Monday, January 12, 2009

Virtual Actors replace Humans in Hollywood?

If you run a movie studio and run short of money to hire a hot shot actor for a couple of million dollars, you can always have a few cartoonists draw in a funny character and you'll get something like "Who framed Roger Rabbit"

If you've got some extra bucks to throw in, you can use several advanced techniques to create stunning special effects and you get Terminator III", or "Lord of the Rings""and every one gets wowy and throws in a few Oscars. In short, the business has come a long way since the cheap B-movies of the 80's dealing with virtual reality. But is the industry ready for a next leap? The technology to pull it of is in our hands now.

Robert Scoble just wrote an interesting blog about this (with videos):

One of the most interesting conversations I had at the Consumer Electronics Show last week was with Charlie Boswell of AMD. He works with movie companies to implement the data centers that they need to build movies of the future and he told me about this new technology, called “Light Stage” which lets movie companies capture human actors and then change their images into software-controlled “virtual actors.”

Until now this technology looked cheesy. But no longer. You probably have already seen virtual actors in movies and haven’t realized it (all done with Light Stage).

Here’s the two videos so you can see how movies are changing.

  1. Charlie Boswell, who has the coolest job at AMD, working with movie studios to make special effects where he talks to me about what he’s working on and tells me about Light Stage. If you are into movies, he talks to me about a bunch of movie houses and how they are using technology.
  2. Jules Orbach, CEO of Light Stage/OTOY, showing me some clips of what these virtual actors can do. He was also up on stage during the AMD keynote and Barron’s Online has a live blog of that. On stage AMD and OTOY announced they were working on the fastest supercomputer ever.

Anyway, it’s interesting to see how technology continues to change our movies. Boswell blows my mind when he says this technology will soon be affordable for everyone (soon being years, not decades).

Are you ready?

Are we ready? Yes, but it needs to be a way lot better then the Second Life adventures of CSI for instance.

Are we ready? Well, we're constantly being fooled by Hollywood so what's the big difference? If we take this step it's a bit like "S1m0ne" come true, the film with Al Pacino who fools the world with a virtual actress, or on the darker side a Robert DeNiro movie "Wag the Dog" where he also plays a Hollywood director staging a fake war to help the president get reelected.

UPDATE: Afterthought

As an afterthought...

Are we ready? Yes we're gonna take it hook line and sinker. We even get fooled with virtual actors in virtual worlds! In april 2007 world famous Director Paul Verhoeven held virtual auditions inside Second Life for his movie Zwartboek II. Afterwards I did an 'exclusive interview' with this tech savvy Director who was of the opinion that Virtual Worlds would certainly have added value to Moviemaking.

I didn't disclose this earlier, but soon afterwards I found out that although it was an official Zwartbook promotion, Paul Verhoeven never came near to watching the actual auditions let alone immerse himself into Second Life. Talking about virtual actors taking over...

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Weblin clones SL Avatars to the web

Yesterday the German based webservice Weblin announced it has a new service, a 'Weblin Gate' which lets you take your Second Life avatar to the web. I've blogged Weblin last year september, when it was just launched, but haven't used it a lot since. However, that might change.

What Weblin basically does is let you create an avatar which can walk across the bottom of your webbrowser. When you're on a page with other weblin users you can see the other avatars on the webpage and interact with them. Weblin also has an option for its users to create custom avatars, but you have to be an expert in 3D graphics and animation if you want to have that avatar be able to move.

The service Weblin is offering now in Second Life is that they make a photograph of your avatar, then override your animations and 'film' your avatar making the typical Weblin moves so the service recreates your avatar outside Second Life. Dean Takahashi was among the first to blog the new service and he wrote:

What happens in virtual worlds, stays in virtual worlds. That’s the way it’s been when you create an avatar, or virtual character, in places such as Linden Labs’ Second Life.

But now Weblin, a Hamburg, Germany-based startup, has figured out a way for you to teleport your Second Life avatar to any web site. The Weblin Gate being released today lets Second Life Residents (or players) export exact replicas of their avatars and use them on any web site.

