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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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Top of the Blogs

Suddenly a couple of new links to the MindBlizzard blog appeared on my Technorati Ranking, which off course I don't mind at all. First of this set of links was Who's The Biggest? Redux by the Second Effects blog who compiled a list of the Top 100 blogs on Second Life.

No surprise I found myself somewhere down the middle, just one spot below "Ambling in Second Life" by my good chum Aleister Kronos, who's at number 61. That was some comfort... or not?

Well, there is one problem with the list...

A number of these blogs have been out of order off late. To see a list of who's no longer blogging anymore read this blogpost from November last year in which I list some of the blogs which haven't been updated in a while. Most notably the 3PointD blog, the once leading Second Life blog which has produced absolutely zits in the past year and a half and still neatly ranks number 52.

We all know that Technorati ratings are a wee bit iffy at times. A lot of people noted this and ArminasX has just updated the blogroll. In this second version the MindBlizzard blog dropped to spot 82. I can't say this is an error, as I must admit I have not been blogging on Second Life much off late. As said, MindBlizzard and Ambling were on the 61 and 61 slots in the first version, Ambling now dropped to 88, which is also quite amazing since it hasn't had a single blogpost in over three months. So despite the tweaking, the list will probably never be perfect.

We can work out intricated queries, tweak and reasses the quantitative rankings of the blogroll, but there is no way we can measure value, or quality in these blogs. I myself have not blogged Second Life as there was nothing special to blog from my point of view, no new companies entering Second Life, but I could have blogged myself to death in spotting every new inworld fashion designer, which just isn't my thing.

A second link I'd like to mention comes from the notorious GoFugYourSL which produced A Dandy List of SL Blogs, an alternative blogroll, without judgement or ranking, just alphabetically sorted.

I'm going to give you the entire 585 long Redux blogroll though, with the ranking included. Browse them to see which ones you like and dislike without paying attention to their ranks. In BOLD you will see some of my (still active) favorites:

# 1 Massively# 2 Official Second Life Blog# 3 Second Life's largest community blog# 4 New World Notes# 5 6 Torley Lives# 7 Not Possible IRL# 8 Fabulously Free in SL# 9 Free*Style# 10 Ana Lutetia inSL# 11 Dusan Writer's Metaverse# 12 Rezzable# 13 Prokofy Neva# 14 Second Style Fashionista# 15 Shopping Cart Disco# 16 Gwyn's Home# 17 UgoTrade# 18 Kzero# 19 SL iReports: Your news of a virtual world - Blogs from 20 21 Virtually Blind Virtual Law# 22 Alphaville Herald# 23 The Click Heard Round the World# 24 What Is This Crap?# 25 Fashion Victim# 26 Slmen# 27 The Metaverse Journal - Australia# 28 Mermaid Diaries: Natalia Zelmanov's Second Life Adventures# 29 Aviatrix :: Zoe Connolly# 30 El Opinador Compulsivo# 31 Living in the Metaverse# 32 Second Effects# 33 The Electric Sheep Company: Blogs# 34 The ARCH# 35 Corduroy# 36 Men's Second Style# 37 DIP's Dispatches from the Imagination Age# 38 It's Only Fashion# 39 maitreya# 40 Your2ndPlace - Comments# 41 Closet Crisis# 42 casa del shai# 43 CodeBastardRedgrave.Com# 44 Ewing Fashion Agency# 45 Botgirl's Second Life Diary# 46 Ch'know?# 47 Are we not men?# 48 Alliance Virtual Library# 49 Verbal Stew# 50 Hibernia on the Skids# 51 Designing Nicky Ree# 52 53 Prim Perfect# 54 The Heliograph# 55 FUTURE-MAKING SERIOUS GAMES# 56 Geta# 57 Be Less Stupid!# 58 Tuli's blog# 59 Girl Wonder Speaks...about Second Life# 60 Soign# 61 Second Arts# 62 Ivalde`s Heim# 63 Kitty Witchin# 64 SL Fashion Notes# 65 SL Fashion Police# 66 Fleur Skins# 67 'Kota's Knickers# 68 :: Dutch Touch :: Outlet - Second Life# 69 M is for Myg# 70 caLLie cLine# 71 An Engine Fit For My Proceeding# 72 Ophelia Drowns# 73 Second Stindberg# 74 CeN's Two Cents# 75 My SLife on the D List# 76 GION PROJECT# 77 CommonSensible# 78 Canimal.# 79 APLINK - itsReal# 80 artilleri# 81 Uma's Style Diary# 82 MindBlizzard blog# 83 Clyde# 84 The News from BardHaven# 85 Ryker Beck dot COM# 86 Reading Radar# 87 Kyoot# 88 Ambling in Second Life# 89 chignon - a Virtual Style Blog# 90 Fashion Consolidated# 91 Second Life of Dreams# 92 Phasing Grace Social Architecture and Virtual Worlds# 93 SL Fashion Avengers# 94 More Than Meets the Eye# 95 SLOG# 96 -Ana Lutetia-# 97 GoSpeed Racer a Second Life Avatar# 98 Brooklyn is Watching# 99 GoSpeed Racer a Second Life Avatar# 100 Through my eyes..# 101 ~silentsparrow~# 102 Long Awkward Pose# 103 Around the Grid# 104 Half Arsed# 105 Tenth Life# 106 SL FASHION DIVA# 107 Dedric Mauriac# 108 Philotic Energy# 109 Fashion Labyrinth# 110 Another blog!# 111 Digital Image# 112 Carissa's Closet# 113 Discursos do Outro Mundo# 114 Dwell On It# 115 Eladrienne's Other Life!# 116 Grid Expectations# 117 Nexeus Fatale# 118 Aspire Model Management# 119 Mui Mukerji# 120 Draconic Kiss# 121 r u n w a y + k i d z# 122 The Realm of the Red Rose# 123 SiniStyle Decapitated# 124 cognitive dissonance# 125 My Second Closet# 126 Radio Riel# 127 Ingmann Design Group# 128 GuRL 6# 129 *ICING* Second Life Vintage inspired Fashions by Miko Omegamu# 130 Koreshan Pointe# 131 SugarCube;Memoirs of Second Life# 132 Veyron's Adventures in Second Life# 133 Looker Lumet# 134 { Zaara }# 135 SLimply the Best# 136 JUICYBOMB All the Juiciest in Second Life!# 137 A Stroll Through Caledon# 138 All Ears in Second Life# 139 Alysha's Second Life# 140 Architecture +# 141 Lucas Lameth (luc) Fashion Jewelry# 142 On Your Toes# 143 144 MONTA# 145 PERSONA's Blog# 146 Business Communicators of Second Life# 147 adam n eve# 148 Fallobst# 149 *AnnaH*# 150 LaBicyclette# 151 Muse Fine Jewelry# 152 Ravishal Ramblings# 153 bijouaholic# 154 Cylindrian's Grace Notes# 155 CronoCloud Creeggan, Virtual Fashionista# 156 Rheta# 157 Studio Wikitecture: Opening Architecture# 158 SLShop-a-holic# 159 Songs from The Nightingale# 160 ~flirt~# 161 Pandora's box# 162 Less Than 3# 163 Whole Lotta Rosie!# 164 Rebel Hope Designs, Inc.# 165 My Digital Double# 166 She's So Unusual# 167 セカンドな日常 - livedoor Blog(ブログ)# 168 SySy's# 169 Tres Blah# 170 UberNoggin# 171 What *IS* Willis Talking About?# 172 Timothy's Second Life Experience# 173 Muism# 174 The Minor Mishaps and Adventures of Skusting Dagger# 175 DARK EDEN PLAZA# 176 Mischief# 177 Second Tense# 178 Royal Blue# 179 Shoshana's Musings# 180 Punch Drunk# 181 What's New ?# 182 Red-Headed Step-Child# 183 Just me, dinee# 184 Alienbear Jewelry Design# 185 MG fashion# 186 Exiled in SL# 187 Mimikri hot couture# 188 Chey's Second Life Blog# 189 Metaversal Arts# 190 Unique Needs!# 191 Aenea's Second Life# 192 Harajuku Box# 193 Refuge# 194 Hey Girlfriend# 195 BEWITCHED HAIR# 196 Virtual Silks and Fantasy Review# 197 All Things Tiessa# 198 Fashionality# 199 How's your world?# 200 PixelDolls...# 201 Second Life Male Style and Fashion# 202 Tori's Blog# 203 Wrath Paine# 204 The Journal of Dr. Darien Mason# 205 House of Nyla# 206 Sascha's Designs - Elegant Ballroom Gowns# 207 Diversity Hair# 208 Lady Adventuress# 209 Loki's musings on first and second life# 210 amiko*amikino# 211 Evans Avenue Exit# 212 The Winged Girl Blog# 213 214 Tao's Thoughts on Second Life# 215 glamourazzi# 216 The New Observer# 217 Dot in Second Life# 218 GRIDSTYLE.COM# 219 My Virtual World# 220 Content Confessional# 221 -Analise-# 222 Best of Both Worlds# 223 Poid Mahovlich# 224 Bitter Thorns Blog# 225 First Impressions# 226 KessKreations# 227 Berry's Blog# 228 Designing Insanity# 229 Truth# 230 Virtually Dressed# 231 Diamonds and Rust Podcast# 232 Honour's Post Menopausal View# 233 Alienbear Gupte Virtual Life# 234 *AC Aphrodite Creations*# 235 Inspired - Kawaii Fashion in Second Life# 236 It's A Scaggs Life!# 237 Sin Trenton# 238 Ramblings of a Red Headed Kitten# 239 Second Life: Music, DJs, Nightlife, Art and Creativity# 240 241 Vanity Universe# 242 Virtual Neko in Second Life# 243 Willowing Wisps# 244 iCandy# 245 SLink# 246 STELLAR by Lexi Morgan# 247 The Rummage Box# 248 The Connolly Telegraph# 249 A Second Look# 250 Bliss Beningborough Couture# 251 Experiments with Avatars# 252 Avenue Models# 253 avocatio virtualis# 254 #NAME?# 255 PXL Creations# 256 Ambergris Deadly Fashions# 257 Imperial Elegance# 258 Oh, hush!# 259 Passionate Neko Dreams# 260 ArtsPlace SL# 261 Charity Dogsbody's Booke of Sensible Advice# 262 CONNIE in a SEC# 263 secondguru# 264 The Life of Abigail Raymaker# 265 Fallobst# 266 Zippora's life# 267 Nyte'N'Day Official Blog# 268 The ramblings of Violet# 269 The Winter Market# 270 Y Me digitally encoded genetic machismo# 271 YABU SIM# 272 Proceedings of the Royal Society# 273 Free Speerit# 274 Genevieve Lutetia# 275 Nimil# 276 Second Wave Fashion# 277 Punk Shack# 278 La Sylphide# 279 Emery# 280 Phantom's Republic# 281 Second Life Shopping Sherpa# 282 Beth's Second Life# 283 Decoy# 284 Lo Lo# 285 overcooked# 286 Popfuzz# 287 Shep Korvin - Blog is the new Black# 288 everyday second life# 289 Miss Cornelia Rothschild# 290 Moonshine Clothing# 291 The Lady and The Tramp# 292 Woo's!# 293 Lick, Don't Bite# 294 CREAMSHOP# 295 LF Fashions# 296 Pedro Meya Marty - Agentur f# 297 Second Life Stylewatch# 298 The Dressing Up Box# 299 Vitamin Ci# 300 Crimson Flow# 301 Omega Point A blog by Catherine Winters# 302 Sunn's World# 303 Moggs - a second life# 304 Glamorpuss# 305 Blunt Fashion Sense# 306 L o s t A n g e l . H e a d q u a r t e r s# 307 ma vie d'avatar: ma vie sur second life# 308 SLC# 309 Novocaine# 310 Beta Technologies# 311 IYan Writer in virtual worlds# 312 Little Gems from My Second Life# 313 ::eLDee::# 314 Curious Kitties Island Update Blog# 315 LaynieWear# 316 ::ANA_Mations::# 317 DEVILISH CUPCAKE# 318 Digital Dragon Designs# 319 Digital Eyes# 320 321 322 Meet the Petermans# 323 Pix3lizeD Th0ughTs# 324 The Diary of a Caledonian Baroness# 325 500 Year Diary# 326 Accessories by Eolande# 327 Honey Wendt in Second Life# 328 Ingenue# 329 Kabalyero# 330 Solange! Fashions# 331 A Piece of Candy# 332 DragonFly Designs, Inc.# 333 Alphamale# 334 Kryptonia's Weblog# 335 Ai Baroque on Wordpress# 336 DrFran Does SL# 337 I Make HUDDLES# 338 The Fashionable Heart# 339 Eyana Yohkoh's Blog# 340 Metaverse Law# 341 Sensual Designs# 342 Digital Knickers# 343 Mela's# 344 Posh Pride# 345 Ravenwear: The Anti-Trend# 346 Scripter Syndrome# 347 Sio's Second Life# 348 The Cindy Kesey Show# 349 Eloise's thoughts and fancies# 350 Second Life's a Drag!# 351 The Virtual Version# 352 Trudeau Classic Sailing Yachts# 353 Winter Moon# 354 Eclipse# 355 Hairapy# 356 theshadow's Alternative Second Life Fashions# 357 VictoriaV Fashion# 358 Vidal's Dolly Realm# 359 World of IBIZARRE# 360 Aether Chronicles# 361 EarthStones# 362 DollyRock: Second Life Clothes# 363 I'm a Gracie Girl!!# 364 Freda's Fine Fashion Magix# 365 :The Cute Institute# 366 The Bon Mots of Phineas Matova# 367 BijouxOr Gold Jewelry# 368 =^.^= Neko Gear =^.^=# 369 The Excellent Second Life of Chartreuse Muni# 370 [CRAP] Fashion# 371 Awesome Designs# 372 Catt's Creations# 373 Gwendolyn Cassini Creations and Scripts 'r Us# 374 Illuminati Designs Updates# 375 Just fine# 376 MAU's# 377 Niki's Notes# 378 Rustica# 379 SubliminaLuminations# 380 Argent Eyes# 381 CTK# 382 Fashion Predator# 383 Frequency's Oscillations# 384 Jolie's Boutique# 385 Material Squirrel# 386 Ookami Ningen# 387 Ribbons Learns to Swim# 388 Serenity Mercier# 389 comme il faut - by Moire Georgette - virtual fashion# 390 Hexed (Formerly Escape)# 391 Second Life - Notizie e Commenti su Second Life# 392 Second Life Games# 393 Subtle Submission# 394 The Antiquity Gazette# 395 The Chilbo Road Press# 396 Viva La Glam.# 397 Comments for Yxes Muses# 398 Glass Earth# 399 Izzyisms# 400 Livin# 401 Not Your Typical Lady# 402 Project Q/Gematria# 403 SinSkins# 404 SlCoolMag# 405 Soda - Bubbly Fashions# 406 Cala - Transgender in Second Life# 407 2nd Lifer# 408 Mascha Boa's Fashion# 409 Prissy Pixels# 410 Reaction - a Surfers Revolution# 411 *~*HopScotch*~*# 412 Bewitched Designs# 413 Cailyn's - Classic Jewelry# 414 Dings Digital's Diary# 415 First Flower# 416 good deeds of a sailor to be# 417 JetDoll# 418 Kyra's Kloset# 419 Mashooka Designs# 420 pixie dust and tantrums...# 421 Rich Desoto# 422 Second Life at hand# 423 Second Mirage# 424 Selling in Secondlife# 425 Calico Ingmann Creations# 426 enkythings - Virtual High Heels# 427 Larue# 428 Machinations of an Evil Tiny Kitty# 429 Newbe's Steam Powered Blog# 430 Steamjunk# 431 Studio Sidhe# 432 Taunt# 433 TimeForce 10# 434 Tuli's Favorites# 435 !TM Hair Styles by Tami McCoy# 436 Daikon Forge# 437 Liquid Velvet Studio Designs# 438 rosemary galbraith# 439 Second Life Conceptual Creations# 440 The Velvet Room# 441 Torrid Tales of a Compulsive Swooner# 442 AMACCI# 443 FETISH FASHIONISTA# 444 Beq's adventures in second life# 445 Fortunate Productions# 446 A2NZ : When creativity goes global# 447 deadaswe's weblog# 448 Interests of Isolde Flamand# 449 Vignette# 450 ~Serenity Style~# 451 Beats n' Pieces# 452 Burroughs Jewellery and Eyes# 453 Caledon Early Bird Social Club# 454 Dreambits# 455 E.Laval Fine Clothing# 456 Fetch Alternative Blog# 457 Forceme Silverspar's adventures in Second Life# 458 House Of RFyre# 459 INDIRA BEKKERS - Second Life Fashion# 460 Samantha Speaks# 461 sf design - avatar clothing by swaffette Firefly# 462 **THE CLOSET**# 463 Explorations of the White Foxx# 464 Gideon Television Superstar# 465 Iron Raptor# 466 Nicola Escher - Journal# 467 Sparkle-Skye# 468 Tamed Frustration# 469 The Family Jewels# 470 Virtual World 471 Warm Winter Nights# 472 Woolly Wildcat Writings# 473 Angie Mornington# 474 For All Your Household Needs# 475 From the Flames# 476 Jana's Classic Designs# 477 Make Money Online With Richard Palace# 478 Marion in Wonderland# 479 Mirrorlabs: Skin Studio Blog# 480 Quarter Life Crisis# 481 Soliel Snook# 482 The Llama's Den# 483 The Second Life Great Expedition# 484 Veronique's Second Life# 485 Wild Thing - Male Clothing# 486 Meta.Live.Nu# 487 Skidz Partz On Secondlife# 488 Contest Central by Impressione# 489 powers of creation# 490 Hair Solutions# 491 MRO SHOW ** LIVE **# 492 secondfluid# 493 :!:Lavish Style:!: by Katy Angel# 494 [Poptart]# 495 Acedia Diary# 496 Asri Falcone Originals# 497 Derek# 498 Diary of an avatar# 499 Elegance Hats# 500 Goto Desoto# 501 LDinSTL says:# 502 Mael's Mindforge# 503 Oh no Crippy Oh# 504 Ordinal's Cabinet of Ephemera# 505 Rave Nation Blog# 506 .: Na# 507 ~KorvinKreations~# 508 A NEKO's LIFE in SL# 509 AudSLife# 510 Balderdash- Bagatelle and Trinketry# 511 Baronial Notations# 512 Diva Designs# 513 Eye Candy Designs# 514 Fae Designs# 515 Fashionably Dead# 516 From The Eye Of The Storm# 517 Frontier's Horizon# 518 Fuel# 519 Ki-Squared# 520 Makeda Cole# 521 Mal Burns Annex# 522 Moriash Moreau: My Second Life# 523 My Second Life is the New First# 524 Paw Prints# 525 RaceSL# 526 527 Something Different# 528 SYD: Style Your Destiny# 529 Taffy Apple Designs# 530 Tea Monster# 531 Through the filter of a Victorian Aesthetic# 532 TorridWear# 533 trash palace - electronic music club# 534 Treasured Visions# 535 Tully in Second Life# 536 Tweaktocracy# 537 Violet Voltaire# 538 Wildefire Walcott's Mistressy Musings# 539 Your Godless Goddess# 540 Anti Cute Clothing Second Life# 541 BiancaF# 542 Brigid Ashwood Fantasy Artist# 543 Caliburn Susanto# 544 Essentia# 545 Handbags# 546 Mannon's Fashion# 547 Mircat# 548 Mollster's# 549 OOpS# 550 Random Acts of Style# 551 Return to Secondlife# 552 Ships of the Line# 553 Khaos Klub Information Website# 554 Blog of House of Lu; Paper Couture# 555 Caliente Express# 556 celtgrrl# 557 Ephemeral Creations# 558 Flower and Willow# 559 ICoN# 560 Inside Second Life# 561 Life by Proxy# 562 Made for No Reason# 563 Metaverse Week in Review# 564 Miriel in the Metaverse# 565 newly born# 566 NPSL: Nonprofits in Second Life# 567 Riven's Nest# 568 Savoir Hair# 569 Second Life Blogosphere# 570 Second Life Fashion Addict# 571 Second Spice# 572 ShenS Blog# 573 Skin Within# 574 Stella's Mall on Stella Isle# 575 Sweetest Sin# 576 Technopaideia# 577 The Agile Mind# 578 the Artists' tea party# 579 The Source of Power# 580 Trin's Tantrums# 581 Voodoo Style# 582 Welcome to the Train-Wreck Love Life# 583 Women of Second Life# 584 Yoshino's Second life blog# 585 Zagoskin Haute Couture

