Lancia gives SL the boot... were they ever in? No they just entered Second Life, with their island bootshaped like their hometurf Italy. Last week I thought I had finished blogging every car company in Second Life when I did my post on Vauxhall but saturday the Italian Fiat subsidiary opened up their island to the public. Island is a little deceiving here as their virtual showroom is quite a setup spreading 4 sims.
Lancia explains their virtual presence on the supporting website:
Lancia has created an Island in the shape of Italy, testifying to the brand’s commitment to spreading the made in Italy ethos.
The island has 5 main buildings, 5 areas where you can experience our mood. To the North East there is the Reception, the ideal spot to start with to discover the island. To the North West, there is the Multi-Theatre, the island’s nerve centre, containing the Drive In and the Conference Room. In the Drive In area special content videos are waiting for you – you will be able to see them using QuickTime Player- with international artists such as U2, Zucchero, Peter Gabriel, Queen and Beyoncé playing the main roles. They were realized for 46664, the worldwide campaign against HIV created by Nelson Mandela, and they will be broadcasted on three big screens.
Meanwhile, in the centre, there is the Showroom, the heart of the island, the place where you can discover virtual versions of Lancia’s models, but where you can also get the very latest news and information about the brand. One above
all: interesting anticipations about the long awaited launch of new Lancia Delta. Heading West, there is the Glass Bubble. Inspired by the famous glass bubble on the roof of the Lingotto factory in Turin, this is the island’s disco,
where you can dance long into the night to the rhythm of the trendiest music around.
Lastly, if you go South, you will come to the Lancia Café, where you can relax with a drink or skip over the waves in a water-scooter.
Discover the Lancia Village, a new way of seeing the world of Lancia, from a new, rather unusual point of view.
As far as automotive immersions go, it isn't too different from what their peers have done. It's the usual press center and test track, but it has something extra with the videos and water scooter stuff. As far as design goes, it is Italian design which in this case means: It is a good build. I was actually impressed by a number of things. One of the things that really caught my attention was the colorboards next to the cars in the Showroom.. Alas, they didn't function as I had hoped. The boards display in which color the car is available. It would have been nice if they had been scripted to change the color of the car in the showroom accordingly when touched.
All car companies present in Second Life can be found through the automotive label on MindBlizzard.
Linden loves Open Source
Linden Lab did react to the user comments by stating:‘we’d dearly like to open-source the servers’
Which sounds pretty hopefull, but...
‘The big problem is that in the current architecture, servers are trusted. Identity information, ownership information — all that is stored on the servers, and in a closed-source, behind-the-firewall environment, we can communicate between the servers securely. Trust, identity, connectedness — all of these are huge problems.’
However, I've already seen infrastructure designs that would make this possible. The plan is on the table, so please don't hesitate to make it happen.
Miller said Second Life in 2009 will change from one grid to multiple grids. Linden Lab said in April it plans to open-source the Second Life server. The company open-sourced the client a year ago. Next year, users will be able to run their own Second Life servers, optionally behind a firewall or temporarily, for an individual event. Residents will be able to bring the same identity with them from one private Second Life grid to another.
"Linden Lab said in April it plans to open-source the Second Life server. The company open-sourced the client a year ago. Next year, users will be able to run their own Second Life servers, optionally behind a firewall or temporarily, for an individual event. Residents will be able to bring the same identity with them from one private Second Life grid to another."
Since the late 90's I've been more or less addicted to playing Heroes of Might and Magic, one of the most succesful roleplaying games ever. Over the years it has drawn thousands of players to this genre. Now Ubisoft is finally taking HOMM to the online realms: Heroes of Might & Magic Kingdoms is expected in the first half of 2008, Here's the official preview from YouTube:
When looking at the preview I wasn't really impressed. What is primarily shows is cut out artist impressions, not the actual 3D thing. So to make up, a couple of movies on the last Heroes of Might & Magic game: HOMM V:
Trough Ogoglio Trevor Smith's twitter stream I noticed phone company Orange had organised an interesting meeting on Scalability and called it the ‘Orange Geekend’. It was a rather interesting technical update by PhD John Plevyak on scalability. The obvious thing in the future of Virtual Worlds is in cloudcomputing but Plevyak suggested some of its load will go back to the user in peer 2 peer sharing of CPU power. The meeting was interesting, yet a little out of place. It would have sutied better in a natural habitat, like Intel...
... but Intel was celebrating a nice new deal as Linden Lab purchased a nice load of new Xeon 5148 servers. Starting February 1 you can upgrade your sim from class 4 to class 5. Upside is you get better performance, downside is rentals go up from $ 195 to $ 295 monthly (US Dollars).
Residents didn't take that rise very well and reacted heavily on the Linden Blog, and dearly want Linden Lab to open the source of the servercode shortly. This will make islands a lot cheaper and will give users and companies alike better opportunities to experiment with Virtual Worlds.
Linden Lab did react to the user comments by stating:
‘we’d dearly like to open-source the servers’
Which sounds pretty hopefull, but...
‘The big problem is that in the current architecture, servers are trusted. Identity information, ownership information — all that is stored on the servers, and in a closed-source, behind-the-firewall environment, we can communicate between the servers securely. Trust, identity, connectedness — all of these are huge problems.’
However, I've already seen infrastructure designs that would make this possible. The plan is on the table, so please don't hesitate to make it happen.
(The Grid Now - Tao Takashi)
(The next Grid - Tao Takashi)
... we'll have to be patient though. I remember Linden Lab's Joe Miller stating that Second Life has no future as long as there's only one company controlling the grid. Outsourcing or Opensourcing seems to be question for Linden Lab as it is said that Linden Lab does want to open up its sourcecode --but only to a select group of companies (often mentioned names include Google and IBM).
Dutch MDC [Lost in the] Magic Forest finished developing an island on the Second Life Teen Grid for the Waag Society a little while ago. As I don't have TG clearance it took some time before I picked up this story.
The Waag Society is an organisation which started in 1994 as 'Society for old and new Media', de Waag'. Founders were Caroline Nevejan and Marleen Stikker, who is still Waag Society's director. Before, Stikker was the mayor of the Digital City, the first internet community in the Netherlands.
The Society's -soon to be called 'Waag Society'- mission was to make new media available for groups of people that have little access to computers and internet, thus increasing their quality of living. After a complete restauration of the Waag building, a small group of enthousiastic idealists began their activities in 1996.
The island in Second Life (TG) is called Self City and is an educational project to experiment with new teaching methods for pupils with special needs in the age of 12-14. It is about students which cannot function properly in a normal classroom, often through social emotional or light mental handicaps.
Dobre VanBrugh from Lost in the Magic Forest says:
"We developed a complete city on the island with a movietheatre, (fake)gambling hall, basketballcourt and a Heads Up Display (HUD) to assist the pupils in their interaction (see screenshots). The scientific findings of the new teaching method in Second Life have been gathered in this report (Dutch only): Research Report Self City"
"This is no time to go wobbly," Margaret Thatcher once famously said. That's especially pertinent advice right now. Second Life and its owner Linden Lab are going through tough times. And, nascent as the virtual world industry is, many
people confuse it with Second Life itself. To the less informed (and even to some people in our industry who should know better), Linden's current difficulties speak directly to the viability of the medium of virtual worlds.
They're wrong, of course; for those of us who work on other worlds and platforms, business has never been better."
True, Second Life has gotten more media attention than any other world and it has entered the hypecycle ahead of the flock, but I'm sure other social online worlds will start to experience this in the coming year. The more storyplay or gameplay a world has, the less affected it will be by this hype though.
