developer. Hmmm…. to the lab.

Here is a car in the palm of my hand.

Explorers, Anchors and Historians – Who is the trouble maker?

Whilst out cycling and dealing with a rather annoying puncture on the cliff top overlooking the Solent I was struck by the description of a concept that I needed to think about some more and then share. The solent has often been the gateway to some great exploration, it has some significant history around Portsmouth and Southampton and it is also a safe port for many a vessel.
HMS Victory
This trinity of classification seems to apply to the adoption of new ideas, new ways of working, new products.
The Explorers go out and discover, they invent, they sing the praises of the new world. They risk a great deal, but the risk is the reward for many.
The Anchors offer a safe haven, keeping things in place, giving an explorer somewhere to launch from and return (triumphantly) to.
The Historians remember, capture keep and preserve both the good and the bad. They keep old ways of doing things alive.
We need all three, but sometimes the system goes out of balance and that can be any one of the set but the most frequent in my experience is the following.
The Explorers head out, discover and return. The Anchors worry about having to haul anchor, find ways and means of not accepting what the Explorer has found. The Historians back up the Anchors with the “this is the way we have always done it” or “it did not work last time so…”.
Generally the Explorer will battle with the Anchors to justify the expedition, but a strong Anchor just has not reason to move.
In reality the Explorer should target the Historians, showing them there are other ways of working to preserve, new exhibits and generally forget the Anchors altogether.
Why does this make sense, well if the Anchors are in control the system stops completely. The explorers wont go out and find anything, the anchors wont move on and so the historians have nothing to preserve as old. Everything will remain static and the same just as the anchor needs it.
If the Historians demand history to record, and the Explorers find new ports to anchor in and provide that change then the system works.
So, and excuse the pun, don’t let the Anchor’s drag us down.
It is not the free and fancy explorer that is the trouble maker here, nor the Historian seeking to preserve the old ways is the Anchor.
I speak as an explorer and sometime historian, which of the three are you?

You have to explore, its the wild west

All the virtual world work I do, whilst having a playful side to it is still all about business, my Second Life interactions in particular I have some very good friends but we are all in the business. We talk about making things, persuading people, and share some experiences we have had. Travel in virtual worlds also broadens the mind. Having explained in my previous post, and in the presentations this week that places like Second Life mean lots of things to lots of people and those things can coexist it was by chance I read New World Notes and saw about a roleplay sim for Deadwood. This is historical recreation, there are actually more rules than you would find in a business meeting, to ensure the immersion of character is not broken. Now I love westerns, and I really enjoyed the Deadwood series. So… I joined up.
It was interesting of course that I had to alter my look in order to enter. So the fun of shopping and choosing at least the first outfit and getting a hat to fit was taking me back to the first days in SL. However, I am still maintaining the high degree of honour and strength that one would associate with the scifi predator. i.e. don’t prey on the weak.
So, in the course of a few days I have spoken in world in at “serious” work event, jumped over to a feeding edge consulting piece of work building some very advanced training facilities, and now slipped into something that made me feel slightly nervous and gave me the sense of exploration I had nearly 4 years ago.
I literally bumped into a community leader as I arrived in Deadwood, and those initial conversations really set the tone. These role play arenas have a fascinating feel to them as once again they are more like acting than gaming. Even Eve and Wow there feels a detachment for the purposes of the game. Who knows how long I will survive or how much I can immerse myself, but I am intrigued (and unarmed I should add!).
This is of course work in some sense, in experiencing this type of use of a virtual world, and being in it, whilst at the same time being part of the industry I am soaking up anecdotes for other people to hear about.

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.”