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Sparkle Second Life to iPhone

Genkii Announces Sparkle IM, a Virtual Worlds Communications Tool for iPhone and iPod Touch

TOKYO, Mar. 24 -- Genkii today announced Sparkle IM, an easy-to-use chat and communication tool for the iPhone and iPod Touch that allows you to access the Second Life and Opensim virtual worlds over Wifi or 3G networks.

"Second Life and Opensim rely on high-end computing hardware and broadband for a full, immersive virtual world experience," says Ken Brady, CEO of Genkii. "But what about when you're away from your computer, at school, at work, traveling, or when you simply don't have the time to launch the full application?"

Sparkle IM allows you to do exactly that. You can use the following features immediately: send and receive IMs, send and receive offline IMs, region chat, send teleport requests, accept friend requests, and change your start location.

Sparkle IM supports Second Life, SL Beta Grid, OSGrid (Opensim), and any other custom server connection compatible with Opensim/SL.Sparkle IM launches with a special introductory price of $4.99 and is available in the iTunes App Store.

As we develop new features, Genkii will post additional announcements and information at

About Genkii

Founded in Tokyo in 2008, Genkii is a cutting-edge group of geeks working on a wide variety of mobile, virtual world, and social media applications.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

3Di OpenViewer 1.0 beta

found a movie about 3Di OpenViewer 1.0 beta on youtube.

"3Di OpenViewer" runs on IE as activeX compnents and enables you to view SecondLife or OpenSIM on web browser. I find "chat", "sit", "touch" commands on the right side of the viewer.

One interesting thing is avatar control. You know, in second life we move avatars by keyboards, but on 3Di OpenViewer you can move your avatar by mouse. I guess it's helpful especially for beginners.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

IBM still diggs Metaverse

Earlier this week I wrote about Ian Hughes departure from IBM. So did half of the blogosphere. Sillicon Valley Insider also thought about what's next for IBM:

Earlier this week, we wondered if the departure of IBM's (IBM) "Metaverse Evangelist" means the company is scaling back its interest in virtual worlds and Second Life. We haven't heard much from the group in months, which only added to our speculation. IBM reps finally got back to us, and they let us know they're still in there

Read the full article here. The question however, is not if they still digg the metaverse, but if they still grog it.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Edge and Beyond: Predator on the loose

In the past three years or so, the world of Second Life, and probably half of the entire Metaverse have been propelled and fueled by the power of IBM. In Second Life they have had over fifty island for example which shone like a beacon to other companies. Half of the projects in the Metaverse seemed to have a blue streak to it. The Metaversal force of IBM was not the 6,000 strong community in Second Life, or the weight of the 300K employees worldwide or the assumed millions of dollars they brought in. All this time it has been the energy of a single supernova that's been feeding the edge IBM had in the Metaverse.

This supernova in the Metaverse is the 2008 Virtual World Innovation Award winner Ian Hughes , or better known as epredator. This digital predator has hunted virtual worlds by the score, grabbing the available technology, devouring it and has been an inspiration to many people out their. Last monday Ian left Big Blue after a tour of duty lasting 18 years in search of new territories and a new prey. Ian announced his resignation on the Eightbar blog.

Today is a day of mixed emotions. Today I resigned from IBM having been there for 18 years, 19 if you count my year out from university.In all that time I have worked with some great people, and felt a tremendous sense of belonging.

Its been quite a journey, both in technical education and in personal growth. It is the extent of that growth and the speed that has not always been kept up to pace with by the system that I worked within.

Not surprisingly, the predator has already set his teeth into a new project and launched Feeding Edge, a consultancy company which is "Taking a bite on new technology so you don't have to". I have no doubt that the immense drive, the sheer energy and enormous creativity of Ian will get the Feeding Edge up and running.

From this place, Ian, I wish you all the best.

One tip though, at IBM you had the weight of an immense company, with all its rules and regulations holding you back. Be carefull that, as you're on your own now, you don't rush out as an avalanche thundering through the metaverse at lightning speed without us keeping up.

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Virtual Banking (20) Westpac

I've been pretty extensive in blogging banks that immersed themselves into Second Life, but here's one I never noticed; Westpac.

The following article is grom Virtual Worlds News: UPDATED: Australian Bank Westpac Exits Second Life

In November 2007, the Australian bank Westpac had set up shop in Second Life for
internal use. According to a ZDNet article from the time citing then-CTO David Backley, IBM and Westpac had experimented (with positive results)with using the virtual world for centralised onboarding for staff from offices around the country. The National Business Review reports today, though, that the bank has cut the project in
spite of positive feedback. [Update at bottom]

It sounds like the results weren't enough. Backley joked that he's now GM of application development ("Read into that whatever you will") and said that returns weren't strong enough to support the project.

"Failures can become expensive. We do massive systems rollouts and we expect huge paybacks," he told the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum in Sydney.