"Here's some of the news that should make us all bullish on the future of our industry: according to a recent Forrester Research report, in a mere five years virtual worlds will be just as important to businesses as the Web; the ever-staid Gartner Research predicts that in four years 80% of Internet users will have avatars; and, as a sign of industry maturity, there are now many participants in each market segment of our industry--from platforms to service agencies to users of all stripes."
That's not the whole truth there Corey. Gartner has adjusted that prophesy in later researches and also, the Forrester Research report (as discussed here) also drops a few stitches.
"But it's undeniable that dark clouds have gathered over Second Life and some of the companies that have relied on it. I don't think I need to recount all the ominous stories from the last few months, but the bottom line is that many
companies and consumers are now avoiding that world. Linden Lab is going through some internal turmoil and may be on the verge of lean times itself. Even staunch Second Life cheerleader IBM has people wondering if it's hedging its bets by mocking virtual worlds (the second article)."
Except for calling ePredator a cheerleader (can someone photoshop this?) I pretty much agree. However, I don't read Corey's column as the words of a thoughtleader in the industry. While naming a few very valid points, its tone is too agitated in my humble opinion.
Electric Sheep Company COO Giff Constable jumps on the train and steps up in defence of Linden Lab (never bite the hand that feeds you):
"It is true that Linden Lab has quite a list of challenges ahead of them: general stability, performance and usability issues… they are handcuffed by early architectural decisions (physics on the server rather than the client; many artificial constraints that limit flexibility such a sim size, spatial privacy, group limits, etc; the performance hit that comes with prims; enforced last names; centralized asset server; a limited and laggy scripting system, etc). They have announced many technical improvements with great potential but which never made it into production. Linden Lab also has many strengths, some of which I laid out here, and I think they will be around for a good while yet. Their platform has weaknesses, but it has some unique selling points which cannot be dismissed."
Giff has to conclude that Corey has a point though:
"I agree with the root of Corey’s message, however, which is that the virtual worlds industry is not in crisis. There is a lot of interest out there, and many really exciting projects."
I really hope ESC's portfolio is filled to the brim, but I doubt it as they laid off 20% of their employees just before Christmas. True, the NVE industry is not in crisis, social worlds have taken on a challenge to prove themselves fit for business.
I fully agree with Corey's last lines though:
"But the medium is much larger than any one company. To use another British turn of phrase (I've been doing a lot of business in the U.K.), "Keep calm and carry on."
Today the Jewish Chronicle reported on Israel in Second Life, which has opened the doors on january 13 whereas the real Israel closes its borders. The article in the Jewish Chronicle is written for absolute n00bs, but here's a quote anyway:
"You can now visit the Holy Land without leaving home.
Rachel Fletcher logs on to an online virtual worldVisitors to the online virtual 3D world that is Second Life (SL) have long been able to attend a computerised synagogue, yeshivah, pray at the Western Wall, and wander round a Holocaust museum. But with the launch of Second Life Israel this month, the possibilities to live a virtual Jewish life have increased enormously.
Avatars — the characters users adopt when they visit SL — can now take a dip in the Dead Sea, tour the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock, get down on a Tel Aviv dancefloor, experience the brilliantly coloured
underwater observatory in Eilat, or visit Yad Vashem’s Children’s Memorial. "
It is a little cramped, but indeed Israel has immersed on one sim. As far as construction goes in Second Life, I wouldn't call it a classy build. It has some great textures, but more often than not, the textures do not really fit. Throughout the sim there are new features under construction, but lack of space causes the builders to revert to textured decorums, which is a shame I think.
I really hope this community will grow and expand its borders in Second Life and hope to see more of the ancient city of Jerusalem and other sites from the Holy Land appear.
One of the hottest tech events these days is the World Economic Forum in Davos. Through twitter I've received a lot of updates, especially through Robert Scobleizer's stream. Seems like things get pretty seesmic over there.
One of the interesting points from a Second Life point of view was Adam Pasick of Reuters' interview with Philip Rosedale, CEO of Linden Labs. The interview touched some interesting topics and even though Philip tried his best to stay as political as possible, some to the point questions resulted in some interesting answers (as summarized by Digado)
…HTML in Second Life
“Maybe, quite possibly in the next couple of months. Not on the main grid but in a close to ‘finished’ state so…. May 2008. Definitely.”
…People leaving second Life soon after Signing Up
On the question whether Philip regrets seeing so many people leave Second Life close after they signed up he told Adam he did. He tells us he would have loved to step in a time machine, go back, and change things before they left. But he also says the problem was or is twofold. One is obviously the software, Linden Labs ‘part of the deal’ - and then there is the community, responsible for the content of Second Life. The content of Second Life wasn’t appealing enough to these people either to keep them from leaving, but he is confident this will change in the future as he talks about media the media coverage of 2006.
…the media hype
Philip goes on to say the media has created a ‘too pretty picture’ - thats why many people came into Second Life to early, and left when they were faced with disappointment. Second Life has not been able to live up to the High expectations but Philip was confident these people will return once they find Second Life offers more applications, and is able to meet at least some of these users in their expectations. He continues to say we will see more Hype Cycles because of this every 12 to 18 months for the next 5 years.
Sounds like Prokofy has been calling in, and Philip says: I don’t care. Well spoken Philip.
Technical rights management is not too difficult, he claims it is within the range of Linden Labs capabilities at the moment. What will take time is to implement these rules and get them right. He wants to make certain he doesn’t underestimate the issue of ‘Content Right Control’ and is well aware Linden Labs is on an experimental level here.
The complete interview can be found on Reuters and is well worth a listen.
A number of papers have been published recently with findings from the SLCC 07 conference. One of these papers is prepared by Rik Panganiban and is called Best Practices for Non-profits in Second Life.
This report is a preliminary examination of some of the best practices of non-profits active in Second Life, inspired by a series of discussions that took place during the “nonprofit track” at the Second Life Community Convention in August 2007 in Chicago. This past year Second Life has become a testing ground for exploring the possibilities of using virtual worlds for the social good. Given the fairly recent entry of many non-profits into Second Life – many
non-profit offices are under one year old – these findings and recommendations are very much subject to revision. Indeed, we consider this just the beginning of a much longer conversation about what is the role of civil society,
philanthropy, and the public sector writ large in the virtual world.
Outrage recently erupted among Second Life users, particularly those involved in the art scene, regarding the fact that artist Richard Minsky (Second Life’s ‘ArtWorld Market’) has registered the trademark “SLART” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. (See Vint Falken and Massively, among others.)
Not only has Minsky registered the mark (for which a notice of allowance recently issued) but he has also allegedly been speaking with people who use the terms “SLART,” “slart,” and “SLart” to refer to art in Second Life in order to accuse them of trademark infringement and threaten them with legal action. Minsky is using the SLART trademark in-world and in connection with his magazine — a publication concerning virtual art, particularly art in Second Life. His trademark registration covers the publication of various types of works, art exhibitions, and educational programs concerning art.
Read full article here at Virtually Blind.
Here's the short version:
Prokofy has long faught the presence of griefers in Second Life. Whereas some (including Wired magazine) approached them pretty naively, Prokofy (rightfully) saw these anarchists as a threat to a civil metaversal society. In 2007 the Woodbury University was taken off the grid, suspect of facilitating griefer activities. Ever since Prokofy claims to have been haunted, stalked and harassed by MC Fizgig, the alt of a Woodbury professor. Now Prokofy found out the Woodbury Griefers moved in next door...
"Land bought in Furness next door to me in Ravenglass for the sole purpose of harassing me and my tenants has been confiscated by LL, in a move which some might find as suspect and controversial, but others might see as part of a growing willingness by Linden Lab to leave their hippie anarcho-capitalist technolibertarian days, and become a more established business determined to make a grid viable for civil society online."