As far as writing goes, I like the first sentence of that blogpost, but regarding the facts, it would be too much credit to the folks at Weblin. We're not talking real teleportation here, or interoperability as the in-crowd calls it, it's more like scraping or cloning. As usual the ever present Virtual Worlds News nailed it down quite fast as well, writing:

This isn't true interoperability--the service takes a picture of the avatar in Second Life and maps it on to a Weblin avatar, and users don't carry their assets or identity with them--but it is an interesting form of portability and a step towards larger goals.

That would be correct, also the outlook on this remark. I didn't use Weblin much before, but now it's fun to stroll over the web with my Second Life avatar and meet other Second Life avatars out there on twitter for instance, or, As Grace puts it on her blog 'Gracified':

Early adopter Second Lifers have already adopted weblins as a means by which to chat and socialize outside of the virutal world of Second Life, whether it’s attending Malburns and Tara’s brilliant weekly show, or just catching up while the grid is down.

It works quite easily, though it got screwed with me yesterday, hence my rather late blogpost. Anyway, things start out in visiting the Weblin photobooth in Second Life, on the New Berlin sim.

Once inside you'll meet Paule, an automated avatar who'll give you instructions. You've got to pay at the cash register (1 L$, which will be refunded immediately, but necessary to get your ID) and you can get onto the photoshoot area. Make sure you've got your animations turned off. Last night when I visited the first time, the preview snapshot only showed Paule's bum and not an image of my avatar. Today, it worked out fine though.


As soon as you're up there, almost crucifixed, you'll get a link to a preview. When the preview looks about right, you'll call Paule to continue. The Weblin script overrides your avatar and starts filming the appropriate movements. When that process is finished, you'll get a link to your new avatar. Quite simple. Below a picture of my new weblin avatar walking across this blog.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Brain Stories

The human brain may well be the next frontier. I bookmarked several interesting stories about the brain, so put them down here:)

-GET IMAGES FROM YOUR BRAIN
Recent amazing story is "Japanese scientists develop tech to read images directly from your brain". I hope not to use this kind of technology for army or spy...

-AVATAR CONTROL
I guess many know about this story, but write it here because it's interesting. The Biomedical Engineering Laboratory at Keio University is trying to move an avatar in second life by only thinking which way to go.


-NIA(Neural Impulse Actuator)
NIA is a mouse which is controlled with your brainwaves. Recently I bought it and tryed. But...mmm....it was difficult to use. How can I control my own brainwaves?


-IBM'S COGNITIVE COMPUTING
IBM aims to replicate the brain with cognitive computing project is another-brain-releated-story.
"IBM Research and five universities have teamed up to creative “cognitive computing” systems that can simulate the brain’s ability to sense".
-BRAINWAVES at FLICKR
Finally I made a group called "brainwave" in Flickr. If you have any interesting brainwave-related-photos, please post to the group. I'm interested in how these kind of technology will change our life.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

PS Home goes Open Beta

After lots of rumours and delays, Sony finally pushes PlayStation Home to open Beta today. BBC News reports:

Sony's long awaited next-gen social networking site for PlayStation users goes into open beta today.

PlayStation Home will let gamers create their own avatar -a virtual representation of themselves - and then interact with other users in a 3D environment. Players can chat to other users, invite them into their own "home", and will soon be able to stream music and video.

PS Home will be available free to all registered PlayStation Network users.

Read the full article here.

It's hard to keep in the loop about this virtual world, as it is intended for Playstation users, which excludes me. However, the screenshots available on the web look excellent. Below is a collection of screenshots from the PlayStation 3 Home Forum.



I must admit, the graphics look very good, of a higher quality than that of Second Life. For instance you will find the avatars far more realistic than those in SL, as well as the lighting.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I am becoming my avatar (2): Big Stage

Last month I wrote an article on the Philips Design probes, titled I am becoming my avatar, in which I said:

In Second Life we often see people trying to shape their avatar as much as possible to their Real Life appearance -kinda counts for beach babes and sixpack Joe's I guess - or the other way around, people shaping their avatar in their ideal sort of way and then try to become like this ultimate adonis in real life too. With this combined technology Philips will provide the change to bring this a step closer. Soon we will be able to project those textures and skins from Second Life on our own skins and clothing.