I don't point this out to sound the death knell of Second Life as Valleywag has (earning it a link from the National Business Review) or any number of publications. I think it's silly to look at the departure of one project as the tipping point, especially since that one project was likely generating more money for IBM as a technology partner and consultant than Linden Lab through land sales in Second Life.

I think it is worth noting the reaction that companies like Westpac are having. For one, it entered Second Life long before Linden began to seriously refocus the virtual world to serve enterprise customers needs. For another, in the current economic climate everyone, possibly especially banks, is looking to cut costs.

Experimental efforts, which I think is what most organizations label virtual world projects, are attractive because they're a new option to save money, but there's an ever-increasing need to show ROI--and apparently enough of a return that you don't get demoted.

UPDATE: Metaverse Journal was also at the event where Westpac's efforts were discussed and has a much more positive takeaway than the National Business Review: Westpac regarded the effort as a project ahead of its time, but the costs of maintenance and implementation were too high and a key sponsor left the company, stalling momentum. The new insight here is less about corporate reactions to Second Life and more about the media's: fyi, there's still some bias against it.

To learn how to successfully take advantage of virtual worlds for business, come to the 3D Training, Learning and Collaboration conference taking place April 20-21, 2009, in Washington, DC.

Related Articles:

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Second Life Viewer on Playstation3

Takeshich Nakamura succeeded in compiling a Second Life viewer and ran it on Playstation3 (with ubuntu7.10 linux).

It works, but the performance isn't too good yet (about 0.4 fps).If you have any ideas to remove bottlenecks here, please let him know.Thanks.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Magic in Manhattan goes There today

Yesterday, Makena Technologies (the company behind, reported that Random House author Sarah Mlynowski will be reading from her latest book in the Magic in Manhattan series in at 4 p.m. PT today.

Sarah Mlynowski was born in Montreal, Canada. She studied English Literature at McGill University, where she wrote a newspaper column. After graduation, she worked in the marketing department of various publishing companies in Toronto before moving to New York City (where she still lives) to become a full-time writer. Sarah has written five novels for adults, three for teenagers, co-written a guide to writing chick lit, and co-edited the two bestselling charity collections Girls’ Night In and Girls’ Night Out.

When Sarah is not writing, she's trying to kick-start her magical powers. If she succeeds, she promises to cast spells for world peace, 12 months of sunshine a year, and more Star Wars movies. [Sarah's Magic in Manhattan page @ Random House]

Makena CEO Michael Wilson was pleased to announce this event and said "Talking about books is a natural fit for virtual worlds. When readers can meet authors and ask them questions - especially an author of this caliber - books can come alive in whole new ways."

I'm not sure about that natural fit thing, but it's been done a few times before. We've seen a list of Pinguin authors appear in Second Life like William Gibson and Terry Pratchett. These events were usually to crowded to really have fun, let's see if the architecture can give a better experience.

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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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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Virtual Banking (19): BNP Paribas Hipihi

Among the first wave of Metaverse explorers we've seen quite a lot of banks explore Second Life, some of which have vanished without a trace, and some moved on to other worlds. Some stayed and opened up virtual shop in different worlds as well. One of these banks is the French BNP Paribas.

I've blogged the BNP Parisbas presence in Second Life in the blogpost Virtual Banking (8): BNP Parisbas in June 2007 and just ran into a video of the banker in the Chinese world of Hipihi (thanks to Metaverse 3d). Biggest challenge here was to find the < embed > button on the Japanese site to get the video on MindBlizzard, but finally I took a lucky guess, and viola, here it is.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Canada Post delivers (part 1)

Just like airliners in Second Life (see Brussels Airlines and Air France - KLM) a mail company in Second Life could be seen as a 2008 Metaverse Oddity, for surely, you don't need a mailman in a virtual world like this. If you buy virtual goods, they don't need to be delivered as they appear in your inventory immediately and can be rezzed anywhere you like. You don't need a mailman either to deliver your postcards to the ones you love, as Second Life has a built-in service which delivers your snapshots through email. Yet Canada Post isn't the odd one out in Second Life.

Canada Post Corporation (French: Société canadienne des postes) is the Canadian postal operator operated as a crown corporation. The Post Office Department of the Government of Canada was founded in 1867 and was rebranded Canada Post in the late 1960s though it officially remained the Post Office Department until October 16, 1981 when the Canada Post Corporation Act came into force. The Act set a new direction for the postal service, creating more reliable service and ensuring the postal service's financial security and independence. [Wikipedia]

Or maybe it is, in a positive way. The Canada Post presence in Second Life is one of the second wave corporations to explore the metaverse, and like the German Volksbank, they have a different approach to things than most of the first wave explorers had. Like the Volksbank they don't have a dedicated sim which is destined to lay bare once the 'grand opening festivities' are over, they bring a variety of shops on their sim.

The Canadian Post venture is called "Maple Grove" but won't be found on the island called maplegrove but on one called Solar. The sim is a heavily built urban sim which makes it rather slow to render, especially if you use 'ultra detail' settings like me to take some nice pictures for you folks. Once immersed at the center of the sim you'll find yourself amidst a variety of builds, one of which, obviously is the Canadian Post postoffice.

Aside from the Canadian Post shop you'll find a variety of retailers which are Canadian Post's 2008 retail partners, i.e. they ship their real life products with Canadian Post. The notecard you can pick up in front of the postoffice gives a good overview on what you can find on the sim:

Welcome to Canada Post's Maple Grove!

Canada Post is proud to showcase its 2008 partner retailers. Explore Maple Grove and discover the largest collection of real-life retailers sharing one sim in Second Life.

In the city centre, you can visit Toys R Us, Sky Mall, The Shopping Channel and Canada Post. New this year, we are introducing the Bright Spark Lab. The Lab is a virtual marketing agency designed to assist Second Life entrepreneurs. You will find free tools to make you Second Life business more successful. You will also find valuable information for creating a direct mail campaign in real life!

On Maple Street, we have a busy schedule of live music events at the Telus Theater. Be sure to check out Brookstone and Red Canoe. Don't forget to stop in the Green Cafe which has information about keeping your mail "green". Blackberry Lane is home to Sears and the Canada Post garage where you can get your own free mail truck.

On Hudson Avenue, you will find the Everything Olive store next to the Tower.

Thank you for visiting Maple Grove and be sure to leave us some feedback at the Canada Post office in the city centre.

I won't go into a detailed description of these companies in this post, that will have to wait untill later, but here's a few piccies to get an idea of the entire build

Most shops present on the sim put on a showcase of a number of items you can buy in their webshops and have the items delivered to you by Canada Post at home in the real world. I think this type of presence will work better than a sim dedicated to one brand only, as it kind of works like the old fashioned way: You go downtown to visit one store, you walk past another one and walk in on impulse.

I can understand Canadian Post offering this selection of shops, as they are real world partners in shipping, but I wonder how many virtual shoppers this particular combination will draw. Perhaps it would have been better to mix the real life companies with popular inworld shops.

There is a downside to this type of presence though, as it is quite a heavy urban build, it is very slow to render if you use a higher graphics setting. I don't think you can blame Canadian Post for this, but rather an unavoidable feat if you're working in Second Life. If corporations slowly start to work out their act in the Metaverse and start doing sensible business, companies and customers alike would like (and rightly so) a better performance from MSP's (Metaverse Service Providers) like Second Life. If performance can't be boosted to have a decent shopping experience, then maybe Second Life isn't the place to be for shops.



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Friday, December 12, 2008

A Cool Virtual Yule

It's that time of year again, not only in this world, but the entire metaverse is gearing up for christmas. Time to put up the Christmas Tree and turn on the snow on Sogeti island in Second Life.
Here are some images from other virtual worlds getting ready for christmas:

Christmas in Runescape

Christmas in Club Pinguin

The worlds largest 3D chat, IMVU, is known for heavily advertising its service throughout the web, so small wonder they've put up special christmas ads.
Christmas in World of Warcraft

Through email I received a christmas teaser from Twinity

Also in the World of Entropia things are getting dressed up for christmas. In the Entropia Forum (clothing section) I found a number of christmas pants, jackets and hats.

No doubt christmas will be celebrated in more worlds. Please send your images to veejay [at] mindblizzard [dot] com to have your christmas posted here and a link to your site.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Real Life Cities (12): Rio de Janeiro

Recently I added a blog to my bloglist which I can't read. It's "O Guia do Mochileiro da Second Life", which brings us tales from Second Life from Brasil. This particular blog brings me back to the series on virtual representations of Real Life Cities in Second Life.

I first noticed some Brasilian presence in Second Life in about april 2007 when I first blogged the Fiat Brasil presence. Later on we saw Citroën Brasil enter as well. Meanwhile we had seen a huge boost in Brasilian users in Second Life and had seen a lot of fuzz about the Kaizen Games rip-off. Brasilians seemed to love Second Life, but didn't really speak English so Kaizen Games and Brasil Telecoms prepped up a Portugese Language Pack for Second Life and a registration portal, Second Life Brasil (so far so good) and became Linden Lab's first licenced Global Partner, but were rumoured to take off a large percentage on the transactions. I haven't seen any Brasilian companies enter Second Life over the past years aside from these two automotives, but because my Portugese isn't very good (or almost non existent), I may have overlooked. However, the Brasilian community has grown steadily becoming a force to be reckoned with in Second Life, although they keep to themselves a bit (again, language barrier), but it's time to head to Rio, home of one of the best known landmarks in the world:

Rio de Janeiro ("River of January", is the second largest city of Brazil, behind São Paulo, and the third largest city in the continent, behind São Paulo and Buenos Aires. The city is capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro. It was the capital of Brazil for almost two centuries, from 1763 to 1822 while it was a Portuguese colony and from 1822 to 1960 as an independent nation. It was the capital of the Portuguese Empire from 1808 to 1821. Commonly known as just Rio, the city is also nicknamed A Cidade Maravilhosa, or "The Marvelous City".

Rio de Janeiro is famous for its natural settings, its Carnival celebrations, samba and other music, and hotel-lined tourist beaches, such as Copacabana and Ipanema, paved with decorated black and cream swirl pattern mosaics known locally as "pedra portuguesa". Some of the most famous local landmarks in addition to the beaches include the giant statue of Jesus, known as Christ the Redeemer ('Cristo Redentor') atop Corcovado mountain, which has recently been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World; Sugarloaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar) with its cable car; the Sambódromo, a giant permanent parade stand used during Carnival; the famous Brazilian copperfish and Maracanã stadium, one of the world's largest football stadiums.[wikipedia]

There are multiple Rio de Janeiro sims, amongst which a triple sim build called Brasil Rio, but the one that has most resemblance to its real life counterpart is RJ City and obviously, the Cristo Redentor is very prominent in this build as well. As for recreating a virtual replica, this build is not as accurate as say Augsburg or Munich, but rather a loose collection of the local sights set in an athmosphere that breathes the spirit of Rio.

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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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Virtual Banking (18): Volksbank and Raiffeisenbank

Among the first countries to ditch Second Life last summer were Germany and Austria, where public opinion rapidly went from ecstatic to outright negative and focus was laid on the dark side of Second Life. But they're back. Slowly (very slowly), companies are coming back to Second Life. This time it's the German based Volksbank and Raiffeisenbank which opened up their virtual shop earlier this week, making it real world bank number 18 to immerse itself in Second Life.

Initially I thought this build was from the Austrian based Volksbank AG, or Volksbank Group, but that's a mixup. This presence is the German Volksbank, a cooperation of different local banks.

Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken with over 15,7 million members and 30 million customers, is a pillar of the German banking industry and a major force in the German economy. As the central organization of the cooperative banking group, the BVR (Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken), functions as a promoter of, representative for, and a strategic partner of its members. [bvr]

Aside from an apparent turn in public opinion, this new endeavor supprisingly comes at a time in which most financial institutions keep a lid on their expenditure and innovation budget due to the Credit Crunch.

The Volksbank comes in a double sim presence, first of which is the Orientantion Island and the second one is the main sim. The main sim holds the VR Marktplatz (market) and VR Finanzlounge (finance lounge), which is built like a typical smalltown city center.

The Volksbank has a different approach to their presence than most other real life companies have, which is good. Most corporate sims are empty spaces, with only their own private little corporate build. Alongside the marketplace however, we find various shops, inworld, Second Life based boutiques. Also the Volksbank has set up a Real Estate agent at the corner of the marketplace, which offers building tips for building in Second Life. I think this is a very good crossover, as real estate products and real estate financing are closely tied in with the core products of a bank.

While exploring the sim I ran into two Volksbank teammembers, Alexander Auerbach and teamleader Pedro Barbosa, who kindly gave me some background information. The Volksbank presense is mainly a research project which is not directly focussed on doing actual banking business in Second Life, but in getting in touch with their clients. They want to collect experience which can help them improve their services and consultancy. They do want to find out though how far one can go in 'vermittlung', consultancy in an environment like this.

