by Christian Scholz on May 31, 2009
The first panel at the BIZZin3D event was about the Immersive Internet.
Panelists have been Clare Rees/Linden from Linden Lab, Mirko Caser from Twinity and Dick Davies from Forterra. Moderator was Michael Schumann.
It started with some introductions, starting with Clare talking about the businees solutions from Linden Lab. This was mainly about Immersive Workspace which is created in collaboration with Rivers Run Red.
She says that we see a change in the use of virtual worlds in that more and more businesses are using virtual worlds. This is still in an early stage. Also mentioned is the SL-behind-firewall solution (Nebraske Project IIRC) and then the Immersive Workspaces ad video is shown. This is (as you probably know) aimed mostly at businesses who want to share documents also in Second Life.
Next up is Dick Davies who shows a video about Forterra’s Olive platform. This is not about the business solution as Immersive Workspaces is but it’s a simulation scenario for training personal in e.g. car accidents (similar to this).
Then Mirko Capser showed a video of Twinity, a 3D mirror world. He then explains how this is related to business as it is mostly consumer oriented. He also explains the mirror world and how maps are Google Maps (thus rebuilding the real city Berlin). Also he stresses the notion that you are your real self with real name in Twinity. As for the consumer oriented view of Twinity he explains that it’s a great way to meet potential costumers.
Now the advertising part ends and we get into the discussion.
“Where do you think the industry is positioned right now? You are working with early adopters, you maybe changed your direction (e.g. Linden Lab quite a lot). What will hapen the next 12-24 months?”
Dick Davies: Take up time of getting into virtual worlds is usually far longer than you expect. There is technological acceptance by the IT department, then there is social adoption as the next step. All this can take many years. Look at email and how managers couldn’t type so that secretaries had to do that for them. Unless a new generation was coming in email wasn’t so accepted.
Where are we: Olive platform never was in the consumer space, always in the business space. Our early adopters are usually in the areas which are security and other areas. For them the use cases is straightforward. They will also continue. So they use simulations instead of causing mayhem in a city.
For the corporate business world we are still in the email adoption phase. In 5 years maybe we see traction there.
Mirko Casper: We are serious about the consumer space. Many areas are a long way in coming. Look at mobile ads or ecommerce. We are in the very early beginning. It’s hard to say what’s gonna pickup first. In the consumer space there is already the time to experiment and test it and people are already doing that.
Also if you look at marketing spendings esp. these days more and more companies come to the conclusion that they need to look at the new markets/channels. The same might be true with newspaper publisher who ignored it for too long.
If you start smart and early and test around even in the marketing space there are enough consumers to start testing!
Clare Rees (why should companies try it out now?): We would say: Look at the benefits of collaborating/cost saving. It is about experimenting, about starting. New technologies are usually hyped by tech analysts (example Forrester). But now they are giving much more realistic advice and telling people what they need to care about when entering virtual worlds.
Businesses are starting to understand the value they might retrieve through virtual worlds.
Same was true for homepages (“Why do we need a website?”). These things will come though and she sees the same thing happening with virtual worlds.
“The specific fields we see right now emerging. If you follow the media hype and topics/agendas at various conferences you can see that there has been a shift from brand marketing to remote training, education. And in the face of the current crisis and cutting spending this might be interesting. Maybe everybody can tell about a case where cost spending happened”.
Mirko Casper: Singapore is doing brand management in there and they see virtual worlds also as a solution and thus are investing in it. They want a place for their merchants etc. to engage in a more immersive environment. They also bring their own audience to the party. Other applications are opening a new shop both in real and virtual Berlin.
Virtual worlds is more about engagement with your existing audience. Also for other applications like training or simulation: The ones who have the most pain (because e.g. simulation is costly) will be the first to test it out.
If you bring your own audience and if you are an early adopter you can start now.
Dick Davies: Two groups of customers: The first one uses the platform directly and internally. The second one creates special applications (like traffic accident simulations) and sell these to other parties.
Examples where people get direct benefit: First type of customer might use it because they want to cut travel costs. They are building it now for a big, global company.