In this article I focussed on the way we take virtual stuff and try to add them to our real life selves, but the other way around works as well of course, which I tried in June last year at Avatar Island in which I did a testdrive of the CyberExtruder software.

The avatarisation has a new chapter though, which is called Big Stage. Mashable did an excellent report on them:

Big Stage, a personal avatar virtualization service introduced in beta form earlier this year, has its official launch today. The company has marked the moment with more choices for use of their own unique “@ctor,” as well as an updated media player and social sharing functions.

The so-called “@ctor” is a user’s 3D facial representation, which the company calls “The Digital You.” The user can subsequently insert this representation into a myriad of places, like still imagery, social networks, video games, virtual worlds, music videos, TV clips, and even advertisements. An @ctor can be animated through the Big Stage Media Player.

Since launch, the founders of Big Stage have made it a point to emphasize the backend power that goes into the making of an @ctor. The process involves up to three digital photographs taken from different angles of your face, which must be uploaded and put through what the Big Stage team regards as “advanced stereo reconstruction.”

Read Full article at Mashable.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

My personal assitant: Voki

I ran into Voki, a nice little app to make an avatar which you can put up on your website to welcome viewers. Avatar based assistance on websites is one of the simplest uses of 3D applications, yet rapidly gaining interest with companies to guide their customers through the process to get a higher conversion rate.

Let Obama welcome you to the blog, don't bailout.




Get a Voki now!

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Weblin - a 3D Chat overlay for your browser

Just after writing about Myrl, a new website offering a gateway to many different worlds, I read an interesting story by Vint Falken on Weblin, which tries to bring 3D to the web as well.


If I remember correctly, weblin used to advertise with ‘bringing the virtual world to the web’ … or something like that. Weblin - by Zeitgeist - ’s far from a virtual world (yet), but the concept of layering the avatar on top of normal websites is surely fascinating and well executed:


  1. You have a cute little avie that is customisable using the ‘avatar creation kit’.(takes 100×100px animated gif up to 50kb).
  2. It has a ‘monetary value’, named ‘Kala’ that is described as ‘the virtual weblin currency’. (Purchasing those is not yet possible. You receive 150 Kala (Kalas?) on start.)
  3. Weblin points. You get those as a reward for activity. Use them to unlock features & avatars.
  4. Contact list. See which of your befriended weblins are currently online.
  5. Mute button. Always handy! ;)
  6. Private chat. Duh!
  7. Integration with del.icou.us, twitter, stumble upon and even a self hosted WP install.
  8. Dating. As you’re on the same wegpage, you’ll surely have the same interests? What I love about this one is that weblin Flirt is standard disabled. So they don’t bother you with it unless you do state you’re looking for a relationship.
  9. Basic animations: jump, dance, wave and even better… decline/refuse.
Read more...

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An Avatar, By Any Other Name...

... might be a lot happier with Second Life.

Most of us who came into Second Life out of curiosity, and have stayed ever since, are probably happy with our avatars. We instinctively associate our avatar name with ourselves - regardless of where we sit in the 'Spectrum of Involvement' that goes from the fully-immersed digital beings at one end, to the augmented reality users at the other. Incidentally, if these terms mean nothing to you, then I'm afraid you will have to Google them if you want to know more. The subsequent romp across the blogosphere makes for a long and interesting diversion!

For the more prosaic purposes of this post, I want to consider names. It hadn't really occurred to me just how out-of-step Second Life is, compared with other virtual worlds. Everywhere else - as far as I know - you are pretty much free to select your own avatar name. OK, it may need to be unique in the World, which can be a challenge. But in principle, you have carte blanche. For example, I am used to a semi-digital existence thru' my avatar, Aleister Kronos. Therefore, in all the virtual worlds I am signed up to - and there are many - I am happy to use this name, or variants that may be forced by a local naming constraint (like no spaces in the name). Importantly though, I could instead have opted to use the name I was given in the atomic world, Tim Kelly (again, subject to some basic constraints). I'm hardly blowing away any great atomic/digital divide here, since anyone who was remotely interested could have garnered this information in about... ooh... one Google hit.