Their Second Life presence will a place to meet new customers, but since finance is a very private business, follow ups will have to be done the old fashioned way, with visits to your local bank. The lack of privacy was also one of the reasons ABN Amro moved over to Active Worlds.

They were quick to point out that the presence isn't finished yet, and were still working on filling in some details. The concept for the sim was made by people from GAD, a calculating center for banks and a member of the Volksbank cooperation. Also cooperative banks like the geno-verband Stuttgart and Rheinisch-Westfälischer Genossenschaftsverband participate in this build, which are both part of the Volksbank coop as well. The concept developed by GAD was checked with a Second Life agency though to see if it would hold up, but the build was entirely done with own employees.

Here's two promo videos about the Volksbank presense in Second Life:


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Friday, December 05, 2008

Air France-KLM on a Cloud

You don't see too many new companies taking a dive into virtual worlds these days, so I was really excited to see Air France - KLM immerse last month.

Air France-KLM, is a European airline holding company incorporated under French law with its headquarters at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris, France. It is the largest airline company in the world in terms of total operating revenues, and the third largest in the world in terms of passenger-kilometres and passenger fleet size. Air France-KLM is member of the SkyTeam airline alliance. They offer a frequent flyer program called Flying Blue. The company's namesake airlines rely on two major hubs: Roissy-Charles de Gaulle International Airport, near Paris, and Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam. [wikipedia]

The airliner has asked iMarginal to build a virtual presence where the company would be able to interact with their shareholders, or as introduced on the AFKLM Second Life website:

The Air France-KLM island in the Second Life universe aims to offer Air France-KLM shareholders a space with the Group’s financial news. For shareholders and visitors, this space is structured in order to help them learn more about the Group’s activity and to participate in financial events. On the island they can find an auditorium, a lounge, the share price in 3D, a Sustainable Development space and the Air France Museum.

I'm happy to see they've done a great job at the build; it's of exquisite quality and they've actually managed to skip a few of the traditional, gravity bound builds we often see in virtual environments. The island is called 'ile dans le ciel', or in plain English 'island in the sky', which suits the company as their core business mainly is up in the clouds.

As for moving around the sim you will need a jetpack to move from room to room, or use the teleport hub above.

There are four primary areas to explore: First there is the Home sphere: where you can view movies about the Air France-KLM group and download PDF's containing the latest financial reports. The second shpere is the 'mandatory' auditorium. A third sphere houses the Air France museum with and exhibition of early Air France and KLM posters, bringing pack memories of the past when flying still was romantic and adventurous. The museum also contains a number of fine scale models of Air France and KLM airplanes. Finally, the fourth sphere offers room to a lounge.

Late last summer I have had some contact with KLM exmployees who were looking into the possibility of building a Second Life presence and were looking for some sort of justification for an airliner to get into a virtual world, in which people don't need transportation as they can fly, or even better, teleport themselves from point to point. I pondered that question when I blogged the presence of the Brussels Airlines in Second Life in March, as I wrote:

... and what do you do when you're an airliner and get down to the Metaverse? Exactly, an airline's core business is to bring people from place to place. In the virtual world however, you don't need transportation. You can just teleport. Airliners have become obsolete. Yet Brussels Airlines knows that bringing people from place to place is just a means to a goal. It is actually about people going to destinations. So if you can't do the transportation part, focus on the destinations. That's exactly what the B-Places directory does.

There's a slight French domination at the build, so I'm trying to find out more with the Dutch wing..

Here's a slideshow from the build's Flickr pool:

More info can be found on the Air France-KLM website where you can watch a neat video about the Second Life presence and an introduction by group CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta.


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Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Meta Crunch Continues: Reuters bails out too

After the global Credit Crunch, recession kicks in in the metaverse as well. We've seen this one coming a year ago though. After the media hype in 2006/2007 brought dozens of companies into the virtual world of Second Life, the brain drain started in august 2007 when wanna be hotshot marketeers failed to digg how Virtual Worlds worked and companies bailed out of their virtual ventures.

Last week we saw Google pull the plug on its shortlived Lively project and this week saw the bankrupcy of Sun, a Japanese Second Life development company and the Register reports that Reuters pulling out their embedded reporter Adam Pasick. The Reuters Second Life website has been silent since september 30th. This probably won't be a big surprise. The buzz in and around Second Life has died down over the past months. Even I find it hard to find Second Life related news to blog and am straying away to other worlds and I'm not the only one. Here's a selection of my former reading list:

  • Ambling in Second Life has been quiet for four weeks now.
  • Digado has been dead for two months as well.
  • The Belgian Second Life Crew has made its last post in July.
  • Second Life Blogo, once operated by Second Life Development Company Lost in the Magic Forest has even ceased to exist.
  • Dutch SL Community site NL0031 (formerly known as Second Life NL) has been silent since July.

A number of CEO's from virtual worlds have said to me that Second Life may have done the Virtual World industry a bad service while trying to ride that wave of media and corporate attention which now results in not just a fading hype, but the start of a real Meta Crunch. They may have a point, but in my opinion this is a needed shake-out. The space is getting too overpopulated with hundreds of startups trying to get a piece of the pie without bringing innovation into the arena. We've passed the "Yet another Social Network" stadium and moved into the "yet Another Social World" phase. Somehow the picture of the "Dungeon Master" came to mind, a wise old game-guide. We might need one to show us the way in the Metaverse and help us out of trouble.

It's turning into a grim story now, with the Metaverse being sucked up into a black hole. The universe had a big bang, exploded, expanded and now contracts again and diminishes into yet another very very niche market. Chris Williams at The Register put it quite boldly:

Last one to leave, turn off the flying penis

I don't think it is that drastic. It's time for a good old shakedown. Get rid of the cowboys that dream of getting rich faster than you can make instant coffee. There's tons of schools, universities and other institutions out there in the Metaverse (including Second Life) who are still exploring, still paving the way for the masses in finding cool, real and usefull applications of Virtual World technology. We just have to be patient. Explore, accept failure, rejoice in small victories. Keep it going. We'll get there, but have a long road ahead in which we must innovate.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Meltingdots starts Weblin-based-services

Meltingdots, a Tokyo based company which specialize in virtual worlds, has supported many companies to get a Second Life presence (for example, Suruga Bank which we blogged June 2007 at MindBlizzard).

Recently they partnered with Weblin, one of the web based avatar chats, and started to offer several interesting services using Weblin. Recently they have live-streamed a video of a concert. Fans who couldn't attend the concert joined together at a website as Weblin avatars and enjoy chatting with other fans while viewing the streaming-video.

I asked Hiroshi Asaeda, CEO of Meltingdots, about Weblin and the future of Second Life.

Q:Now you're focusing in Weblin. What's the advantage of Weblin?

Easier to join, on a web browser. As we were working on Second Life, I noticed the most important part for SL wasn't 3D, but real time communication. SL still has a huge barrier to join, and I thought Weblin was one solution which could bring in more normal people (meaning computer users who are not geeks) to experience online communication. Using Weblin is just like using Skype, and is easy to download for these people. Also, Japan has a culture of not wanting to show their real identities, and prefers to use avatars. As long as people aren't desperate to use cool 3D designed offices, I thought it was good enough to communicate using a web browser.

How was the Weblin + live streaming?

The Weblin live streaming with Denpa worked out pretty well. Even though it was a daytime real club event, the people who lived away from Tokyo attended the virtual live.
Although we had some trouble in the live streaming itself, we thought there are huge opportunities to do events with Weblin.

What do you predict about Second Life or other virtual worlds in 2009?

Meltingdots still thinks Second Life to be one of the most innovative social services in the world. No one is coming even close to them, but I think they need a visionary so the users will keep believing them. What we first need to do before using Second Life is to have more people get used to using avatars as themselves. Weblin is a good way to start out, and when the users get bored with the flat interface of the 2D web, that's when the 3D virtual world business begins. We will continue SL until this day comes.

Disclosure:Meltingdots is the sponsor of Avatar Watch, which is my main blog.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

OpenSIM based worlds - Legend City, DreamWorld

Last week I visited 2 virtual worlds which are based on the OpenSIM platform, Legend City and Dreamworld.

Legend City
First one is "Legend City". To get an account, visit the site below.

Legend City has its own currency "Legend Dollar"(200 Legend Dollar is equal to US$1). I could find its KIOSK in Second Life, paid 2000 Linden Dollar and got 1333 Legend Dollar.

After that, i downloaded the viewer and launched. Here's fa irst snapshot of it.

Default avatars are nice.

When i visited Legend City, it's difficult to walk straight or to stay upon floor. One interesting thing is popular stores in Second life have their own stores in Legend City(Simone, for example). This world may attract fashion lovers.

Dream World
Second world on the list is "Dream World" in China.

梦幻世界-三维3D虚拟世界娱乐交友社区 via kwout

The first snapshot of its client viewer.

Dreamworld isn't very large yet, I found about 10 Sims on the map.

This is a lounge for English speakers.

This exibition hall might be inspired by last summers' Beijing Olympics.

Ni Hao!

When I visited this world, I couldn't find anyone. I visited at prime time and there is no time difference between Japan and China.

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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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Linden Lab writes out 10K innovation contest

Linden Lab are offering $10K for projects that improve real life through virtual world.

Linden Lab, the company that runs Second Life, just announced that they are launching a $10,000 (USD) "Linden Prize" for "an innovative inworld project that improves the way people work, learn and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world." The criteria include:

  • Work in Second Life that also achieves tangible, compelling results outside of Second Life.
  • Distinctive, original work using Second Life that clearly demonstrates high quality, execution, function, aesthetics and technical sophistication.
  • Work that has the capacity for inspiring and influencing future development, knowledge, creativity, and collaboration both inside and outside of Second Life.

The price money offered is a substantial increase from previous initiatives (which in my opinion have been nothing but shameless crowdmining projects), including USC's "Public Good" challenge that offered $1,200 to three winning projects and the Foundation for Rich Content which has been providing small grants of $80 for projects that enhance Second Life in some way.

However, with 10K in the offering, I doubt it will be enough to attract larger real life businesses to compete and in the passing make a difference. For individual entrepeneurs and Metaverse evangelists, this might be a daring opportunity though.

Entries for this innovation contest are due January 19. See the Linden Prize site for further details.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Crunch back with Visual CV

A Credit Crunch and recession do funny things with people. All of a sudden we are all looking for a new job. Well, I personally am not, but professional networking sites like LinkedIn report an increase of 25% in activity and new connections made.

On the other hand, Headhunters seem to turn down their activity a little. Over the past yerar I received at least two annoying calls a month, but it's been pretty quiet over the last two months. I guess it's pretty much a US thing to use LinkedIn for finding and hiring people, here in the Netherlands we kinda stick to old fashioned, not networked sites like Monsterboard or Nationale Vacaturebank.

Anyway, if you're looking out for a new job, you might want to check out a new startup called Visual CV. It opened up for beta in early 2008 and offers a whole range of cool features to pimp your resume with video presentations and so on.

"...VisualCV is a clever idea to update the traditional resume. It also allows applicants to stand out in the job market, and cuts out unnecessary steps (phone and in-person interviews) that make it more difficult for employers to see a body of work. Plus, it is entirely free..."

Read full article at Killer Startups.

One of the example resumes that stands out of course is the one of Barack Obama, the president elect of the United States of America. One slight comment, analysts say Barack is the first internet president, with all his neat web 2.0 ventures, like on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the Obama Blog. His resume is a little outdated though, it still states Presidential Candidate. However, a striking example of how leveraging the power of internet can help you get a new job.

Visual CV Barack Obama

One example down the road, we find the Visual CV of Torley Wong, better known as Torley Linden or @torley, neatly wedged in between Barack Obama and former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki in the "Influencer" category at Visual CV. Not sure if this is on the same level, but one could say Torley is the people's president of Second Life, or officially Resident Enlightenment Manager at Linden Lab.

Well, time to get out there and pimp that resume.It's easy to do, create then share.

Some more press coverage from early 2008:

"...New to this field is VisualCV. With an online resume at VisualCV, you can showcase your work in a visually appealing way. Although VisaulCV may sound like they're just jobster, version 2, take note - VisualCV already has 50 participating companies onboard receiving VisualCVs and their names may surprise you...

...VisualCV offers a unique feature that lets you track who views your profile after you've shared it, but unlike resumes you post on other job sites, VisualCV's members have more control over their resume's privacy - there are no backdoors for recruiters or marketers to access your resume..."

Read full article at Read Write Web.

VisualCV, a free service for individuals offered by a Reston, Va., start-up, lets job seekers create an online résumé that can include work samples, references' video testimonials and a visual for accomplishments, such as a chart showing surpassed sales targets...