The bottom line:
"For once, they've (LL) responded within 24 hours, and responded very decisively in a way which is sure to raise controversy..."
Because of Prokofy Neva's reputation it didn't take long for the first insinuating posts have started to appear on the Second Life Herald and Your2ndPlace.
The SLH speculates in FIC Tables Turned - Ex-Critic Crows About LL Land Seizure that Prokofy apparantly has some tie-ins with Linden Lab and thus becoming part of the FIC (Feted Inner Core -- the group of alledged Linden Lab adorers which receive friendly favors of the powers that be) Prokofy has so assidiously fought over the past year.
Your2ndPlace also speculates on the same issue:
"But for the topic at hand - if she claimed that she had something to do with someone having their land taken from them and banned, even by innuendo, she's claiming the power that she accuses others of having. If she didn't say that,
then Shaun Altman is a liar - as are a few other people I have communicated with. And if she said it and actually had something to do with it, well, the latter would explain why Prokofy Neva has lead such a charmed Second Life."
Both these reports are based on Shaun Altman writing:
"Prokofy Neva went on to inform me that the avatar who purchased this land had been banned from Second Life, after the seizure of the avatar's property (land) by Linden Lab. He then asked me a very chilling question. I didn't log it, so I can't quote it verbatim, but it was directly along the lines of, "Do you see what I can get done if I want to?".
The issue here is in Shaun's last line: What's stirring up the fuzz is:
"Do you see what I can get done if I want to?".
The weakest link here is:
"I didn't log it, so I can't quote it verbatim,"
Now, I don't have all the evidence at hand, but here's a number of thoughts which have crossed my mind:
"Do you see what I can get done if I want to?"is an interesting line. I do have some thoughts there, but won't articulate them yet as they are thoughts, not facts.
Here's the Executive Summary:
"Virtual worlds like Second Life, There.com, and more business-focused offerings are on the brink of becoming valuable work tools. Major companies and public-sector organizations — such as BP, IBM, Intel, and the US Army — are investing heavily in virtual world technologies. But it’s still early, pioneering days. You’ve practically got to be a gamer to use most of these tools — setup can bearduous, navigating in a 3-D environment takes practice, and processing and bandwidth requirements remain high. But within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today.
Information and knowledge management professionals should begin to investigate and experiment with virtual worlds. Use them to try to replicate the experience of working physically alongside others; allow people to work with and share digital 3-D models of physical or theoretical objects; and make remote training and counseling more realistic by incorporating nonverbal communication into same-time, different-place interactions."
For me, the Executive Summary doesn't answer the question. The summary doesn't provide answers to how we should go about business in virtual worlds and why it is important. The table of contents holds a good promise though:
You can find the Executive Summary and order the full report here.
To get into a little more detail: The problems of today's technology are challenges, such as working together in real time while in seperate locations, expenses and climate stress while traveling to conferences and events and training on complex equipment and hazardous environments are topics that could well be adressed by virtual worlds.
However, the future of Virtual Workspaces is not in naming the obvious. I think there won't be many people that see a 3 dimensional space as an added value to, let's say Real Estate development or as an extra medium for automotive companies to play with prototypes and receive user feedback.
The Forrester report offers quite a list of 'practical' situations in which you can use Virtual Workspaces to conduct business:
The report actually names a dozen more suggestions, and gives explanations, but you'd have to order report yourself to find out which ;)
The report doesn't tell me how we can conduct down to earth business. For example, in which way would Virtual Workspaces enhance logistical services, construction, food & beverage, law firms etcetera. When virtual worlds get more direct api's to office software (charts, spreadsheets, word processing) it seems the Virtual World has a lot to offer for every part of companies except the actual workfloor where the products are made.
Today I visited a sim called BPF Bouwinvest, a doublesim actually. It's the virtual foothold for the Dutch Real Estate corporation BPF Bouwinvest. The BPF holding deals in retirement funds and about 25% of these funds have been invested in real estate through their subsidiary Bouwinvest.
Bouwinvest on their presence in Second Life:
“De visie van BPF Bouwinvest is dat gebiedsontwikkeling steeds kennisintensiever wordt. Niet alleen wat economische - en vastgoed-ontwikkelingen betreft, maar ook wat betreft kennis van klanten en gebruikers. BPF Bouwinvest is daarom
continue bezig haar kennis hierover te vergroten en wil haar aanwezigheid in Second Life vooral gebruiken om meer inzicht op te bouwen in de wensen van haar doelgroepen. De huurder of eindgebruiker vormt het beginpunt van het product-ontwikkelingsproces door ze er al in de beginfase actief bij te betrekken, bijvoorbeeld door prototypes in Second Life te ontwikkelen en te verfijnen. Daarnaast is het doel om ervaring op te doen met nieuwe communicatievormen en feedback te krijgen over innovatieve bouw- en serviceconcepten.”
Basically what it comes down to is that BPF Bouwinvest thinks that area development is more and more becoming a knowledge intensive specialism and it aims to use their Second Life presence to enhance their knowledge about the wishes of their consumers. Second Life is seen as a platform to prototype in collaboration with the end user and to gain experience with new means of communication and receive feedback on their building and service concepts.
The main venue of the Bouwinvest 1 sim is the appartment building De Witte Keizer (White Emperor) which is an exact replica of one of their assets in Rotterdam. The replica has been developed by Interlocuteur M., a Second Life business consultant. If you're interested in renting one of the appartments, you can contact the real estate agent directly from Second Life.
Here's a short vid about the build:
For a Real Estate company and investment fund, this is quite a logical approach to utilising virtual worlds. Yet, I'm not impressed. The Witte Keizer is about the only building on the sim (aside from a few other thingies). I'd rather seen a fully built sim with real estate, a more urban approach.
Their second sim has a focus on user generated content and displays builds from the building contest they've organised in May 2007. The winning design (bottom right) won a free private sim for 6 months.
Allthough Virtual Worlds have really taken a flight in the past year, there still is a lot of skepsis towards social worlds. Often heard complaints are:
Linden Lab seems to take note of this. Early 2007 they have acquired Windward Mark Interactive LLC which resulted in a first windlight client in may 2007 with improved athmosperic rendering. After a shortlived testing period, Windlight was withdrawn from the standard viewer, but it's back again and being implemented in the standard client soon.
The client never changed though and other's gave it a try. Probably the best effort was the socalled Nicholas viewer, but with all the updates Linden Lab pushes it's hard to keep the viewer up to date. Pretty much the same goes for the OnRez Viewer, built by the Electric Sheep Company. While the OnRez viewer certainly looked a lot "fresher" and more up to date, it never really took off.
Now, Linden Lab has been working on updating the look and feel of their client for some time now, codenamed Dazzle. The first screenshots are promising. The client looks fresh:
It will take more than a visual facelift to take away complaints on the usability of the viewer. It will need reorganisation of functions. There should be more interaction design and usability testing to determine the best ways of accessing the inventory, or juggle IM screens.
We're not there yet, but every step is a step forward.
When blogging the Brasilian Fiat presence in Second Life last week I thought I'd pretty much blogged every automotive company in Second Life. There's one more: British Vauxhall (A General Motors subsidiary, but in Europe perhaps best known for the German Opel with the steering wheel on the wrong side)
The reason why I've missed them is probably because they have decided not to build an impressive island with predictable features such as a racing track. Vauxhall has created the Corsa Guide to Second Life.
The Corsa Guide is a plain scrapbook showing favorite locations in Second Life, including places such as the Blarney Stone, Bora Bora Wavelabs, Acropolis Gardens, The Lost Gardens of Apollo, and the Bubblegum Music Factory.