Another example for second sort of customer is in the UK where a company wants to train motorway incident training. This is very costly in real life but easier to do in virtual worlds. Once you have built it you can also sell it to other people because everybody has motorways.
In the future everything will be built virtually before it’s actually built.
Clare Rees: A well documented case study shows a project by IBM who do a big conference purely virtual in Second Life. Usually they fly everybody to one place but last year they did it in Second Life only. They saved 4/5th of the costs of the normal conference. They also gave feedback that it was a really good experience in the virtual world, comparable to real life. IBM is also one of the few companies who right now can quantify the ROI instead of just “feeling” it.
They are seeing that type of measurement a lot. A lot of businesses are also experimenting. They might not go into that just because of the ROI but mostly for the experiment.
“There is a new quality of experience in virtual worlds. These worlds might even change organizational structures and the way companies work. How does this might look like?”
Dick Davies: A difficult question. He used to run a conference in Berlin in 1995. The takeup of these new technologies is taking longer than expected (because of social implications). The question is what the addition of a new technology to the mix of email/CMS etc. might result in.
One thing is that you feel closer to somebody inside virtual worlds although you are many miles away. This is very important to corporate customers. It’s a problem to keep distributed teams engaged. This might be a field where virtual worlds are used. Timeframe 3-5 years.
More interesting is what we are doing with virtual worlds at the moment. We mostly copy the real world. Example for difference: horseless carriage, one without a horse. We don’t know at all what the transformational results might be.
Mirko Casper (will it transform tourism?): There is always those who will travel and first want to collect information. They might stay with 2D for quite a while because information collection is much easier.
Then there are those who cannot travel there. They can nevertheless visit the place and this will broaden the experience.
In general you have lower transaction costs thanks to virtual worlds. This means that you don’t need big institutions anymore. This is what you see already today: People work from home, in distributed small teams etc.
He doesn’t know when this will happen exactly but it will happen.
Clare Rees: Mentions that she wasn’t in Amsterdam last friday at metameets but still was participating virtually. We do have offices but we are highly distributed and those teams will report via Second Life. Linden Lab uses that technology all that time. They might be a bit different to the rest but other companies might catch up.
It’s transforming working life in the medium term and will certainly trigger some business transformation over the longer term.
Question David Kaskel: Problem with Second Life might be that users cannot use their real names. How does e.g. IBM cope with that?
Clare Rees: That is something that is being looked at in the behind-the-firewall-project. Maybe you could then choose the name. It’s something that is needed for companies. There will be some changes.
Dick Davies: Most of our customers require identity. Name is only one of the identity fields. Sex and ethnicity are other fields required. Also needed for prepopulating the virtual worlds from a corporate database.
Question Markus Breuer: “In your opinion what is the biggest hurdle for adoption of virtual worlds for corporates”.
Mirko Casper: Differs between customers. E.g. firewall problems might be one thing (technical problems). Another problem is missing adoption. You first need people familiar with it. You need great showcases.
Clare Rees: There has to be a really good enterprise understanding before you can start a large scale rollout of virtual worlds across the company. This might be a chicken-and-egg-problem. E.g. you also might need headsets and those might need to be provided first.
But the more people start to use it the more adoption will come.
Question Sandra Lendorf: “Mirko, you said that you can bring in your existing community and I agree but should I bring them onto an existing platform such as Second Life or should I bring them onto a separate platform such as OpenSim, which is just him’s. If he has already an existing community is there an advantage to bring them onto an existing platform over a closed, owned platform? Why don’t you do more marketing?”
Mirko Casper: They are in beta and working very hard on what makes consumers and partners happy. They are on the way to getting it right and quite optimistic for the Singapore launch in August. Once this is finished he will put some marketing money behind it. An open platform has so much benefits, they are not open enough yet but there is a Collada interface. They believe in Open.
“Which area makes the most money? B2B, B2C, …?”
Dick Davies: Doesn’t do consumers. Internal business use might be biggest.
Mirko Casper: In 3-5 years enough money for all those use cases. In consumer space there are already businesses making profits.
Clare Rees: Linden Lab is a profitable company mainly build on consumer model. There is great potential in business opportunities though. Agrees that there is enough money/space for all areas.