Read full article at Wall Street Journal.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Best Buy Bailout

Last week I blogged the closure of the popular Second Life magazine "The Avastar," which in its heydays was a good source of information when it came to providing info on new companies entering Second Life. Currently they're running a review on the top stories of 2008, but I'd like to pick out a small article on a company in Second Life which they ran back in august and which I totally missed.


Geek Squad Island closes
By: Jaager Himmel

GEEK Squad Island, which has helped thousands of residents with technical computer help, has been forced shut down by its RL owner, says one disappointed staff member. The island is set to close on September 7 after owners Best Buy continually refused permission for it to be properly promoted, according to the source who wishes to remain anonymous.

He told The AvaStar that he had been encouraging Best Buy to let him hold events such as computer training classes and technology seminars to boost traffic flow but was rebuffed at every attempt. He continued to try to promote the island by hosting events without telling Best Buy, and by working with other tech companies in SL.

Corporate ignorance

Best Buy ordered him to stop all further events, and hand over all contacts he had made with other companies. The anonymous staff member said: "It's a failure of corporate vision on the part of Best Buy." He added that, like many other firms in 2007, "they jumped into SL without any forethought". He cited a lack of basic understanding of how things work in SL as the main reason Best Buy has failed in its virtual venture: "Corporate ignorance of the ways of the grid lead to another untimely death of an island."

The question is, did I really miss it? Probably not. Still I'd like to put it up for sake of completeness as I've been trying to track all real life companies immersing in Second Life in the past year and a half.

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Virtual History

Last week I wrote a lengthy blogpost on IBM's virtual Forbidden city and wondered:

"The first time I walked the city and marvelled at its detail, I thought back to my days at Ancient Sites and wondered how it would be to walk from this city, to say ancient Rome or Athens, to have multiple sites like these exist. "

Fortunately I'm not the only one to think that Virtual Worlds can play an enormous role in our educational system in terms of recreating our cultural heritage. Today I came across Joe Rigby's blog, MellaniuM where he explores how virtual environments can aid in this way. There's a number of blogposts on his site I'd like to point out. Especially in regard to quoting myself above, here's part of a blogpost titled Archaeological Serendipity:

"Just imagine wandering at your leisure through a recreation of Athens or Rome at the height of their power and influence. At MellaniuM our very "raison d'etre" could be distilled as the creation, nay, I should say the actual resurrection at a virtual realistic level of the achaeological remnants of these glorious civilisations. Indeed there are vast assets of 3D models in databanks of acedemic institutions around the world which have been used to provide vistas and fly-through movies of the plethora of cities which flourished in the core of ancient civilizations from Mesopotamia to Egypt and from Athens to Rome. These models can now be used to their full potential to create a vast interactive space available for hundreds of participants from all over the World. What an experience it would be to be immersed with your friends in walking around these cities? To explore the art and decorations of some sumptuous villa in Pompeii or walk through the Parthenon as it was on the first day it was completed by Pericles in 435BC.

It has been stated that it will be another 5 years before this feat of virtual representation can be accomplished"

Read full blogpost here. A second post I'd like to point out is the most recent entry to the MellanniuM blog, titled Industrial Archaeology.

"Could you imagine that MellaniuM virtual realistic environments would ever connect industrial cultural heritage and a massive intrusion of granite under the South-West tip of England?

Well MellaniuM will be participating in the VAST 2008 workshop "Serious Games and Cultural Heritage”. As an example of virtual engineering we have recently finalised the replica of a famous old steam locomotive 0-6-0 “Jinty” 47279 designed originally in the early 20th century and still running at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway."

Read the full blogpost here.

Now, you might start to wonder if there's an end to my interest, but this is once again a great hobby of mine. Actually, while writing this, I even start wondering how it is possible to find time enough to actually get some work done. Truth is, I like railroads, and especially the early railroads. In real life we just bought a new house which finally has enough room on the attic again to set up a new railroad and in the past months I've done some research on the great first years of Railroads in England and Scotland. As I'm also a Wiskey lover I'd been working on a railroad plan along the Great North of Scotland railroads, with its numerous branches like the Banff - Strathisla railway which provides narrative and scenery for the model railroad I'm designing, but now I'm ranting.

Anyway, in the real world we may visit historic sites, but many of these treasures have been lost, buildings as well as classic trains due to wars, reconstructions or just by rusting away in some trainyard. I'm sure virtual environments can work miracles in education in many ways. One option, like for example Joe's recreation of the Jinty in Second Life is just to provide an image of things lost to real life, but another approach is to exactly recreate the engine, make it larger so you can walk through and use it in a course to explain the history of engineering. This is also a thing we could do with historic structures. In medieval buildings there are various solutions in preventing the roofs to collapse. They didn't have steel or concrete beams strong enough to hold up the roof, so they had to use tricks. In a virtual environment with a proper physics engine you can demonstrate what happens if you take out a keystone for instance, something which you wouldn't do with a real life monument, just to demonstrate your teachings ;).

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sun Inc Second Life Browser Viewer (Beta)

Another Japanese company which has comitted itself to virtual worlds is Sun Inc. They have released a first second life viewer for mobilephone since the end of 2007 (which is similar to vollee) and one for PC in June this year. You know, there are some second life viewers on web browser(Ajax Life is a famous one), but with this vieuwer you can log in to second life with streaming images.

Unfortunately, this java-based viewer is written in Japanese, so let me introduce. At first, visit the website and click the yellow button to launch the viewer.

Put your first name, last name, password into fields then click the button next to the fields(buttons are "login", "clear" from left). At this time, the viewer only supports HTTP connection. So I recommend you to use your ALT account for your security.

After logging in, you can find text field to chat and "say" button next to the field. 4 buttons below are "Close","Map","Search" and "Logout". Use the cursor key to move around, page up key to fly. You can't control your camera position.

OK? So let me teleport to rezzable. Click "search" button and put "rezzable" into field. Then double clicking on "Greenies Home Rezzable" from the result will let you go to the SIM.

Right/left click is enabled. This means that you can touch objects, show the pie menu and show edit dialog. Touching key "i" will let you show your inventory.

It's amazing that you can use second life with real time rendering within a webbrowser if you only have low spec PC.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

The Forbidden City - an ancient site

The Forbidden City

Today I strolled around the virtual Forbidden City once more to drink in some of the ancient Chinese history, thinking of great tales of Marco Polo, the Silk Routes or the terracotta army. I must admit, I'm a sucker for history.

Speaking of which, here's a short history of the Forbidden City, which launched october 10th and to which I already devoted two blogposts:

Exactly one week later, the number of registered users has grown to 128.101 users, which I think is great. This isn't exactly a social world but more like a dedicated virtual environment. Dedicated to one single real life space that spins a thousand tales. Over at the Eightbar blog, IBM's Metaverse evangelist Ian Hughes finally blogged the Forbidden City today in a blogpost in which he gave us a little insight into the history of this build.

John (Tovla) was exploring options for the project that rolled on from his previous one of Eternal Egypt. John specializes in running large innovative projects that use the web for more philanthropic reasons as part of what is called corporate community relations.

So there we were in SL, I had my personal shiny new island Hursley and he and his team were looking at how they might represent the forbidden city in the growing world of the virtual, non game metaverse. So I loaned the team the island, and a massively detailed chinese build started to form in the sky over the next few weeks whilst they procured their own official island. [read full article here]

What I do like to point out is that once again, it clearly names Second Life as the catalyst, the testing grounds for dedicated virtual environments. The other thing that excited me was the mention of Eternal Egypt.

I'd hoped this would be yet another virtual endeavor, which unfortunately it wasn't. It's a great resource website on the ancient Egyptian culture. This however does bring me to my next point.

The first time I walked the city and marvelled at its detail, I thought back to my days at Ancient Sites and wondered how it would be to walk from this city, to say ancient Rome or Athens, to have multiple sites like these exist. Given the current meme one would start talking interoperability right away, but I'd like to turn the other way for now.

Ancient Sites

The Ancient Worlds community started in the early 90's I think , under the name Ancient Sites, as a bulltetin board based community which initially focussed on history, but later developed into a widespread community with a lot of roleplay as well. Initially it was split up into 4 cities, Rome, Athens, Babylon and Thebes if I recall correctly and was later expanded with Machiu Piccu and the Ancient Celts. It grew in the early 90's to about 120K users, which historically speaking in pre-web2.0 times was pretty good. In the late 90's it went bankrupt, but started up again shortly after 2000 under the name Ancient Worlds but in 2005 returned to its former url: In this second evolution of the community it was no longer strictly focussed on cities but more regionally. It was also extended with the Orient (hence the Forbidden City association) and the early German tribes. It never rekindled this old spark though, and now holds about 35K members.

Inside Ancient Sites I created my first internet handle, Johannes Nestor. It had about the same user format as Second Life has, predefined last names and free first names. These last names were familynames from well known historic people and families from these ancient cities. My initial interest in this site was history. At the time I was writing my senior thesis, titled "The Alternate Word - A comparison between Fantasy Literature, Mythology and Religion" and was looking for resources on various myths, both ancient Roman and Greek as well as Scandinavian and Etruskan. Through the bulletin board system I could easily find the tales I needed and came into contact with experts from around the world to find out more on these topics (who ever said the social web is a post 9/11 thing?)

I got caught up in Roleplay pretty soon though and one of the roleplays I got into was the recreation of the Byzantine Empire in which I tried to set up an economic system which earned me an estate on the isle of Naxos, made me a Patriarch and finally earned me the title of GrandMaster of the Knights Templar.

The plot thickened and we were up for war. So I created my second handle, Uriah Atrahasis, a Hetite named after Bathsheba's husband Uriah, which became one of the leading generals in the Byzantine army. We 'blogged' our travels to Syracuse and waged war on the Moors. It was a sport to do this as historically accurate as possible. So everything was checked against Sun Tzu's Art of War (which wasn't untill much later and on a different continent, but that made me win the wars), I dug up every scrap of information I could about old Roman galleys and other seavessels of that time, got into smithying, Phoenician and Hetite cultures, etc just to get the facts straight. In my roleplaying days at Ancient Sites I learned more about history and culture than I ever learned in school.

My third handle on Ancient Sites was Finn Folcwalding. In the initial plans for the extention of the ancient sites with the Germanic Tribes the creators focussed on the Goths and other tribes like Blatand (Blue-Tooth), Meroving, Habsburg and Scylding I urged them to included the Frysians as they were one of the strongest tribes fighting the Romans. Hence, the Folcwalding family was born. Not that it's a typical Frysian name, but Finn Folcwalding appears in (e.g.) Beowolf as one of the Frysian Kings.

From about the day I signed on to Ancient Sites I've had the believe that this had the potential to change our Educational system in the way which students could globally interact, learn languages, geography, history, art and you name it. Shortly after it's revival I worked shortly with the creators of the site to see if we could find a more 'immersive' way to set up the site and we experimented with flash based maps of the ancient cities. Unfortunately this wasn't sponsored by IBM, as is the Forbidden City, and had to make do with limited funds and knowledge so we never got that makeover work out.

The Eduverse Foundation

A couple of years later, i.e. present day, I still see potential behind this site in order to change education. Last year I encountered a recreation of Ancient Rome in Second Life, and again I wondered how this would work out at Ancient Sites. A short proposal didn't work out, the crowd there isn't into VW's much, but in the end it was one of the reasons I got involved with the startup of the Eduverse Foundation, which tries to chart the educational benefits of virtual worlds for educational purposes.

No doubt you'll find all sorts of arguments of why not to do this. Within the Eduverse Foundation itself I've had a number of discussions on this topic. Quite a number of Metaverse Evangelists are of the opinion that recreating Real Life things in a virtual environment is a bad thing, and shos a lack of understanding 3D-ness. I partly agree, but cannot deny its power to explain present and past as well.

In this regard I'd also like to point out the "Otherland" series by Tad Williams. When speaking of the Metaverse we always name Neil Stephenson and William Gibson, but I think Tad Williams should be mentioned in the same breath as it comes to visionaries on the Metaverse. In the Otherland series he describes a virtual world which has two aspects:

  1. A digital city, sort of a mainland area where people spend their time socializing and shopping, somewhat alike Stephenson's "The Street" from Snowcrash
  2. A vast realm of simulators, like Second Life Islands, which are connected through a river. Each of these simulators has its own theme. These themes range from scifi to fantasy.

A number of simulators described in the Otherland series are historical sims. We find ancient Egypt and Troy for instance. I would recommend reading this series to get an idea of what could be created in Networked Virtual Environments and what this could do to aid education.

Image from the upcoming Otherland Game

Concluding I'd say: IBM, please go on. Not from an innovative point of view, but from a historical point of view I'd like to see more environments like the Forbidden Citycoming

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Large Hadron Collider does create Black Hole

Earlier this week I ran into a highly succesfull build, of which I blogged the real life counterpart a number of times. What I'm talking about is the Large Hadron Collider, the multimillion dollar project that has about every scientist going crazy at CERN, Switzerland. A group of performance artists recreated the LHC in Second Life and got it to work before the real thing actually launched.