KZero had a nice post on this late May 2007:
SL major brands no.27 1/2: Vauxhall. British car-maker
Vauxhall has just launched their Second Life effort. Electing to focus on a single brand as opposed to the entire range, Vauxhall have chosen the Corsa. It would appear that they didn’t get the memo on the demographic profile of SL
So, what are they doing? Well, strickly speaking, they are not (yet) launching an official presence inside SL, hence only the half. Instead, they are using ‘The Corsa Guide‘ as a tool to encourage residents to tag favourite places in SL and share them with other people. Apparently the top ten voted places in SL will be featured in forthcoming ‘Vauxhall Corsa Guide to Getting a (Second) Life. Nice.
Shame they didn’t think to integrate some of their real world marketing efforts into SL."
"Interestingly, and read into this what you will, there are no unofficial representations of Vauxhall (or Opel) car brands in SL. Interesting because of the sweetspot between virtual world marketing and automobiles and interesting
because Vauxhall didn’t seek to maximise this opportunity. C’Mon!"
Vauxhalls own pick is a little different though: Shelley Perkins, at Vauxhall Corsa, known as Shelley Soderstrom in-world, said,
"Corsa is synonymous with having a good time and now we want to help people have fun 'virtually' too. It's a new world to explore, and it can be confusing finding your way around. This initiative will help newcomers find the best places to enjoy."
There are tons of blogs that pick the sweetspots in Second Life and I personally doubt the Corsa-driver-taste is fully compatible with mine. True, the New World maybe hard to navigate but I don't see it a car-manufacturers task to provide the hotspots. Companies such as The Yellow Pages, Navman, Tom-Tom or tour operators would be more logical candidates to service an approach like this.
"There has been lots of speculation and skepticism in the media regarding the success that businesses are having in-world. I’d like to point out that most of the most visible media coverage has focused narrowly on attempts to use SL
for brand marketing.
In reality, the majority of the business use we are seeing now in SL is focused on meetings and collaboration, and is rapidly increasing as more companies discover the efficiencies and unique capabilities that working together in a virtual world can offer. As I’ve said in the past, I think Second Life is going through a natural evolution which mirrors other new communications mediums, as individual early adopter usage shifts to include education and work collaboration. As far as we can tell, education and work use is now growing at a larger relative rate than the overall growth of SL, so we can expect to see lots more of it in-world."
Every morning I wake up I stumble towards the coffee maker for a cup of coffee, then turn on my screen to have a look at my launchpad, a netvibes portal. Default tab is metaverse news.
After several weeks, or months of producing glitchy links 3pointD has been removed from my startpage. A great blog has died. Another blog I removed was Metaversed.com. Sad but true, it no longer produces the information I'm interested in.
At this moment there's only one blog that came to mind in replacing these two: Roy Cassini's Digado (Digital Adaption) who has a great blog with a broad interest in the metaverse with a focus on the marketing side of life.
So, two feeds out on my daily starting page, one blogfeed in. Means there's an empty spot. Which blog should fill that empty space?Also, a number of additions have made it to my Del.icio.us list and will appear in my blogroll (once I fixed the max count in the template) on the left (if you use IE):
A little while ago I blogged Google in Second Life, which was created by the Vesuvius Group. I hadn't run into them before, but today I ran into their Executive Director, Jeroen Frans. I've known Jeroen through twitter and other sites for ages, but never knew he was part of the Vesuvius Group. Here's a little slideshow of their portfolio:
Augmented Reality is something every geek has its opinion on. Dozens of researches spend millions of dollars on research how this augmentation will change our lives, how man and machine symbioses will improve our ways of working and which phsycological effects it will have.
Others just experiment, such as Tobias Lang. he displays how to merge 2 techniques, Virtual reality and Augmented reality, to create amazing Virtual World experiences
Sit back and enjoy.
Augmented Reality according to Wikipedia:
Augmented reality (AR) is a field of computer research which deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data. At present, most AR research is concerned with the use of live video imagery which is digitally processed and "augmented" by the addition of computer-generated graphics.
Advanced research includes the use of motion-tracking data, fiducial marker recognition using machine vision, and the construction of controlled environments containing any number of sensors and actuators.
As this was a first meetup, apropriately themed "Meet the Avatar", the most timeconsuming event was the introduction round, but on the other hand it was nice to know who was who. We saw representatives from several MDC's such as Jeroen Frans, Executive Director of the Vesuvius Group (the guys that brought us Google in SL), Damian Simmons of Lost in the Magic Forest (Content, Essent, Aegon) and Up the Vortex (blog), and on the corporate present there was 'moi' for Sogeti, and people from ING (Our Virtual Holland), KPN and Philips Design, researchers from EPN, bloggers like Roy Cassini from Digado and excellent freelancers such as Ollie Kubrick from Unreal Design.
And off course, Bart DutchX, Founder of the Dutch Echange was present. I seem to run into him at about every metaverse related event these days. The Linden Lab banking ban doesn't seem to affect his business, as it is still expanding and they're hiring new people and adding new payment methods continuously.
As it was the first meetup I won't do an assesment of the contents of the meetup, as it was primarily a networking event tonight. I hope we'll get to discuss hot metaversal topics in the future.
Earlier this evening I was present at the Sogeti Netherlands Kick Off party 2008 in the Heineken Music Hall. Over 2000 colleagues filled the hall to the max.
This years' kick off was titled Sogeti 2.0 and the keywords 'innovation' and 'participation'. Sogeti Netherlands is one of the leading IT companies in the Netherlands, so off course we used lots of web 2.0 stuff in the presentations. First of all, Sogeti CEO Jeroen Versteeg started the kick off from Second Life.
Contrary to previous years the CEO speech was not prepared in advance but was user generated as colleagues were asked not to turn off their phones but instead sms their topics for the keynote which generated the tagcloud below:
Menno van Doorn and Sander Duivestein of the Sogeti VINT research institute lifeblogged the event at the Vint.Sogeti blog (in Dutch) and a group of 32 Young Professionals who are currently at the Ohio University Without Boundaries (who also have a very strong SL presence) were plugged in through webstream and Second Life.
One of the fact-parts of the show was the financial and performance speech. We've had a great year and Sogeti Netherlands has grown 18% in 2007, outperforming every other Sogeti and Capgemini SA groupmembers by miles.
Right after closing the show, CEO Jeroen Versteeg took some time to chat with the Young Professionals in Second Life.
The current status is pre-alpha, but afirst alpha-release is coming soon now. It's been developed by Jeroen van Veen, but could use some extra hands.
Read more on the Joomla SL project.
Allthough some virtual worlds host the fastest growing economies in the world, there isn't a bank to be found that takes its business to the Metaverse. The latest financial corporate build in Second Life, Brasilian based Banco Itau is no different.
"Banco Itau began in 1945 under the name Banco Central de Crédito and later changed its name to Banco Federal de Crédito. In 1964, Itaú Holding merged Banco Federal de Crédito and Banco Itaú. Later that decade, Banco Itau acquired Banco Sul Americano (1966) and Banco da América (1969).
Banco Itaú it is a private-owned bank with its headquarters in São Paulo, Brazil. It is the second largest private bank in Brazil, after Bradesco. Itaú now accounts for about 11% of the Brazilian market for retail banking services. It is the most important affiliate of Investimentos Itaú (Itaúsa), a large conglomerate that ranks among Fortune magazine's top 500 corporations in the world." [source: Wikipedia]
Currently the Banco Itau uses half a sim, spread over three buildings:
Somehow I've got some problems snapping a good shot from a certain distance with the Windlight Client, even with draw distance at 256 m. so excuse the lines in the first pic.