So where am I going with this? Oh yeah...

Second Life marches to a different tune. It forces you down a path of pseudo-anonymity by compelling you to select a surname from a predefined list, rather than allowing you to elect for anonymity or openness. And what a bunch of surnames you get! If your aim in Second Life is to have a laugh, muck about and generally use it as a purely social environment then the disproportionately high ratio of "wacky, zany" surnames may be just the ticket. It means you don't have to employ too much brainpower of your own in order to appear interesting, when you can get instant charisma, off-the-peg, just by choosing a suitable surname. Maybe most Second Life regulars are happy with this arrangement. Personally, as a resident, I'm perfectly happy with my avatar name.

But it is as a corporate resident that issues arise. I have recently been hosting or assisting with a number of internal presentations for various company folk. The aim of such presentations is to show that you don't need to waste time and money travelling to meetings when they can be done, at least adequately, in a virtual environment. And virtual meetings are far better than the other alternatives: video and teleconferences. Most of the attendees are not out-and-out Second Lifers, but rather casual visitors, looking at the potential for using the environment as a work tool.

Now then - in proper Blah 2.0 fashion I have been eliciting feedback, to understand their experiences and see how I can help to improve them. Oddly, the recurring concern was not the awkwardness of the user interface, or the lag, or indeed any of the technical issues that I had anticipated. Instead, it was the avatar naming constraints. The general view was that the absence of real names lead to confusion and lack of clarity, while the names that were used could not really be characterised as 'professional'. When you have large numbers of colleagues using virtual worlds on an occasional basis, for specific activities or events, they are not likely to know each other's avatar names - leading to confusion and lack of effective communication. While this will change over time, the process is unnecessarily slow, when all you ever wanted was to use your own name in the first place.

There are cumbersome ways around this, usually involving a dumb-ass surname but putting your full name (without spaces!) as your avatar's first name. Don't get me started on the ludicrous costs associated with having a user-defined (in this case, corporate) surname. The point is, it should not be necessary to go to these lengths.

Second Life is coming across as somewhat antediluvian, a primitive throwback to a time when early adopters were happy to look funny and have hilarious names. While I accept that many, more recent residents also share these aims - it is time for Second Life to grow up, grow out and make better provision for those who don't share these aims. I am sure that it is not just business users who have this frustration.

So a note for Linden Lab: if you are still trying to be taken seriously by the business world then changing the naming system would be a small, but non-trivial step in the right direction.

(And God knows... it seems that right now Second Life could do with all the help it can get)

this post first appeared at Ambling in Second Life.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Feelin'Groovy at LoudCrowd

VentureBeat has uncovered Conduit Labs' first project, LoudCrowd, a mix of social networking, virtual worlds, and casual games. Users can create avatars that, for now, seem mostly usable on a dance floor that's part of a rhythm-based casual game. Users dance to earn points that can be used for customization items and earn more when they're chosen by others as partners.





Loudcrowd Preview by Conduit Labs from conduitlabs on Vimeo.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

It's Captain Jack

One of my daily routine jobs as a blogger is checking Technorati to see if there are new links to my blog. When following one of these links I noticed a familiar face...

Yes it's captain Jack Sparrow. It's not Johnny Depp though, but Tay Runo. The beautiful lady at his side is Jojamela Soon. The picture is taken by Paisley Beebe at Sailor's Cove.

Do have a look at Paisley's Flickr Photostream as there is a ton of really great pictures of Second Life, utilising almost every option provided by the WindLight client.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

1st Metaverse Meetup - Amsterdam

At exactly 0.00 I returned from Amsterdam where I attended the first Metaverse Meetup (Amsterdam Edition) in "De Balie" which was initiated by Joja Dhara and Ze Moo.