The Virtual LHC was created by Second Front, with special credits to Man Michinaga for this specific story and build, which was primarily done for the GOGbot Steampunk Festival in Enschede, Netherlands.

Yesterday I had an extensive talk with Man Michinage to find out more on the build and the work theyre doing at Second Front.

The install was for the international RL media fest Gogbot ( and the theme was steampunk. Therefore we had to come up with something, and the hadron collider was a current event. We work in context of the situation we are asked to perform in.

One cannot compare the works of Second Front to a normal theatre group of actors who perform their works over and over again. Every performance is a unique event and requires a unique setting.

None of our work lasts in SL, usually no more than a couple days and we usually only do performances once. This is very unusual. Most of our work is documented in print, video and painting, along with blog for RL audience. Also we create so much stuff we woudl need a lot of sim space.

Let's have a look at this particular build and the performance.

Fau Ferdinand created the first part of it, the torus and the landscape given that this woudl be a very bare stage from which we woudl create the story. I thought of Jules Verne, Goeorge Pal's The Time Machine, and I am currrently reading the Difference engine by Gison and Sterling. The script was improvisation, out of my head

The story as it played out was the actual activation of the Large Hadron Collider to find out about the origins of the Universe, the Metaverse in this case.

Its real life counterpart in Switzerland has been powered down for an unknown period due to some technical problems. This one actually passed the tests and ready to let some particle beams collide. Find out about the creation of the Universe or the existence of the Higgs particle.

Critics in the real world fear experimenting with the higgs-particle may be a bad idea, as it may create a black hole. Well, the test proves they're right.

About Second Front

Second Front was originally formed as a seven member group of artists from Canada, the US, UK and Italy who create performance based work in Second Life and other the pioneering performance art group in the online avatar-based VR world, Second Life. Founded in 2006, Second Front quickly grew to its current 8 member troupe that includes Lizsolo Mathilde, Man Michinaga, Bibbe Oh, Fau Ferdinand), Great Escape, Gazira Babeli and Tran Spire.

Taking their influences from numerous sources, including Dada, Fluxus, Futurist Syntesi, the Situationist International and contemporary performance artists like Laurie Anderson and Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Second Front creates theatres of the absurd that challenge notions of virtual embodiment, online performance and the formation of virtual narrative. Created in 2006, they have already performed extensively, including in Vancouver, Chicago, New York, and has been featured in publications including SLate, Eikon, Realtime Arts (Australia), and the popular The Avastar magazine.

Most of the artists have real life experience in Performance Acting, but as a group they work primarily in Second Life, although they've done performances in other worlds.

We are primarily on SL, although we have used Opensim and World of Warcraft. I think the difference is whether we're installation artists, SL artists or conceptual artists who use SL. We love the SL community, but we're contemporary artists before SL.

What is so special about the Second Life community, how does it differ from the World of Warcraft community as an audience?

Different aims. Pretty basic, SL isn't so much a gaming community - it's much less homogenous. You have everyone from the evangelized to the casueal user whereas in Wow, everyone is there to play in the WoW universe.

Our Real Life audience is much more specific. Then we're really talking to the contemporary/performance art crowd. The SL crowd, many have no idea who Marina Abramovic or Guillermo Gomez-Pena is.

Me neither, so to exit this blogpost, a quick defintion of Performance Art.

Performance art is art in which the actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work. It can happen anywhere, at any time, or for any length of time. Performance art can be any situation that involves four basic elements: time, space, the performer's body and a relationship between performer and audience. It is opposed to painting or sculpture, for example, where an object constitutes the work. Of course the lines are often blurred. For instance, the work of Survival Research Laboratories is considered by most to be "performance art", yet the performers are actually machines.

Read the Original Snapshot Story at the Second Front Blog, or view other performances at YouTube

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Coke's Back with Nestea

An interesting story about the return of Coca Cola in Second Life. Through Reuters.

SECOND LIFE, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Will the marketing of real world brands in Second Life find a second life?

Maybe. Nestea, a Coca-Cola brand, announced today it’s sponsoring Second Life’s “Junkyard Blues” venue.

Neither Nestea nor Junkyard Blues’ owners were available for immediate comment. But a visit to Junkyard Blues shows a “Sponsored by Nestea” banner over the main stage. Don’t try clicking on the banner though — it’s non-interactive.

The sponsorship, while modest, represents an affirmation of Second Life as a continued destination for real-world companies to market their goods. A recent survey by BusinessWeek ranked Coca-Cola as the most valuable brand in the world.

Nor does the choice by Coca-Cola of a Second Life blues venue seem coincidental. Last month, Second Life bluesman Von Johin signed a record deal in what’s believed to be the first virtual musician to break into the real-life mainstream.

Coca-Cola was among the companies that made a strong entrance into Second Life during the first wave of corporate marketing with a “virtual thirst” campaign. However in recent months, the company has stepped back its Second Life profile, taking the website offline.

Find more on Coca Cola on the MindBlizzard blog

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pure Magic at 7Days

Yesterday Second Life saw the official opening of the 7 Days Magic Bakery, which I visited with high expectations, mostly because Aleister Kronos already blogged this build and wrote:

"I have to say that I think the build quality and approach knock just about every other corporate build into a cocked hat. In large part this is due to the decision by involve3d, the builders, to execute most of the build work outside of Second Life, using Maya. The resulting structures and textures were then uploaded for final placement in the sim. The result is a spectacularly successful marriage of forms and detailed textures - which is my pretentious way of saying: it looks great!"

7Days is one of the brands of Greek Vivartia, a foodconglomerate, which mainly produces packaged dough foods.

The Vivartia Bakery and Confectionery Division (following the absorption of Chipita International S.A.) is active in the production and distribution of standardized foods principally with a flour base. Since the establishment of Chipita in 1973, the Division has experienced steady development with particularly successful products both on the Greek and international markets. Always maintaining faith in quality and constant innovation, the Bakery and Confectionery Division of Vivartia has developed strong market labels such as 7Days, Bake Rolls, Molto & Finetti, which consumers trust on a daily basis.

State-of-the-art technology, constant support and the company’s vision for development all contribute to the dominant position held in all markets where we are active. Beginning with the individually packed croissant in 1990, constant research and development, the company improved and broadened the range of dough based products. Innovative ideas have led to new products such as mini croissants, strudels, tsoureki (brioche) and many others.Aside from sweet snacks, however, savory snacks also constitute an important part of the Division’s line with leading products such as Bake Rolls and Pita Bakes. Finally, the Division is active in the realm of chocolate products and produces the savory snacks par excellence – potato chips and cheese puffs. [Vivartia website]

As I said, the official opening was not ontil yesterday, when at 10 p.m. they hit off with a spectacular launchparty. It's been a while since I've seen a launchparty by a corporate build in Second Life. This alone makes the sim noteworthy. At this point in (media) time most companies flee media attention when it comes to their Second Life presence, either because their presence will justly be criticized as they don't know what they're doing in Second Life, or because the media still does not understand the values of the virtual world. Last month I blogged about CIGNA, an insurance company, with a highly succesfull presence in Second Life, and this is indeed another corporate gem, ready to go into the Best Practises for Companies textbook for Virtual Worlds.

So much for the introduction, let's immerse ourselves in this experience and see what all the fuzz is about. Upon teleporting in I receive a neat Landmark introducing the sim:

"Come play with your food! Meet rebellious robots and maestro bakers! Design, eat and trade your own custom pasties! A rich, whimsical bakery theme park … there's lots to do!"

And indeed, a whole town surrounds the bakery. After landing and walking through the entrance we meet Chef Vivardi on the first corner to start of the background narrative.

Next to the Chef you'll see a small sign. When clicked, the narrative starts. You'll find these points of interaction throughout the sim.

Chef Vivardi comes to life here whose job it is to supply the world with wholesome foods. Without taking any mystery out of your tour, the narrative of the brand – wholesome snacks to fit modern lifestyles – is present without dominating. Most importantly it forms the starting point of the 3D story, framing the entertainment, social aspects and interaction. There are rebellious robots, undeniably adorable machines all around, media textures that add life, and movie-quality voice-overs and music. In my opinion the music just totally makes it all come together. [Linda Zimmerman at Business Communicators of Second Life]

Moving on to the terrace

Undoubtedly, the centerpiece of the sim is the snack factory, towering above the surrounding village at the center of the sim.

Inside the factory you can take place at the production line an produce your own 7Days snack. Start with choosing your flavour, then color, topping, packaging and mood and be on your way with a customized snack. The production line is an excellent piece of scripting.

The idea of depicting a production line in Second Life isn't new, see for instance the blogpost "Second Life Yummy Garden" in which I describe how Ben & Jerry's did about the same over a year ago, which also was a big success in my opinion. Anyway, there's lot's more to see. This is a highly recommended sim. Enjoy your travels.


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Friday, October 10, 2008

Philips Design Probes - I am becoming my Avatar

After blogging IBM's avances into virtual Fashion , it's yet another Fashion blogpost. This time from Philips. It seems fashion is getting fashionable in the Tech industry.

This time it's not a coproduction, but the presentation of a new Philips Product: Fractal - Living Jewelry.

Why limit yourself to a few beads or earrings when you can slip on a full-body 'living jewelry' suit that also changes in response to your behavior and mood? Introducing Fractal, the latest expression of the Philips Design SKIN Probes program …

Fractal is a stunning, figure-hugging outfit consisting entirely of huge imitation jewels augmented by pulsing LEDs. By incorporating sensors that measure movement, excitement levels and proximity of others - and using this input to alter the intensity of its integrated lighting - Fractal essentially becomes an extension of the body. It also serves as a platform for exploring emotional sensing.

Read more on Philips - Living Jewelry.

Over the course of last year, Philips has organised a number of Design Probe sessions in Second Life, in which they presented a number of concepts they were working on and discussed these with us, see Designing the Future 1a and Designing the Future 1b on this blog for detailed transcripts.

Under the title "Don't predict the Future, design it!" we discussed three themes back in august 2007, which were:

  1. The future of self-expression
  2. The future of packaging
  3. The future of clothing

These brainstorm sessions have been a huge success for Philips, said Slava Kozlov at the 3rd Eduverse symposium last month. Not that we've actually invented new products for them, but as Slava added yesterday on twitter:

"As always in case of probes, it is difficult to point to a direct influence; it's a logical line from earlier 'emotional dress' concept. However, I feel that Second Life in general made a large impact on the designers' way of thinking "

The Electronic Tattoo

It's hard to say if Fractal, or the living Jewelry as you like, fits in one, two or all three of the above categories. A second project has been the Electronic Tattoo, which clearly falls under the self-expression category.

Tattoos and physical mutilation are amongst the oldest forms of personal expression and identity. Subcultures have used tattoos as a form of self representation; a visual language communicating personality and status. Philips Design examined the growing trend of extreme body adornment like tattoos, piercing, implants and scarring.

Read more - Philips Electronic Tattoos, including a cool video about the tattoos.

I am Becoming my Avatar

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.

Off course, that is not the idea behind these projects. It is ultimately about sustainability, but also has commercial ends:

The relationship between the human body, apparel and the near environment is seen as one of the next big challenges. That is why explorations in this area can help build up essential knowledge that could serve as valuable input for future business activities. There could even be shorter-term spin-offs. "In Fractal we’re taking LED light, which can feel harsh and cold, and experimenting with it," says Van Heerden. "We pulse it at different speeds, making it appear quickly and fade slowly, and also diffract it through various materials. The result is warmer and more comforting, something that could be very interesting to our Lighting division."

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IBM gets into virtual Fashion

After blogging the Forbidden City today and Boulanger3D two days ago I've yet another post about IBM in Virtual Worlds. Rest assured, I am not becoming an IBM-er, I rather find it troublesome that IBM is the only bigshot from the traditional tech companies that is actually doing stuff in the Metaverse these days. Fortunately, it's not a guaranteed success with them for now. I was disappointed in Boulanger3D, but on the other hand found the Forbidden City actually quite exciting to explore.

This time is the news that's been inbox since yesterday when my obsession to get to hear Terry Pratchett in Second Life prevented me from keeping on top of the news. The news is actually not a release yet, but just a press statement that IBM signed a service agreement with the Fashion Research Institute.

Fashion Research Institute, headquartered in New York, NY, conducts research into technology-based initiatives and develops emerging technologies to overhaul traditional fashion practices and methodologies. FRI's mission is to reduce the carbon footprint and change the environmental impact of the industry in ways that are sustainable, replicable, respectful of the practitioners, and meaningful for all stakeholders. FRI maintains Shengri-La, a five-island complex in Second Life, and an OpenSim complex.

