Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Walled Gardens of Second Life

In the past year and a half I've been exploring Second Life, mostly seeking out corporate sites. Most of these had maginificent builds, some were utterly disappointing. The general consensus though has been that no matter how beutiful the build, most of the companies haven't got a clue of what to do with a virtual world yet.

They have been marketing showcases for most, and a lot of these have already withdrawn from Second Life, such as Vodaphone, Pontiac / Motorati, Mercedes, ING and Wells Fargo, to name but a few. A number of these companies have withdrawn from virtual worlds completely, quite a number have moved on to a more private world as they figured their customers needed some privacy.

Quite a number of companies still continue to explore Second Life in relative privacy, with islands unaccesible to the general public. Among these are (to name just a few):

Also, a number of companies have come and gone almost without noticing, such as

  • Red Bull
  • Heineken
  • Shell

Which have had private islands, but no report exists on what they have been doing out there. The general idea is that thse companies have made it to Second Life and have explored the possibilities for inworld training and conferencing.

Ian Hughes, IBM's metaverse evangelist says:

"Second Life and its public nature make it a wonderful place to let people explore the potential of virtual worlds and human interaction there, which then leads to them understanding how they might apply the principles to inside or outside their enterprise. The need for privacy, the need to grow and understand, the need for a company to still act as a tribe of some sort if a common pattern.

When we started Eightbar back in 2006 it was with a private" island. It let my IBM colleagues join a public space but feel a bit of safety to experiement. That very quickly led to the need to have real privacy, internal virtual worlds as people very soon understood that they could communicate and gain value from avatar based meetings in virtual worlds over and above telecons and emails and even instant messaging.

At the same time that sparks off into a discussion of how can our business and our customers business reach their customers and partners in a public space. The two are similar, but different, an intranet in normal web terms has a very different purpose to an internet presense. Sometimes
the technology is even different. Also there are two diverging approaches to what an environment needs to do and they are based on the mix of communicating instrumented information (mirror worlds showing machine rooms, traffic problems in a real city etc) and emotional and human connection through expression (building, sharing, acting in a web2.0 open way, avatar customization)

Understanding these approaches will only help once people have experienced a connection of some sort at a personal level. Then the business ideas will flow. It still wont be for everyone, but most people are visual, and we live in a 3d space. We communicate non-verbally, sit next to people we know in RL and in virtual environments. Ignoring that and filtering it with telecons and IM is clearly restricing our potential. A little more about this is on"

If you know more about these companies and what they have done in the Virtual World, would you please let us know what your experiences have been?

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Land of the Rising Celts: One to Watch

One of my favorite pasttime (usually late-night) hobby's is tasting whisky. If one thinks whisky, one thinks Scottish and usually ends up with Diageo. Today Diageo is the largest beer, wine and spirits company in the world with dozens of whiskies in it's portfolio, among which the well known "Classic Malt" series. As a lover of this water of life I'm no fan of Diageo though. They have a history. As you can read in Ulf Buxrud's "Lost Distilleries" they have a tradition of mergers and take-overs (under the name of UDV, United Distillers & Vintners and in preceding companies as well), and in the process are responsible for shutting down tons of old and respected distilleries in Scotland over the past 100 years.

Loyal readers of this blog and that of Ambling in Second Life may well be aware of the fact that Diageo has been developing a double sim island in Second Life for some time now. Well, this blog isn't about them. They're still lost in the waters. This blog is about the other whisky sim I've been keeping an eye on since early May (2007): Suntory.

A flashback (summarising previous blog entries):

On may 1 I spotted the Suntory sim at the center of a square of Japanese Sims, but the island wasn't accessible. There was only the logo to show, nothing else. A little later Aleister Kronos doubted it was the right Suntory. For us Europeans all Japanese have similar names and look alike, so there was the option it wasn't the Japanese brewer Suntory. I persisted though as I believed the logo to be of this megasized brewer.

In June the island took shape, but I wasn't really welcome. A few days later the design was torn down and in August I blogged on the new build appearing at the sim. In my opinion it wasn't really corporate anymore, so I started doubting myself.

(see "suntory" label for overview of these posts)

An impression

When returning to the site now, I got prove I was right. This time I took a long stroll through the sim, which in my opinion is aptly themed "Sanctuary"

Upon entering the sim I was placed on a bridge from the busy, crammy Japanese island towards a santuary in the midst of this. Although I've never been able to visit this great culture in Real Life yet, this fits in with my perception of it: Large, stressing techno-savvy cities which open up to sparkling sights of beauty and ancient culture. The feeling I get from this sim is a cross-cultural mix though. It is not what you would perceive as a traditional Japanese sanctuary, but feels like a cross of Japanese and Medieval European tradition and architecture.

On the first platform you'll encounter a sticky wall with shots of the island.

Further on you'll encounter several of the dozens of brands in beverage the company holds or imports, varying from Boss Coffee to Pepsi cola.

Finally I found the way down to the bar, which breathes the atmosphere of a classic "gentlemen's lounge," a place that cries for a good dram. In the bar you'll encounter the whiskies Suntory imports, like the well known Bowmore, Macallan and Glenfiddich, but also their own Suntory brand is present (if only RL pubs would charge these rates!)...

Maybe I'm a bit biased, but I really like this sim. I think it truly is a sanctuary between all the skyscraperish sims surrounding it, breathing ease and relaxation. A perfect atmosphere for a whisky. In itself the build is of an outstanding quality. It is an intricate design and I haven't discovered a single texture out of sync. To me, this sim is more than a brand. It is about a lifestyle.

There's a few points of criticism though. As happens with a lot of sims in Second Life, this one was empty so I couldn't find a tourguide. Most information was illegible to me as it was Japanese. Only the most basic directions were given in English, such as 'Marina', 'Square' and 'Bar' but i really would have liked to know more about the build, the sim and what is going on here.


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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Virtual Branding

If there's one business that has nothing to do in Second Life it's the alcoholindustry. While you can go to a virtual club in Second Life and sit at the bar and have some conversation or get crazy on the dancefloor, it seems pretty much a waste of time and effort to sit down and have a virtual whiskey: You don't taste it and the alcohol doesn't work.

Yet Diageo (fka United Distillers & Vintners), one of the worlds leading alcohol conglomerates has stepped into Second Life with "the Bar" This is yet another medium for them to support their website Drinks might be of no real use in the Metaverse, but people spending hours a day -in the evening- on Second Life probably get thirsty. So be seen where your consumers look is Diageo's credo in this one making The Bar an example of virtual branding.

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