In general the build looks of good quality, but because it's only half an island I wonder if the build is half done, or they just ran out of ideas. The design would be worth expanding to a full sim. The banks focus seems to be the climate-hype with lots of information on Kioto, energy etcetera in the central info center.
The most prominent feature of the island is the auditorium though.
When I was looking for the Copenhagen City sim last time I found an empty sim. Today I went for another set of sims: The first sim I went to today was Denmark Copenhagen which has a focus on shopping and is your run of the mill sim, but the bordering sims are a lot more interesting. The second sim is the Copenhagen old town with old woodwork houses and the third sim, called Denmark Int, houses one of Copenhagens landmarks. With a little luck you'll take to right alley towards the Nyhavn and some other well known spots.
There are three things that bother me with this sim. When I first visited this sim, it was well populated with quite a number of Danes chatting at a fireplace down at the Nyhavn harbor. The region's main focus is shopping however, but 9 out of 10 shops are empty which gives the build a rather sad look. The second thing is -common for these places and perhaps the reason for it's failure to attract shops - the time the heavy texturing needs to rez.
The third and last issue I have with this sim is the edges of the build. As you can see in the images top left and bottom left the edges contain a number of builds which don't fit in and give thye build a sloppy mainlain ghetto look with its flashy advertisements and hovering builds.
Today I went for a first look at one of the new National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sims, named Okeanos and like before, they've hired Aimee Weber for the build. No surprise the build is of high quality. The main venue of this sim is an oil spill demo. The tanker was easily spotted, but no sign of an oil spill.That was soon solved as I started the demo by sitting on one of the ships. Slowly the oil leaked out of the tanker and I got to practice sucking up the oil.
There's a number of other interesting things to do and explore at the educational NOAA sim, such as the Hydrographic Survey. The build has lots of detail, above and below sealevel. One thing though: I think Aimee's a lot better at building cars (such as the Peugeot 308) than at building boats.
It's worth checking out the surrounding sims such as and Meteora (below) as well.
At Aimee's portfolio we read:
"NOAA's sim is called Meteroa,which is derived from the Greek adjective meteoras which means 'suspended in the air'. On this lovely island sim you can find fully interactive educational demonstrations about the ocean and weather including a sea life submarine ride and a tsunami. Other fun stuff includes a demonstration of a real-time temperature map, narration by Exploratorium Chief Scientist Paul Doherty, an airplane ride into a hurricane, and a melting glacier."
No I wouldn't really call Tsunami funn stuff, but again, a good build.
A number of other islands seem to be under construction here as well, such as Second Earth and Thetis
Hello! Veejay has been gracious enough to let me come on here and contribute (sparingly, due to my absent-mindedness) to Mindblizzard the last year or so. Today I'd like to give folks a bit of an introduction to Clever Zebra, the latest project I'm working on. Fair warning: I'm a creative guy, not a business guy, so my wording is most likely quite imprecise. I don't speak business very well. I'll answer any questions the best I can, but for more serious business inquiries you might want to hit up Nick or Caleb. :)
Clever Zebra is a virtual worlds company that's doing things a bit differently. Headed up by Nick Wilson (aka 57 Miles in SL), myself (Josh Eikenberry, Lordfly Digeridoo in SL) and Caleb Booker (Onder Skall in SL), we want to bring open source to an enterprise level in virtual worlds.
The basic idea goes like this: We provide a suite of an entire corporate sim to the community, free of charge and under the GPLv3. We allow the community to tinker, improve, modify, and even sell their works.
As people work with the content we've given out, eventually they might want to develop different set pieces, or different "themes", as we're calling it. Think of Wordpress themes as an example. Each Wordpress theme does the exact same thing, but presents the data in different ways. That's what we're aiming for.
With these Zebra Themes, freelancers and designers can then upload their assets (textures, scripts, geometry) into what we're calling the Zebra Index, which will be a website that lets people browse the different Zebra themes for each project.
From there, Clever Zebra will offer virtual worlds consulting; event management, customization, island support. Run of the mill stuff, right? The kicker is that we'll already have a "ready to go" island solution ready for clients with the Zebra Index; clients can look through the themes freelancers have developed and pick the visual representation that they believe best suits them. As we set up their island, freelancers would get a generous commission from the proceeds coming from our clients.
This is a win-win situation all around. Clever Zebra lowers the barriers of entry to corporations and organizations looking to get into virtual worlds quickly and easily. The increased flow of businesses coming into Second Life makes the prospect of working in virtual worlds seem more advantageous every day. Freelancers get a commission from every client that uses their stuff. Freelancers also get increased visibility by having their themes out and about on the grid and on the website.
Some people are concerned that we're just following the same model that the "big names" of metaverse development tried a few years ago: mainly, the idea that you can just drop in a few buildings, make them pretty, issue a press release, and open it to the public. The thing is, we're not really aiming for big brands wanting to make a splash into SL. Rather, we're aiming for companies and organizations that actually WORK in Second Life; educators, non-profits, telecommuters, and so on. For many of those organizations, they simply don't have a public sim, but still want something presentable to visitors and guests. They also want easy to use productivity tools (which we're working on) to show Powerpoint, give presentations, lectures, and so on. The future of business in SL isn't the flashy logo of an international brand on a pedestal. Instead, it rests in the companies, non-profits, and educators who benefit from distance collaboration, rapid prototyping, and telecommuted lectures that SL does so well.
We recently released version 0.1 of the Zebra Corporate theme. It's simply a fully-functioning, well-designed 60-seat amphitheater. We'll be releasing the 120-seat and 240-seat (multiple sim versions) over the next week, and we'd really love everyone's input. The easiest way to do that would be to join the conversations in our forums at http://forums.cleverzebra.com . That keeps all communication honest and in the open.
Hopefully this post sheds some light on where we're coming from. I don't explain things well, but I get a bit frustrated when folks misunderstand what we're actually doing.
Comments welcome. Post on the forum or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org :)
One of the trends in 2007 was the creation of Real Life Cities in Second Life. Most of these sims were MDC showcases providing a home for their community. Quite a bit has changed though at a few of them.
In July I blogged on the Belgian city of Brussels (Bruxelles), which housed a grand casino in the Royal Palace. I needed a clear Belgian sim as a decorum for a machinima and went back to Brussels to find it completely changed. Probably this is due to the gambling ban Linden Lab imposed, but the current sim is an assorted mess of prefab homes.
After a bit of a search I found another Brussels (Capital of Europe) replica in a quarter of the Edmond sim, which looks a lot like Brussels, but is of a far less quality. It mainly is a sim full of basic square prims laden with textures.
For the same machinima I went in search of Utrecht, but found it taken down. The MDC Evident evidently has overplayed its hand on this one.
The only problem I have with these sims is that they're so heavy on textures that it takes ages to render the graphics at high resolution. So forgive me for a couple of snapshots of bad quality when I grew too impatient to wait for the screen to fully rez.
I received an update on Brugge:
Hallo Veejay, ik merk dat je op je blog over brugge spreekt. Er zijn namelijk 2 sims met Brugge. Virtueel brugge heb je besproken de eerste keer (sim = Belgie), nu heb je een "ander" Brugge besproken. Het klopt dat Virtueel Brugge
voor mij een showcase is als MDC. Meer info op www.louisplatini.com en www.virtual-bruges.be
which reads: There are actually two sims that are Brugge builds. This one is one the Brugge sim, the one in the older blog is Virtual Brugge, build on a sim called Belgique and is build bij Louis Platini
Today no Second Life for me, but for the first time in ages another night on the couch watching a movie. This time it was The Last Legion, a motion picture about the Goths invading Rome and the child emperor fleeing to Brittanica, seeking the Last Legion; the 9th, stationed at Hadrian's Wall.