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.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Imagine Life Sweeter

I'm a regular citizen of Second Life; I'm handsome and smart ;) No really, I am. In real life I'm in my 30's and I work in the IT industry. The massive arms and broad shoulders of my virtual alter ego have gone in real life, its mass dropped a feet or two, just over the waist. Like many geeks and gamers I spend too much time sitting behind my computer, being immersed and drinking coffee or cola to stay awake. Eating too much pizza and working out too little. I'm probably the ideal person to talk to when you work at Splenda which deals in artificial sweeteners. And so they do. They have immersed in Second Life.

Their virtual setup is oh so sweet to look at, it's candy colored and cartoonesk like Ben and Jerry's, just a tad softer. Splenda hired Millions of Us to work up this virtual presentation and there are a few nice details.

I like the details on the cafe best, which is an overturned coffee-cup. It took a few second before I realized the terras in front of it resembled a pool of coffee flowing out of the cup. It's these little details that makes MoU one of the big names around - when it comes to building.



By themselves, each part of the island is carefully shaped. There are a number of things that go for entertainment, such as the milkshake-slide and the Lemon Ferris Wheel.



Finally, there's the current Second Life meme-thingP: a contest [sorry closed as of november 30] to draw in the crowds. The good thing about it is that it does work about it, and Spleda set up a splendid site to support it.


The bad thing about it is that it's Dozens of Them. As far as corporate sites go, there still isn't much variation in the set up. There's the cafe, the auditorium, the infostand and a fun gimmick, a slide through a milkshake straw, but no interactive display of its core business.

This setup would have had an impact when it had a storyline, interaction with the visitors, not about Splenda branding, but about its business: Keep your avvy healthy and fit.

For instance: Create a virtual game in which your avatar can replay his daily routine, log it, calculate the calories consumed and burned and extrapolate that to adjust the avatar size (aging, weight, disease).

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Splenda/128/128/0

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Greenies out, purrsnickety in

A few months back we saw the alien arrival of the Greenies in Second Life, which was a very cool experience by Rezzable. One of the strong points about the Greenies is the avatar marketing bit. Avatar Marketing is mobile marketing as the avatars spread around the grid bringing your brand to the community instead of you having to organize event that will bring the community to your sim. Another cool MDC (Metaverse Development Company) which understands the value of this is the V3 group which brought us the hovering Orb and the Transformer avatars.



Avatar marketing is one, lifestyle is another. We've got some pretty weird people walking the face of the grid. Many subcultures like Goths and punks are present in Second Life and then there's the furries. Furries are animalish avatars, often furry skinned with long tails. These might be rather funny and adorable to the general public, but gets a little twist if you know there's quite a bunch of people out there in the Real World that have a furry fetishism too.



The Second Life Herald reports a new race has entered Second Life; the Purrsnickety's. Here's the SLH report:




"Yesterday Second Life witnessed the birth of a new race of virtual critters – Purrsnicketys. Their basic design is due to Phoenixxx Dragonash, who in RL is Ashley Speranzella-Evans, a free-lance fantasy artist.




They are built and scripted by our good friend and uber-elf Wayfinder Wishbringer. Below the fold are some screenshots and the purrsnickety propaganda."






(Pictures also from SLH)



From the purrsnickety note card...









WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF PURRSNICKETYS!



(To give a Purrsnickety as a gift, please read at the bottom of this notecard)



In a world that has forgotten magic and rushes time, they live above the clouds. Dragon-kitties once chosen to be Guardians of the Earth and magic, they failed to protect it from man. They have become jaded and skeptical, and definitely have attitude. But they have not given up! They have returned to the earth to try one last time to bring back what has lost. Are they the scourge of the skies... or destined to become heroes? Purrsnicketys... adorably wicked.



Purrsnicketys are some of the most complex, heavily-scripted (but very low-lag), fun, tiny avatars ever!



