Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Second Life Revamped

It's been a while since I last visited the world of Second Life. At the time I left, recession was kicking in, not only in the real world, but doubly in Second Life. It was not only the credit crunch, no, it was the Gartner Hypecycle kicking in with a bite.

Companies were disappointed in the 'marketing' options of Second Life, and it was too early to get a solid business case for immersion. Now, Second Life is gearing up again. They've changed their marketing campaign for Businesses and revamped the website.

Now, the revamped website is a pretty neat thing. It's no longer the plain old promotional website, but it has grown into a SLMS, or a Second Life Management System - which I already suggested back in 2007,

Highlights of the new from Torley on Vimeo.

Now the new attitude is promising. Back in 2007 and 2008 Second Life was bustling with Corporate activity, but after some exploration, allmost all companies left to do real 3D business elsewhere, like ABN Amro or Wells Fargo for instance. Second Life was not secure. Second Life management at that time did not really make an effort to support companies in Second Life, but I think now they've seen business drop and some part of 'reality' (i.e. cash) kicked in. There's money to be made from big clients, so I'm curious to see where it goes. Will have to see which companies have arrived since December 2008 and which have left since then top give a quick update on the Second Life Real Life Company Guide.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

French Boulanger could use a Rebake in Second Life

Yesterday I received news that a new company had opened up shop in Second Life. And this time it really is shop, as not merely opening up a presence, but opening up a retail point. Today I went in for a visit. The shop we're talking about is a French Multimedia and Electronics store named Boulanger.

The island is a single, isolated one, not connected to the popular mainland shopping areas, so probably they're not counting on casual passersby noticing the shop while strolling through busy mainland malls where I had expected it to be. When we look at the build, it's of pretty good design and quality, better than that of most mainland stores, but when it comes to sales, it's all about content.

Dancing on the Ceiling

Upon arrival I see the usual jumble outside. Again, it is of good quality, but you'ld expect nothing less from a build which has been done by IBM. However, I was under the impression I came to shop, so I wasn't really dressed up to go racing in VW Beetles, flying helicopters and do a Lionel Ritchie kind of Dancing on the Ceiling. If I was looking for virtual entertainment, I'd probably do it elsewhere (unless they would come up with a very good mixed reality mix, but no festivities were going on)

Let's have a look at the aims of this build.

The French retail company Boulanger announced today the opening of a store in Second Life with development and planning help from IBM Research and Global Business Services. The goal is to complement Boulanger's physical stores and website with an additional distribution channel and additional services. Initially the build allows users to view and interact with Boulanger objects in a familiar context, click to be taken to the purchase page on a website, watch service and repair videos, or talk directly to a maintenance aide.

IBM says it had two objectives in the build: "develop a community aspect through the 3D universe and propose new services (configuration of kitchen, cooking lessons, guides, etc.) -- while integrating the three complementary distribution channels."

So far retail hasn't really taken off as a use for virtual worlds, particularly with big pricetag items like Boulanger's specialties of "leisure, multimedia and households products." The relatively high barrier to entry for Second Life (I had to download a new version after clicking on the SLURL from the press release) doesn't help much either.

Full story on Virtual World News.

True, I'd been entering Second Life for the past months with an outdated SL client, the version released in march 2008 and had been able to hover around without forced updates uptill now. This due to the fact that the previous latest client had problems with several graphical cards. Fortunately, this latest version worked fine though.

Real Life Replica

When looking at the general build and layout of the island it is very real-life-ish in look and feel, and the last of the above pictures shows a rotating cube displaying the locations of the Real Life Boulanger stores. Time to head on to the main venue.

The frustrating thing was, it had closed doors. I had a hard time finding a way in, which I believe should not be part of the proposed new services. The store itself looked rather empty. Rather than that it was actually empty, it also felt empty.

Let's be honest, the store just opened up. It will take some time to make stuff available through this sales channel, so maybe that issue will be cleared. Nonetheless, I doubt if it will be a profitable saleschannel in the near future. Truth is, Virtual Worlds like Second Life are still a niche market, especially when you only focus on the French speaking world.

Let's get down to business

At one point in the main venue, a gigantic layout of one of their real life stores hovered, and this is where a Business Case could have been made for operating an outfit in a Virtual World.

I would have very much appreciated an island with no social decoration, no immersive experience helicopters and just a naked empty store if it would have been a clear training and R&D site. What I mean is this:

If you build huge real life store with tons of products it takes a massive amount of design and calculation to sort out what the best routes are. Where do you place your products, how wide should the aisles be. How do you position your products. Which ones do you single out and promote to your shoppers.

With IBM's knowledge and expertise to do tracking & tracing in Second Life (see Wimbledon for instance) they could have made the build an experiment in logistics. They could have build a user testsite in which they could track customers to see where they would be going first. To see what the patterns arewhich customers are walking through a store of this size, or what the best logistic routes would be for employees to refill shelves with products from the storage in order to improve planning, logistics and real life sales.


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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Real Life Cities 6: Augsburg

In Real Life, the german city of Augsburg was founded in 15 BC "in the reign of Roman emperor Augustus as a garrison called Augusta Vindelicorum." and opens up in virtual Second Life may 29th. Upon teleporting into the double sim I immersed in sight of the Augsburg Town Hall.

From upfront it looks quite decent, but from aside it looks a wee bit out of proportion. Around this landmark are several typical German houses of varying quality.

Throughout the center are stands and stages set up for the coming opening party, with a line-up of (to me) unfamiliar German artists. As with most virtual city replica's (or if you like VCR, since that term has become obsolete) the majority of the sim is reserved for shopping to get some return on investment (ROI).

In this particular case I doubt a ROI will be met, because the build itself doesn't attract me enough to come back since most of the sim is made up of the usual mainland ghetto-builds, and especially the second sim, Augsburg City II is entirely reserved for gaming and rentals with some luxury homes and casino's.

In short, I would have liked to see the Augsburger Dom (cathedral), the medieval Fünfgratturm tower, or I would even have settled for the Machinenfabrik Augburg which merged with the factory in Nurnberg to form the MAN factory where mr. Diesel himself pioneered the Diesel engine.

In short:

+ The Townhal is a decent build, though with few detail in interior decoration
- Missing a consistent theme and no other Augsburger landmarks
- Too many ready made, cheap builds scattered over the sim


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