It was not a historical accurate movie, but a very entertaining prequel to the Arthur Saga. Probably the most entertaining part to watch was the Indian warrior, Mira (Aishwarya Rai)... Sorry, can't help it.
Yesterday I picked up a BBC News story on people flocking to Virtual Worlds. The article is a little outdated, it dates back to december 11 2007, but I tend to disagree here. Here's part of the newsstory:
Will real pubs empty as people head for virtual watering holes?The appeal of online virtual worlds such as Second Life is such that it may trigger an exodus of people seeking to "disappear from reality," an expert on large-scale online games has said.
Virtual worlds have seen huge growth since they became mainstream in the early years of this decade, developing out of Massive Multiplayer Role-Playing Games.
And the online economies in some match those of real world countries.
Their draw is such that they could have a profound effect on some parts of society, Edward Castronova, Associate Professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University, told BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme.
"My guess is that the impact on the real world really is going to involve folks disappearing from reality in a lot of places where we see them," he said.
Edward Castronova was one of the speakers at the VW Conference in San Jose (october 2007) and made regular appearances on the Clever Zebra, formerly known as Metaversed Metanomics sessions and usually has some pretty smart things to say. In this case I thinks he's off by miles. There won't be a mass exodus for a long time to come I think.
The only thing we have to go by is the number of subscriptions to these worlds. Not all worlds are giving out these stats as freely as Second Life, nor do they provide information on activity in these worlds. Cisco's Christian Renaud did a quick scan of the industry for his keynote at the VW Conference and came up with 450 million registered users in about 30 NVE's, (online gaming as well as social worlds). After the conference we hooked up our info and I did a survey of about 200 of these worlds. As far as public data goes, I could barely find another 10 million registered users in other worlds.
The percentage of active users in the gameverse is a lot higher than in the social metaverse, more like an 60% tot 10% division, so going by these numbers we could assume there are about 100 million active NVE users out there. Then there's the definition of how much activity you need to have before being active. Linden Lab defines Active as spending 1 hour a week.
Then we have to take into account that there are a lot of body doubles. I myself have accounts in a dozen virtual worlds and there are other geeks, bloggers, journalists, trendwatchers etcetera who are active in several worlds to keep up with technology. The supposed 100 million than has to be devided by maybe 5 accounts on average so we end up with 20 million users worldwide which spend about 1 hour a week in virtual worlds. True, that's more than the whole population of the Netherlands, but globally speaking still a niche market.
When we look at social websites, like YouTube, MySpace etcetera and add up all the registered accounts we have about 3 times as many subscribers as there are internet connections worldwide. What I do think is a trend is the new digital Tribal Migration where users move from one world to the other as usability and functionality are still evolving.
A last thought on why this Exodus isn't going to happen anytime soon is that we've seen the number of registered users explode last year, while social NVE's were going into hype-modus. 2008 will probably see a downward trend in user activity, as most social worlds will not be able to meet expectations (gameverse is another story). This will last a while untill we find real corporate use and means of business integration for Virtual Worlds.This will happen though, but then again, when it really goes mainstream and NVE's become a Business Tool, still there won't be an exodus. There will be millions of new subscriptions and active business users, but on the whole the social part of these worlds will still struggle in keeping the attention of most users.
Right after I received Forrester's latest report on getting real work done in virtual worlds (will blog this soon) I also got a notice from one of my Linked In connections on the launch of the VR Workplace initiative. Here's the press release:
Boulder, Colorado (PRWEB) January 14, 2008 -- Recently launched VRWorkplace,
The Virtual Reality Workplace Company (www.VRWorkplace.com), offers unique services from two facilities -- one in Boulder, Colorado, USA, and the second, in the on-line virtual world of Second Life. Its mission is to render physical distance obsolete by using virtual worlds technology, virtual offices and virtual social environments, to bring global enterprises, businesses and clientele together in virtual reality, as if in person. VRWorkplace will lease, design and construct office and meeting space on the Second Life grid, design and deliver training programs, and counsel enterprises on virtual worlds strategies.
VRWorkplace was founded by and is led by Dave Elchoness, CEO, an experienced US employment attorney, HR consultant and former Fortune 200 executive. A leading authority on virtual worlds, including legal and HR issues in virtual worlds, Elchoness founded VRWorkplace because of the challenges he witnessed running a global IT outsourcing function and as an HR counselor and advisor. VRWorkplace's corporate facility includes office and meeting space, an amphitheater, a coffee house and an amusement park. It can be found on the Second Life grid at http://slurl.com/secondlife/VirtualEgg1/199/30/23.
Elchoness said, "Geographically separated teams and client bases are increasingly the norm. Until now, we've used air travel, telephone, and other technologies to help us with distance. But there's nothing like virtual worlds technology to bring people together." He further stated, "Having a virtual workplace reduces air travel and improves workplace collaboration because virtual worlds offer one-of-a-kind shared experiences." For example, he said, "With VRWorkplace, coworkers 10,000 physical miles apart can meet in a virtual 'hallway,' conference room or coffee shop, any time they like. It's what we call 'remote togetherness.'"
To visit VRWorkplace on the web, view video demonstrations of the VRWorkplace proposition and subscribe to the VRWblog, go to http://www.VRWorkplace.com.
VRWorkplace advises enterprises on how virtual worlds can benefit their employees, customers and members. VRWorkplace provides realistic and practical ways of eliminating the challenges of distance, improving collaboration and enriching relationships.
Press release in PDF can be found here.
That was about the last line of my previous blogpost. And it does. One of the most promising new startups is Clever Zebra, an initiative by master builder Lordfly Digeridoo and the guys from Metaversed and others (among which a bit of Sogeti).
But aside from this promise, there is something funny going on which makes me think the SLord moves in mysterious ways:
Although the Clever Zebra project has my sincere sympathy, there's a thing nagging me, and that's Metaversed. Early 2007 57 Miles was blogging like crazy on the Metaverse, doing great stuff and turned it into a business. A sponsored blog with sponsored events. That's when trouble came to town. First there was a break-up with Prokofy Neva on the Second Rant, and now Metaversed is going down to provide space for Clever Zebra. I wonder how the Metaversed Sponsors will feel about this. What will happen to the MMI, the Metanomics and the Virtual Business Innovators. Projects like the Grid Safari and the Geek Meets weren't long lived either.
Onders Skall writes:
How can you close Metaversed?
We covered business in virtual worlds like nobody else. There wasn't a better place to go for coverage of this stuff. We just loved it.
Along the way Nick and I compiled a huge amount of information about business in virtual worlds. We studied the phenomenon like few have ever had the opportunity to, and our imaginations were constantly ignited. More and
more of our days were spent discussing what could and should be done in virtual worlds to help business. We began designing plans to change things and make them better.
We soon realized that we'd rather create products people want to talk about instead of talking about products others were creating. The thing is, you can't often make things happen by telling stories. You make things happen by...
well... going out and making them happen. So while we came across as much news and met as many incredible people as we had before, news reportage became an afterthought. We were chasing a dream: bringing change to the virtual world.
I can agree on this, but why tear down Metaversed? It isn't too smart to burn all your bridges before you've crossed to the other side. A whole lot of tantrum is created now about the Clever Zebra start up and the Metaversed blog has died a slow death over the past months. Fortunately, the guys over at Metaversed also see this:
Why part with a popular brand?
Yes, Metaversed became a beloved brand. That's why we had to close it. Without publishing regular news, it was becoming a shadow of its former self. There's nothing worse than a brand that was once great and has lost its shine. If it's a name to be remembered, it should be remembered as something great.