The most interesting point in the press release to me is that we have now officially left the small cash development scenery of Second Life (ranging from 50K to 500K for a sim, okay small cash which doesn't fit into my wallet either), but are actually moving on to million dollar assignments.

NEW YORK, NY, Oct 09, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) --

IBM today announced it has signed a multi-million IBM Global Business Services agreement with the Fashion Research Institute (FRI) to implement a first-of-a-kind Virtual World Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Enterprise System.


"We're proud to pioneer the first big business solution that leverages the OpenSim virtual world platform to address economies of scale," said Shenlei Winkler, FRI. "The Fashion Research Institute understands how to design real world consumer goods using a virtual world environment, and IBM understands the scaling challenges of global enterprise. Taking on both simultaneously is a winning move."

This virtual world enterprise solution, expressly created as a product design environment, will offer a fundamentally new work flow addressing critical issues facing the design industry, such as ensuring manufacturability of designs and decreasing substantial sample costs by two-thirds. Users of this solution will ultimately be able to enter a virtual world, receive training on the systems, and take a design from concept to prototype -- with every step short of actual manufacturing being done virtually.

Read full press release here.

Another interesting point to note is that the FRI also has a presence in Second Life and Opensim. They've worked with IBM to explore Virtual Worlds. This experiment led to the believe it was worthwile pursuing a full scale Virtual World. Contrary to the believe that Second Life is a total business failure and stories about companies fleeing Second Life, this is once again an example of where Second Life has been the catalyst. The platform in which companies could (relatively low budget) experiment with 3D-ness and prepare a full launch in a socalled extraverse (also named themed world or branded world).

Visit the Fashion Research Institute in Second Life at the Shengri La island:


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Pratchett in SL - Sold Out

Yesterday, October 9th, had been a day I looked forward to as Terry Pratchett came to town. I'd blogged the announcement about a month ago and was ready to TP onto the spot where Pratchett was at to answer some Q&A. Unfortunately, Mr. Pratchett is a very humoristic man, and author of popular fantasy series like Discworld, so when I showed up, the island was filled to the brim.

Primarily, Pratchett was in Second Life to promote his new book, Nation, which happens to be modelled in Second Life as well. I hovered on the Nation sim, next to Elysian Isle where the Q&A session was held, and also this island filled up quickly, yet couldn't follow the convo there myself. Fortunately some relay and later on transcripts let me in on what happened.

Image by Samatha Pointdexter. More Pics on the Pratchett SL Flickr stream.

Here's the Q&A Session in stripped version, check out a full transcript with blah blah and confusion on From Rim to Hub:

[12:02] Vernes Veranes: I though roundworld was secondlife? :P
[12:02] TerryPratchett Morpork: As far as I am concerned, my books are Second Life.

[12:03] Matty567 Dallagio: Why was “Nation” not set on Discworld?
[12:04] TerryPratchett Morpork: Good question; for one thing, the fact of it being on Discworld would change all kind of things that I could do. After all, Nation is hardly full of laughs. Setting Nation on a thinly disguised “alternate” world does, I think, give it more power and urgency.

[12:05] Matty567 Dallagio: Why a slightly alternate Earth instead of the real one?
[12:07] TerryPratchett Morpork: Because the real one has already happened. I wanted this world, but with a few interesting alterations. One details I’m sure you will have noticed is that Carl Sagan is still alive in that alternate earth.

[12:09] ImmortalitySou Ballinger: okay first question: What was the inspiration behind the book?
[12:12] TerryPratchett Morpork: I came up with the idea in 2003 and it was not long before I was going to do a talk and signing in Folyes in London. I was so excited that I told Sarah Lefanu and I’m glad that I did because she is one person who can vouch that I came up with the idea before the big Asian Tsunami.

[12:14] ImmortalitySou Ballinger: Have you any thoughts on how your characters (from Nation, Discworld, Carpet People ) might react if they found themselves in Second Life ?
[12:16] TerryPratchett Morpork: I think Sam Vimes would be very annoyed, whereas the witches would just deal with it. I have to say that I quite like the idea of Second Life, because it is a totally human activity. Monkeys wouldn’t be able to join.

[12:17] Jo Sapeur: I noticed that religion was a major topic in “Nation”, how did the response from readers look so far? from
[12:21] TerryPratchett Morpork: Religion; fantasy writers like religion. It’s so interesting to play with and it is a great forum for asking questions.

[12:16] ImmortalitySou Ballinger: Q: Q: What are you views on people in second life creating people, places, and things from your books and either giving or selling them to other players.
[12:19] TerryPratchett Morpork: It would be interesting to see what the law could do about Second Life! Regrettably for you, copyright and trademarks exist everywhere, but in reality I see this sought of thing as fan activity.

[12:19] Ciaran Laval: Do you think Moist Von Lipwig would have managed the banking system better than those currently in charge?
[12:22] TerryPratchett Morpork: It seems that, primitive as it is, the Discworld economy is considerably more stable than the one here. And, come to think about it, Moist’s solution to the problem was not a long way from what has been done over here…

[12:21] Trago Mills: Terry we know you are a fan of computer games like Alien vs Predator, what do you make of Second life which doesn’t appear to have a plot or goal?
[12:24] TerryPratchett Morpork: Oblivion is my current computer game of choice, specifically because we (me and Rob) discovered modding, and I get a thrill from the thought that thousands of people write some wonderful mods and distribute them at no cost.

[12:25] April Kohl: If you haven’t already got too many questions, could I ask: “Was there any novel you found particularly difficult to write?”
[12:27] TerryPratchett Morpork: Probably it was Nation. Probably because I wrote the first draft in six months and then spent the next six months wrestling it into the right shape.

[12:28] Kelli May: I hope this isn’t too morbid, but a lot of the characters in Nation question why fate or the gods have inflicted various trials on them. Is this a question that’s on your mind these days?
[12:28] TerryPratchett Morpork: For obvious reasons, mostly because I am the poster boy for the battle against Alzheimer’s, there have been quite a number of days when I have been unable to write a word.

and, as an afterthought...

[12:30] TerryPratchett Morpork: Err, no. I don’t believe in Gods.

[12:31] Harmony Linden wonders if Terry believes in potatoes?
[12:32] TerryPratchett Morpork: Yes, I actually have a small potato in my coat pocket. In time of hunger a potato is more likely to be more useful than prayer.

[12:31] Carl Blue: Which of your characters do you feel is most like you?
[12:33] TerryPratchett Morpork: There is probably a bit of me in all the major characters. I would like to be like Sam Vimes, but deep in my heart I know I am Rincewind.

[12:32] Salaamata Afarensis: my wife Ab (sadly at work) asks: it seems from reading the early Discworld novels that you grew to respect characters like Granny Weatherwax and Sam Vimes the more time you spent with them. These two characters, in particular, have come to represent standards of ethical behavior. Do you find that your relationship with the characters in the books has changed over time?
[12:36] TerryPratchett Morpork: That is a good question. It seems to me that if you get a character just right, they start doing the work for you. It is as if they become a subroutine in your own brain and you are right when you point out the similarity between Granny and Vimes; you might notice that both of them seem at every stage to be fighting some internal demon.

[12:38] DeutroJesaja Gothly: I know you don’t belive in gods, but do you mind if books or quotes from your books is used in Christan teaching for young people?
[12:40] TerryPratchett Morpork: Not at all. I have no problem with the existence of Jesus Christ, who I think was very probably a wise man and a compassionate teacher. It’s just that I don’t believe in the same god that he believed in :-)

[12:45] Willi Reino: when you read for relaxation, who are your favourite authors?
[12:46] TerryPratchett Morpork: I have a whole library shelf of favourite books. However, I still think that one of the funniest and best works of fiction was the “Evolution Man” by Roy Lewis. My favourite bedtime reading at the moment is “Feeding Nelson’s Navy” by Janet MacDonald. Believe me, it’s considerably more thrilling than the title might suggest.
[12:53] TerryPratchett Morpork: Believe it or not, I seldom read a novel these days. Nearly all the books in the 3ft pile beside my bed are social histories or the biographies of intereting, if not important, people. I’m also a sucker for the kind of books with titles such as “Picky – The History of 500 Years of Snot in Britian”.

[12:55] DeutroJesaja Gothly: Howcome everybody knows a Granny and a Nanny?
[12:57] TerryPratchett Morpork: Because they are a widespread social sterotype and I am an observant author.

[12:58] April Kohl: Many writers and publishers in modern magazines talk about how much more difficult it is to get a first novel sold now than it was even ten years ago. Do you think you had it easier than the new kids on the block?
[13:01] TerryPratchett Morpork: I don’t think it was all that easier when I started, but the parameters have changed. If you can go on a comedy show and are on the telly long enough, and sometimes not for all that long, getting a novel published appears to be very easy and sometime you don’t even need to write it.

[13:02] SignpostMarv Martin: for Terry: There haven’t been any full-length official Discworld games since Discworld Noir in 1999- now that Discworld films are being made, are there any plans for new games to be made ? As an addition, Would Terry consider a Discworld-based MMO, perhaps using something like OpenSim as the underlying tech ?
[13:02] TerryPratchett Morpork: What is an MMO? What is OpenSim? Can we accept for a moment that I’m not that engrossed by online activities?

[13:03] SignpostMarv Martin: Massively Multiplayer Online game; lots of Discworld fans running around the back of the disk of a virtual Great A’Tuin
[13:06] TerryPratchett Morpork: Early in 2003 we had approaches from about 5 or 6 games developers. I told them all to go away and knock up something that would show me that they had a grip on what Discworld would be about, and none of them came back. I’m not unhappy about that. Certainly I would require a new Discworld game to be as immersive as Thief II and with the sound and graphics suitable for the times.

[13:03] Jo Sapeur: Is there a chance that you will return to SL for another Q&A session? I have several friends who are mourning because they couldn’t come after the the sim was full.
[13:08] TerryPratchett Morpork: I think you’re going to have to improve the graphics considerably before I come back to Second Life. The graphics in Oblivion allow you to see the graphics in the bottom of a pond and I think that came out in 2002.

[13:06] ImmortalitySou Ballinger: Dedric Mauriac: Have you ever drempt that you were in one of your novels?
[13:10] TerryPratchett Morpork: No, but I have often dreamt of scenes, usually just before I wake up.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Gibson Virtual Guitar Heroes

While browsing through the newsarchives in the business section of the Avastar, a popular magazine on Second Life, I came across an article on Gibson Guitars in Second Life. The article is dated July 19th 2008.

GIBSON guitars launched their new presence in Second Life with a party on Wednesday.

The famous corporation put on a spectacular music show at the event with Bob Welch of the band Fleetwood Mac appearing as Bobwelch Magic.

He was also joined Second Life artists in performing at the party. The land is in the shape of a guitar body and will be used to host a series of concerts in the months to come.

There are also plenty of freebies dotted around the land which includes a diner and various dance areas.

For those who have never heard of Gibson, here's some wiki-knowledge.

The Gibson Guitar Corporation, of Nashville, Tennessee, USA, is a manufacturer of acoustic and electric guitars. The company's most popular guitar, the Les Paul Standard, is a solid-body electric guitar. Gibson also owns and makes guitars under such brands as Epiphone, Kramer, Valley Arts, Tobias, Steinberger, and Kalamazoo. In addition to guitars, the company makes pianos through its Baldwin unit, Slingerland drums, as well as many accessory items. Company namesake Orville Gibson made mandolins in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the late 1890s. Gibson used the same type of carved, arched tops in archtop acoustic guitars, and by the 1930s was also making flattop acoustic guitars and electric guitars. Charlie Christian, one of the first well-known electric guitarists, helped to popularize Gibson's electric guitars with his use of the ES-150 and ES-200. After being bought by the Norlin corporation in the late 1960s Gibson's quality and fortunes took a steep decline; by 1985 it was within three weeks of going out of business before it was bought by its present owners. Gibson Guitar is a privately held corporation (company stock is not publicly traded on a stock exchange), owned by chief executive officer Henry Juszkiewicz and president David H. (Dave) Berryman. [Wikipedia]

The funny thing is, I'd never registered this as a new build, which is mainly due to Aleister Kronos who blogged the Gibson presence in Second Life as early as February 2008. In early february the island was open to the public, but not finished at that time, which makes it vulnerable to criticism. This also shows in Al's blog:

"It is in part of the grid that has many new sims, and many more in the early stages of construction. This sim is no different. The main feature is a combination of terraforming and object creation that forms the shape of the Les Paul guitar body, complete with strings, controls and pickups. However, it looks like a first cut at the moment - a "build it and see what it looks like" experiment that may be developed into a more fully-fledged version in due course. One side of island has more practical public spaces - an acoustic stage, a diner/dance hall and an electric stage. However, it is immediately obvious when you arrive that the island is quite a way off being ready. There are various odd bits of things dotted about the sim, seemingly is varying stages of test.