INCLUDED:





  • Purrsnickety Avatar (copy/nomod/notrans... copyable so you can pull a new one out of the box in case of inventory loss!)(To give a Purrsnickety
    as a gift, please read at the bottom of this notecard)


  • A special Purrsnickety toy (an extra item specific to your Purrsnickety)


  • Scripted wings open when flying


  • Swishing tail* 72-function HUD, including...


  • 68 custom sounds (no freebie sounds here!)


  • 14 all-original animations (even the "tiny" animations themselves are new and tweeked), including:* Scripted tongue for cleaning


  • Cat-like "run"* Fun "jump"


  • Improved "sit" and "groundsit"


  • Dance synchronizer (dance in time with your Purrsnickety friends!)* Cute. Real cute. (never underestimate the power of cute. Fells strong dragons and ogres and melts the hearts of warriors).



PURRSNICKETY CHARACTER INFORMATION:



PURRSNICKITY STORIES:





  1. Baby Ree: Calico, curious, and pudgy.
    Don’t be fooled by the cuteness of this little baby she will sneeze fire on you
    if you aren’t careful. Likes buttercups and fireflies and her stuffed toy “Remmy”.


  2. Bitters: Black, skinny and Melancholy. Always seems to have a rain cloud over his head. Loves,well he dosent’t love anything.. except for a rainy
    day and only because it spoils everyone else’s fun, maybe mud puddles. Older
    brother of Chitters.


  3. Chitters: Pink, happy and talks a lot, though only the other purrsnicketys can tell what she is saying. Loves lollypops and unicorns and baking pies for the gang. Kid sister of Bitters and has a crush on Jeepers (but don’t tell him).


  4. Creepers: Large, green and agitated. Loves dark damp places and mushrooms. Oldest and Leader of the Purrsnicketys, big brother to
    Jeepers. Arch nemesis: Mr. Wiggles the very elusive and clever mouse dragon whom Creepers can never catch.


  5. Critters: Brown, sweet and earthy. He loves all kinds of creatures and can often be seen playing with the mice in the castle (in a friendly way) Likes walking in the clouds and strawberries.


  6. Flitters: Yellow, scattered and artistic. He creates beautiful rainbows in the sky and paintings for the castle. Constantly looses everything because he is so focused on his art. He can be seen covered in paint muttering to himself in his room. Likes new paint brushes and dragon flies.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

CSI (2) Down the Rabbit Hole




Wednesday, October 24, 10pm et/pt






In this episode CSI New York is all about finding Venus Game:








On October 24, Detective Mac Taylor chased a murderer, Venus, into Second Life. She's on the loose, and her virtual body count is rising. Track her down before she kills again!








CBS has finally opened up their website to support tonight's multimedia show. Also in Second Life the sims are ready to rock. The CSI-NY - Electric Sheep Company gang put in an amazing 416 islands, good enough to hold about 20.000 concurrent logins.


From their website you can immediately sign up for your new flashy virtual alter ego. Of course not necessary for those already having their Second Life avatar. However I took a little peek and I must admit, I didn't go further than the avatar selection, but the Electric Sheep Company did a good show on the graphics. It has a slick look and feel.




I skipped the registration part and went on to step 3: Downloading the new 34 Mb On-Rez viewer, available from this location. The first addon to the default Linden Lab viewer is that aside from English and Korean it now has German and Japanese language support.



Okay, time to immerse

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Best Practises for employees

Thursday, 1:30pm - 2:30pm


Best Practices for Employees in Virtual Worlds


With companies issuing avatars to large groups of employees what are the best practices required to create a smooth operating environment for those individuals. What standard operating procedures should be implemented to create the best experience a company projects when sending employees into public virtual worlds?



Speakers:


  • Bob Ketner, Creative Director, Studio SFO
  • Adrienne Haik, Metaversatility, Inc.

Bob gave a pretty fast ramble on best practises, kind of hard to keep up with taking notes. Here's a few tidbits though:

Why is doing Business in a VW a good idea?