Some feel we could have kept the name and switched the business model. The problem with doing something like that, though, is that it's a bit disrespectful of the readers. Metaversed is a blog about business in virtual worlds. If it suddenly becomes an open-source virtual world company, well, it's no longer the same company. We'd by lying if we said it was, and we respect our readers far too much to do something like that.
Much of the same is going on at 3PointD, a former leader in virtual world news, where Mark Wallace is letting the blog beed to death posting Glitchy Links for months now without blogging anything usefull and working on a gigantic new start up, Wello Horld with metaverse guru Jerry Paffendorff. His sponsor, Electric Sheep Company probably can't be bothered at this time though as they seem to be focussing on a whole new industry according to the word on the street.
The word on the street is that the Sheep are (co-) developing a new platform which will be a true adult world (i.e. Porn, XXX). I wonder what CBS and the producers of CSI:NY will think of this. Would they be willing to be associated with a company that's in the porn industry?
Now what is it with these companies in changing their objectives? Is it short term profits, or are they just Metaversal Cowboys that jump on every opportunity?
A peak concurrency of 61,560 (a new record!) at 1:45PM, and a minimum concurrency of 34,399 at 11:55PM. Median concurrency for the day was 46,627.
For comparison purposes, Everquest's record concurrency is reported to have been approximately 90,000 which puts Linden Lab's virtual world more than two thirds of the way there in terms of usage.
Scalability, max concurrency are all relative categories though, as each and every world uses its own technique (streaming, download client, java, flash and whatelse there is in variation). Second Life islands can hold 50 to 90 people at the same time, other NVE's can run 8,000 on a single server. It's architecture, infrastructure and all these little things. The bottomline is do we have a good experience when the world we're in is pushing its limits?
Some noticed a slight downfall in performance last weekend on Second Life, as they were pushing their max concurrency. Scripting, rezzing etc slowed down a bit. So perhaps it will be July 2008 before Second Life pushes beyond 80 K and year end may see 100K, but I know they're getting there. The new Windlight Client that's available is going to be the best tested client ever and the Linden QA team is trying to get rid of all that resource sucking stuff in there. I think 2008 shows promise for Second Life.
The dust seems to have settled on Linden Labs recent 'Banning of Banking Activities'. A long overdue statement by Linden Labs who have taken a stance against malicious scammers, some who have managed to acquire over 700.000USD in two to three years. Several banks have protested, as well as several clients and residents. Casualties of this decision by claiming to do fair and honest business, or just general concern to get their money back.
But what caused the most controversy in my opinion is the fact Linden Labs seems to have acted as a 'Network Overlord', ruling law between citizen disputes. In earlier 'bannings' many felt Linden Labs hand was forced by long existing, international real world laws, such as the gambling policy and the stance against 'ageplay'. Dramatic extrapolations of this decision to ban banking speak of moral policing, where Linden Labs as owner of Second Life begins to seriously force their own values on their users resulting in the following question: Is Linden Labs policing citizens, interfering with things that aren't their concern in the spirit of free economy?
I don't think they did, I think they struck first at a potentially very dangerous, juridical situation, and here is why:
Just because the residents of Second Life pay money for their virtual 'credits' doesn't make in real money. You won't be able to exchange it outside the realm of Second Life, or Second Life related websites, its value is bound to the laws of its software (or rather its popularity), and it has a lot more flexibility than a real currency. But the Linden Dollar has more resemblance to real currency than any other 'gaming money'. It can be bought and redeemed at variable costs, based on supply and demand. There is an overseeing institution and it can buy services, even products not related to the software (Second Life) itself. But even though the Linden Dollar has some properties to qualify for a real currency - its not in the eyes of the current juridical system. So why then, would Linden Labs be afraid of lawsuits resulting in scams based on this 'play money'? As Rheta states in the comments - Couldn't Linden Labs easily claim "banking is a game activity like any other, and that losses are no more prosecutable than losing a fight in Counterstrike?"
Even if the Linden Dollar is just 'Virtual property' instead of real money it doesn't put Linden Labs (or its users) in the clear. In the Netherlands a group of teenagers recently got arrested for 'Virtual Theft'. In the virtual chatbox Habbo Hotel they scammed furniture out of the account of several other players. Habbo Hotel works a bit different in the way that teenagers pay Habbo Hotel in order to get their 'online credits' - credit cost US$5.25 per 25 Habbo Credits. The players (mostly teens) are able to buy furniture of the Habbo Hotel owner, the Sulake Corporation - and only of the Sulake Corporation - to increase their status within the community by 'pimping' their rooms. This furniture can then only be traded, and Habbo Credits can not be changed back into real dollars.
But what the Habbo incident has proven is - at least in the Netherlands - Virtual Property has juridical value. It can be stolen, and the thieves can be held responsible for real life laws. In October 2007 a bank collapsed with estimated assets of over 700.000USD, the Habbo Hotel thief stole furniture worth about 4.000 Euro. Linden Labs new policy is only a confirmation of what can only be the logical conclusion to a fact real life laws have yet to catch up on in meatspace. The Linden Dollar is real money, real property, and stealing it is real theft. Not part of the gaming process.
So to answer the question "Is Linden Labs policing citizens, interfering with things that aren't their concern in the spirit of free economy?" - No they are not. The banning of banking activities was a preventive strike at what could be a major problem for the Virtual World in the near future. Linden Labs has declared their money 'real'. Real money, real scams, real crimes, and by doing so they have paved the way for the continued development of Second Life as a serious Business Platform. It fits perfectly in the line of banning gambling and 'ageplay' because of international law, it's just Linden Labs struck first this time instead of waiting for yet another media outrage.
Disclaimer: This was a guest publication by Rick van der Wal (Digado). My views may not necessarily represent those of Veejay Burns, main author of this blog.
Since the final quarter of 2006 we've seen about a dozen automotive companies enter Second Life. As was with the internet, the automotive industry has been quick to pick up on new technology, finding ways to promote their vehicles.
Early april 2007 I spotted a triple sim setup called Fiat Brasil, Fiat Adventure 1 and Fiat Adventure 2 which accidentaly had left its restrictions off so I could blog the first pics. It has been closed ever since. When I spoke to one of the reps of the Brasilian MDC vj arquitetura at the opening of the Paramount/V3 group Transformer sim in June she said it was bound to open in a week or two. Those two weeks have grown into two quarters it seems, not that I've been trying on a regular basis, but still, today was the first day I found it open for public.
Somethings get better with age, I guess. The build itself looks very neat. Here are some snapshots:
The main venue of this build is the Fiat factory in which you'll see (a representation of) te production process and assembly line. Notice the Picasso painting the new Punto...
At the end of the line the new Punto is ready for a testdrive. What I liked best about the sim the architecture and the small pits of humor put into the design. We've seen the production process before in Second Life (e.g. Ben & Jerry's) and we've seen racing tracks (e.g. Nissan) but one of the things that make this sim work for me is that Fiat let go conventional architecture in the decorum.
One of the big surprises in content development for Second Life in 2007 was new kid on the block Rezzable which launched the Greenies sim in July which has been a top 5 attraction in terms of visitors ever since. Quite a lot of residents and bloggers have been impressed by this build, though many were wondering about the business model as the could see any clear sponsors.
There's no doubt Rezzable injected a lot of money in developing this sim, and the dozen of other places, like the Toxic Gardens, the Cannery and the Black Swan and they've not been very forthcoming about their financing.