  • Employees are already there
  • It can solve problems
    - I can't reach you
    - too little time to come over
    - info retrieval
  • Gamers are doing it better
    - Gamers focus on getting the job done (single action focus)
    - Gamers are selforganising folk
    - Your new (young) employees are aleardy gamers
    - Are using PC's a lot more effectively

Work can be a drag. How many of you say "Hey I can't wait to get to work on monday", and how many say "I can't wait to play World of Warcraft tonight".

IBM is currently looking into World of Warcraft Guilds, as it takes Guildmasters a lot of experience and compentence to manage all these guildmembers. These Guildmasters are actually people that distill and manipulate digital info in an advanced way. So which skills are involved?

The Avatar as a Uniform

Metaversatility's Adrienna Haik gave an insight as to how serious business in a VW can get.

  • It's important for employees to understand they are in a virtual workspace, and not a game.
    -Let your people take it serious and avoid them flying around during discussions and stuff.
    - Visible clues like chairs, desks and other office furniture may help.
    - Set up different spaces for different forms of communication and interaction.
  • Interaction guidelines, rules of engagement for the natives
    - How do you react to weird encounters? Your clients my come in as Furry's. A client new to SL can go ballistic if he's shocked by some appearances.
    - Take time for clients and new employees to acclimate. Take them shopping for instance.
    -Respect the community. You're on their turf.
  • Your avatarname is associated with your business.
    - Like with email, use a personal and business avatar.
    - Think about sexual harassment by avatars representing your brand
    - Your employee is your best marketing instrument inworld. Have them take the brand serious and advocate it.

There were several things in here which I didn't agree on. Especially the private and professional avatar distinction. I've only got one avatar as the lines between work and play are blurring. We're in a global business now and shifting timezones lead to business encounters at many different hours. Nor do I see the leaders of the industry, like Ian Hughes (IBM), Jeff barr (Amazon) and Christian Renaud (Cisco) have different avatars.

When speaking to Jeff Barr on this after the session was done he came up with several good reasons. First of all, these are community leaders. They've got a very professional attitude towards second life and have to build relations on their reputation. Switching Identities makes you have to build multiple reputations. Another thing (which at least goes for Jeff himself) is that they've probably all had PR training and know what they can and can't say. A third reason why you may not consider switching avatars is by self-protection. For some people there might be tempting stuff in Second Life. If you want to stay away from that, it's a strong motivator if you've got a reputation to think off.

It might be different though for regular employees who come into a virtual world to do some work then go off again. They have a completely different precense than their community leaders.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Reuben's Keynote

Reuben Steiger ,Millions of Us – The Avatar Age



Where are we, and how did we get here?


The avatar age is a way of categorising this industry as more than virtual worlds. VW sounds isolated and niche. It doesn’t do justice to everything that’s going on.



The most primal and basic sort of human togetherness is sitting round the campfire. Surprisingly it is one of the most popular events in virtual worlds as well.



What is an avatar?


In Hindu lore it was the earthly form of a god. Now it’s an online persona. It’s an inversion. In history it was from ethereal to prosaic, now it’s vice versa.



Houston, we have a problem!


Only 25% of US residents trust conventional advertising. Over 70% trust recommendations from their friends.



User generated social communities represent the fastest growing market segment, totaling 31% of all consumer internet usage. This is not a niche thing. This is where the market is trending.



Second Life has been on top of the virtual world market when it comes to press attention, yet it represents only a small minority of those millions of virtual residents.



  • Over the next year social networks will become avatarized
  • Virtual Worlds will become more like social networks
  • Television tie-ins will increase for virtual worlds.


Virtual worlds will evolve from a Habitat (1985) to a Second Life (now)



Where did it all begin?


Philo T. Farnsworth (1928) invented the television, just across the street from 1100 Sansome street (Linden Lab HQ).



What happened to communities? Before the automobile and television we lived in small villages, architecturally build on the community principle. Over the past decades we’ve lost that sense of community. The basic civic getting together has gone. Virtual Worlds are so important because they offer the opportunity to reestablish this togetherness.



How will this stuff manifest in the potential future? (again Scion City example)



SAND – episode on Scion City, a narrative where residents are invited to solve the mystery.

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