First of all, the Rezzable sims are a showcase to get on the serious side of business. Not tampered by marketing agencies or corporate restrictions they have build experiences which showcase their ability. This would be an expensive calling card, but a serious one at that which might be worth a few bucks. Revenues are created in multiple ways though such as goodie shops and in context advertising at the Greenies Home.
When talking to Rezzable founder Jon Himhoff he told me Rezzable was looking for Venture Capital and they're putting together a funding round. Off course I raised an eyebrow. Does Rezzable need funding to maintain the dozens of sims?
[13:45] You: what will be the motivation for the funding round?
[13:45] RightAsRain Rimbaud: ah...That's a good question
[13:46] RightAsRain Rimbaud: In general our existing work doesn't need it
So on the whole it seems the 3 streams of revenues generate enough income to keep up the good work.
Last month I saw the sculptures made by Lightwaves appear on the SLexchange as well, at serious prices (ranging L$ 9K -35K, or US $ 30 - 130) and to support this Rezzable opened a new sim last week, the Ebuddy Sandbox which also shows and sells the sculptures you can find in the Rezzable sims. Here are some snapshots:
Rezzable is going to push this sim (and thus their complete works) hard with real world promotion as well such as an Art Gallery in London and a print magazine.
To get back to the funding, what is Rezzable upto that needs a serious financial injection? In general you can state that there is a serious difference between gameworlds such as World of Warcraft and social worlds such as Second Life when it comes to user activity. Capturing the resident's attention has been hard for all MDC's in 2007, resulting in a number of corporations to be dissappointed in Second Life as a medium.
The basic premises is that social worlds need more of a storyline which led Millions of Us to redo the Scioncity sim and Electric Sheep Company to experiment with converging media with CSI:NY in the last months of 2007. One of the underlying concepts in Rezzables development has been to create immersive experiences (such as the Greenies Home) all along. A second element has been pushing for a storyline at the Toxic gardens, which has been build as a big decorum and is accompanied by a small story outline.
Rezzable has massive plans for 2008 to expand on this interactivity:
We have a massive idea for content play and we will launch this in SL, but...it is a virtual world play across many platforms in the future and also 3D web in general. Rezzable is still very committed to SL. Our main focus here is more interactivity, so we are workin on lots of simple, fun games with web databases."
"We think it is a major play for establishing 3D web content and user engagement. Virtual worlds are still very new. Once there are a few more credible platforms running--which we think is a 2008 thing--main issue is what will engage users and we feel it is quality content. Quality content can be defined as visually stunning, interactive and immersive. It is not porno, gambling, camping, real estate speculation. We see a lot of opportunity for
real-world cross-overs. Stay tuned, lot of new stuff coming in 2008."
Since they're still putting together the funding round, which is supposed to bring in about 3.5m USD, Jon couldn't disclose much more, but I'll be paying close attention to this as I think one of the keys to generating traffic will be in serious content play.
In October Jeans tycoon Levi's launched its own extraverse, Levi's World, in Hong Kong, a branded virtual world dedicated to Levi products. It's first live hours saw over 6.000 registrations with eager fashion addicts and pretty soon we'll see the English version go live.
"Are you fed-up of Facebook, sick of Second Life? If so, then you may be interested to know that Levi’s are claiming to have ‘disrupted the convention’ of such social networking sites with the launch of the first ever (do they really think so?) branded virtual world. No prizes for guessing what it’s been called, though"
Levi's weren't the first to go extraverse, but it is a logical step. Throughout the Metaverse you see people paying a lot of attention to their avatars, with clothing being a hot marketing item.
First images do not show this world as able to create realistic avatars and environment, but a bit more cartoonesk graphics. The world is aimed at 15-25 year olds and has a free membership model. However, economy and marketing comes into play as you're able to buy your Levi stuff and can obtain vouchers which can be used at Real Life Levi stores.
Here's a YouTube movie about the launch:
To go from scratch to a dedicated extraverse is a giant leap, but Levi's has got several years of experience in the Metaverse which they started to explore as early as 2003. Along with Nike, Levi's was one of the main sponsors that pushed the launch of There.com.
There launched its beta-test form -- 27,000 users have already entered the There world -- in January, with Nike and Levi Strauss & Co. among marketers who partnered with the firm to see how their wares fared in a virtual marketplace. Both brands will continue their relationship with there."
Full There.com launch article here.
Real life has been very busy in the past weeks. Holidays, and now a busy project and trying to redecorate the house in the evening hours have kept me away from blogging. It shows though. Sad to say my ratings dropped drastically.
Before I went to work this morning I noticed a blogpost over at KZero's; Google Island now open to the public….but not for long which drew my attention. I jumped in and took a look and a load of snapshots before I went to work. Now I just washed off the plaster from my hands and am picking pieces of stucco from my hair and sat down to blog this build.
Here's Nic Mitham's (KZero) pick:
"Built by the Vesuvius Group for Google as part of their Zeitgeist bi-annual event, Google Island opened for the public today. The island has been up since October, just for some Google employees and attendees of Zeitgeist.
The island was actually spotted by a few people several weeks ago, some assuming it was an unofficial build. Well, the mystery has now been revealed.
The venue is based on the real world Google campus and focusses heavily on interaction and socialising. Various Google products and apps such as Earth, Checkout and Analytics are on show - visualised where appropriate. Speaking to the guys from Vesuvius Group, the island has been sold already and is coming down tomorrow. So, here’s some images and the SLurl if you’re quick."
In itself the build does raise a couple of questions, which probably makes it the pick of the day for a lot of bloggers. As Nic said, the build is based on the Real Life Google Campus, but the official reading that it has been intended for internal use only doesn't fit the build. It's got a promo feel all over it, or as Aleister Kronos puts it:
The one thing I found strange about this build is: Why furnish it with all manner of models and links to existing Google products when the sole users of the island are Google employees - who should know all of this already? Indeed , time has been spent constructing working models of some of these - such as Sketchup and Checkout.
Perhaps the answer is a simple and prosaic: "because they could."
Maybe the answer is just as simple and prosaic, but there's more to this build. First, let's take a look on the Google campus, if the sim isn't down yet, grab yourself a Segway to move around
The central plaza has the typically Google-colored tables and is lined with several event pavillions, each with a different theme such as 'collaboration' or 'networking'.
Perhaps the most interesting part on the plaza is the Google Garage which shows the first signs of serious Widgeting with links to Google Analytics. Inside the main buildings it gets more interesting though:
In one of the halls you'll find a number of celebrity photographs with links to bio's and the option to message these people. Another room shows a cartographers table with a Google Maps interface, further on you'll pass file cabinets with links to Google Docs and a counter representing Google's new Checkout.
Of course, Sketchup is a must for the SL community, to prove it works as good as any other 3D designer and finally Google Earth rounds off Google's widgetting in Second Life.
Like Aleister said, it might be just a thing for Google to prove it can interface like this with Second Life and that this build served no other reason than to offer a place for the Google employees for the Zeitgeist celebrations but I personally find this build very attractive. Not because it's a high quality build though.
The most attractive point in this venue is the widgeting. Probably unintentionally, I think Google did the SL community a service: Many people and companies do not deem Second Life fit for business. One of the reasons is it is too open and too less secure an environment to do serious business.
However in interfacing with Google Maps and Google Earth (as a Paraverse) it opens up opportunities for integration with GIS data (geospatial information system), i.e. integration with Real Time Real World data it puts Second Life forward as a serious option in disaster training (like play2train) or as base for a virtual control center (see Ugotrade).
On the fun part, you could start using GIS information (e.g. Traffic Information) to simulate traffic in Real Life Cities in Second Life, or use Damanicorp's Weather Station to let your sim use actual weather data.
SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Google%20Island/128/128/0 (as long as it lasts).