As I've commented before, opening the doors too early is not necessarily a good idea, since you end up with non-reports like this one. I can't really make any fair comment on the sim because it is so incomplete - but that's because I am of a generous disposition. A meaner "me" might treat any open sim as public and hence fair game, and review it accordingly. It is better to get the sim to a state you are happy to consider complete before letting in the hordes."

Well, that was back in February, the island finally opened up in July. We're now a couple of months onward, so I'm a little late to check it out, but I'm curious to see what's out there now. The good this is that upon arrival there were actually quite a number of avatars flying about exploring the sim as well.

One side of the sim has a nice nostalgic American feel to it, it's major roads shaped like guitar necks lined with classic cars and typical American bars. Also Gibson Trolley will transport you if you so desire. Hether and thether you will see giant guitars standing out making it a bit of a jumble, but one the whole I like what I'm seeing.

The main venue is the Gibson store, and the great part about is, it offers you dozens and dozens of virtual Gibson guitars for free! This is merchandising. Lots of companies out there charge you a couple of Linden dollars for a lame t-shirt, this one gives away actually usefull stuff for free. They've understood that you won't make money selling small things, but have invested in building their brand and reputation. You also have the opportunity to win a Real Life Gibson.

"Over two-dozen “high prim” virtual Gibson models will be available throughout the Gibson Island only, allowing Second Life residents to own their dream guitar in this virtual world. The models will include Gibson’s Hound Dog Dobro, Hummingbird, SJ-200, Deluxe Songwriter, J-45, F5G mandolin, ES335 Heritage, 50th Anniversary Commemorative Explorer, Flying V, Les Paul Classic, Slash Inspired By Les Paul, John Lennon Signature Les Paul, Les Paul Robot, Les Paul Supreme, Double Cut Longhorn, SG Diablo, SG Angus Young Signature, SG Standard, and Les Paul Classic models." (Official Gibson website)

In the center of the island you'll find a clutter of things underneath another giant guitar neck with giant strings. One of these areas is the Gibson theatre in which you can view a number of presentation, among which a video about the production process of guitars.

There's a lot more to do and see, but as it is, this post is getting long enough. For a complete overview of stuff to do and see, visit the official Gibson Lifestyle page on Second Life here.

The island is surrounded by other islands, some in the early stages of development. I checked out one, a sim called Epiphony, which is also Gibson owned. I think this points out that Gibson's presence in Second Life has been a success sofar and they are expanding and investing in building a community.


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Monday, October 06, 2008

Introducing ak Yip as MindBlizzard reporter Japan

Time and again I have been frustrated by the fact that I just can't make head or tale from Japanese sites. In the past year and a half many Japanese firms have established a presence in Second Life and set up supporting websites. I have had a hard time figuring out what the companies were about and which message they were conveying in Second Life. Besides Second Life, there is a whole lot going on in the Asian World when it comes to Virtual Worlds, of which only occasionally a name, a new startup comes through to the English speaking world.

Therefor I'm very pleased to welcome ak Yip as a guest author to the MindBlizzard blog. ak Yip has helped me out in the past quite a few times in providing details on Japanese firms and he has agreed to blog the Japanese Metaverse at MindBlizzard.

His main blog is AvatarWatch - which I can't read again as it is in Japanese. You can also find ak Yip blogging at 100 Innovations in Second Life and Metaverse Mashup

ak, I hope you'll enjoy blogging for MinBlizzard from Japan, as I'm sure we'll enjoy exploring the Virtual Realms from the land of the Rising Sun.



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Saturday, October 04, 2008

3Di moves OpenSIM into Enterprise mode

Last year many of us thought that Second Life would be the virtual walhalla for companies to conduct business. Yet over the past year, we've seen that in many cases a public, open world does not work out for businesses. ABN Amro was among the first to acknowledge that they needed more privacy with their customers and went to Active Worlds. Meanwhile IBM has been working on getting Second Life ready fit for business and made succesfull attempts to get Second Life running behind a Firewall. A parralel track has been the development of Open Sim, a reverse engineered open source version of Second Life.

Regarding the Open Sim project, 3Di, a Japanese subsidiary of the NGI Group, announced yesterday that they will be releasing an Enterprise version of Opensim. Based upon 3Di technology it is a reworked and extended version of Opensim, and prepped with additional tools and support under the name 3Di Opensim Standard.

Virtual World News has the following thoughts on this special Enterprise version:

"There's already been significant development on OpenSim, on both a consumer level and, as in IBM's integration with Lotus Sametime, for business. OpenSim itself is available as server software, so I'm interested to see what 3Di's model is to set its own software apart. Either way, I look at the commercialization of OpenSim as a pretty big step towards adoption.

It seems like 3Di's target audience is "corporations and academic institutions" looking to create their own virtual worlds. Possible use cases cited include real estate showrooms, education, and offices for collaboration. All of that would be much simpler with the browser-based interface 3Di is developing, but, as a feature, that's shared with all OpenSim worlds and, eventually, other platforms as well. It's not unique, but the upside of that is that it should help build an install base." (read more)

Massively provides a few techspecs for 3di Opensim Standard

3Di Opensim Standard version 1.0 runs on Windows Server 2003 or Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (with Mono support). Requirements include a dual-core 2Ghz processor or better, 4GB of RAM and 10GB of hard-drive space. Standard Second Life (or compatible) viewer software is required to connect to and use the virtual environment.

3Di Opensim Standard appears to go for a little under $5,000USD.

More info is hard to find as 3Di operates a fully Japanese website, illegible to us US and European bloggers.

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Looking for Phat Cash

In august 2007 I blogged about Phat Cat's Jazz club in Second Life, being one of the most popular venues at the time. They have remained in the top 10 of most popular venues continuously. On october 1st the island went up for sale on eBay.

According to the Phat Cat's Jazz Club website this sale is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Jody Smith (Jody Huet in Second Life) says:

"The sale provides a chance for new owners to administer and steward one of the most popular online destinations that has ever existed. Interested buyers should read the Terms and Conditions of the sale, and visit eBay starting on October 1, 2008 to place their bids."

No doubt it will be good fun to host one of the most popular places in Second Life, but I doubt Jody will be putting 'the chance to play virtual CEO' up for grabs and is undoubtedly looking for Phat Cash. Last year we've seen a successfull sale of Stroker Serpentine's Amsterdam (in his 2nd attempt)

Currently the meter stops at $2.500, which is nowhere near the price Stroker's Amsterdam was sold at ($50,000). It will be very interesting to watch the auction develop and see if we can put some value to the things we so lovingly create in Second Life.

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BT Group presence in Second Life

Earlier this week I blogged about the AvaTalk project which British Telecom ran in Second Life. I wasn't really positive about this project, which is about making phonecalls from Second Life to the Real World. I kept looking for positive things, and yes, there's more to BT in SL than first meets the eye.

First, let me introduce the players in the arena, which off course starts off with British Telecom.

"BT Group plc (formerly British Telecommunications plc) which trades as BT(previously known as British Telecom and still occasionally referred to by that name) is the privatised UK state telecommunications operator. It is the dominant fixed line telecommunications and broadband Internet provider in the United Kingdom. BT operates in more than 170 countries and almost a third of its revenue now comes from its Global Services division.

BT Group is the largest communications service provider in the United Kingdom. It is also one of the largest communication companies in the world." [Wikipedia]

British Telecom worked with Clarity International to create their Second Life experiences (note the plural).

Clarity International is a global design and communication management consultancy firm, headquartered near Milan in Italy, with offices in the United Kingdom and USA. specializing in helping clients simplify complex propositions and problems through focused expert consulting and visualisation of strategies, key concepts, products and services. (Clarity website)

Viewing Clarity's portfolio they have done quite a number of projects with BT, not only virtual, but in the real world as well. One of these projects is BT Contact - Your Personal Communication Hub! in which Clarity has been selected to work on the UI designs of BT Contact, a new way to manage all your IM, Email, VOIP and SMS communications on the web. If you link that to the AvaTalk project it starts to make a little sense.

BT Tradespace

Aside from the AvaTalk concept they have created a number of projects in Second Life. First of which is the BT Tradespace project.

BT Tradespace is an online community incorporating a business directory and marketplace. On its site you can buy and sell products and services, find a business and network with other like-minded individuals. Unlike a conventional business directory, BT Tradespace members can use social media tools such as blogs, photos, videos and podcasts to promote their products and services. For prospective customers, it provides the opportunity to get to know a business before buying from them and Clarity has brought this existing Tradespace into Second Life.

Read more on the BT Tradespace Trial on the SL Tradespace website.

BT 21 CN Innovation

Another Second Life project BT has done with Clarity takes place on an island named BT 21CN Innovation, which I think stands for 21st Century Innovation. In thisproject the virtual environment of Second Life is usedto explain the reuse concept. Avatars interact with a virtual shopping basket of capabilities to understand them, and view how these capabilities are "mashed-up" to create new products/services.

BT 21CN Innovation - Second Life - The funniest videos are a click away

A lot of my earlier scepsis has been taken away after digging into the other projects BT has done. They weren't the first of the telecom providers to dive into Second Life, they were probably the last one. Not everything they are doing is a smashing success, but at least they are trying to work out what they can do with their core business in virtual worlds, rather than use it as a marketing toy.


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The people I hang out with are either dedicated gamers (people that play World of Warcraft, Warhamemr, Lord of the Rings Online or Rapelz), or metaverse enthusiasts that explore virtual worlds and do interesting blah blah on interoperability and portability. In neither community we take 3D chatrooms very seriously and why should we? Those are just chatrooms, not entire worlds. When we chat, we use twitter, msn or skype.

I guess that's not fair on the chatrooms. Let's be honest. What have we seen of corporate use in virtual worlds sofar? Most users to Second Life do little else than using it as a social hangout to chat or do other social stuff which could easily have been done just as good in a 3D chatroom.

We can laugh at most of these 3D chatrooms and wave them away as being niche things in the industry. This is true for a number of these environments, as some can barely reach 2.5D or have a sole focus on sex, like Rapture or Naughty America, but there's one that stands out among its peers: IMVU.

I Envy You

You just can't miss IMVU these days. Whereas the majority of 3D related ads was taken up by World of Warcraft about a year ago, lately the ad market for 3D products seems to be dominated by IMVU. In the picture below a screenshot from the IMVU website, and 5 different IMVU ads I encountered in the last 5 hours at technorati.

Aside from the addvertisements, I don't hear a lot about IMVU, but it's serious business out there. In the past year they've grown rapidly - without much fuzz overtaking even Second Life in users - growing to over 20 million registered users, with about 600K active users every month. So what is IMVU exactly and why is it so succesfull

IMVU is a graphical instant messaging client with over 20 million registered users, and over 600,000 active monthly users, as of June 6th, 2008. Currently, it is in public beta, and has been available since April 02, 2004. It is developed by IMVU, Inc., founded by Will Harvey, a video game developer and founder of There.

IMVU has world’s largest catalog of virtual goods with over 1.5 million items, produced by over 100,000 content creators. It has generated $1 million in revenue per month, 90% of which comes directly from consumers who buy IMVU credits and virtual goods.

The primary focus of IMVU is the ability to use personalized 3D avatars and environments that let the user interact with the person they are chatting with. The secondary focus of IMVU is allowing the members to develop content that can be purchased by other members for use in personalizing their avatars and environments. [Wikipedia]

In general the presscoverage for Virtual Worlds has been dominated by Second Life, both positive and negative. The people I've spoken to, working at other Virtual Worlds generally feel most impact of the negative publications about Second Life, and feel they have hurt the industry and hampered growth. Yet again, this does not seem to be true for IMVU. They've mainly steered away from the press and did their own things. IMVU started up in 2004 and it took them four years (!) to release their first press statement, or as IMVU's CEO Cary Rosenzweig said last June:

"Today we take a big step for IMVU as a company - we’re issuing our first-ever
press release.

We are starting public relations (“PR”) activities for the first time in order to tell the IMVU story to a larger audience. We want to reach out and attract even more people to IMVU so that you have more people to meet, more people to have fun with, more people to buy your items from the catalog, more people to become content creators themselves."

And this was only after they've hit the 20M user mark.

In November last year I made a short overview of chatroom. To see what elkse is out there, check out this blogpost.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Vectorform to redesign Second Life

This monday, september 29, Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon wrote a little blogpost on the official Second Life blog, looking back on his first 4 months at the head of Linden Lab, but what's more important, he's also looking forward to what's next. An interesting tidbit was his remark on a possible fullscale redesign of the Second Life interface.

"First Hour Experience: Shortly after I started, we kicked off a project to reinvent what we call the “first hour experience” (our web experience, the viewer, and the way we acclimate and acculturate users inworld) for new users. We’ve made great progress and will be working with an award-winning interactive design firm to help us complete the reinvention and bring it to life. Yes, we are creating a viewer that is new user friendly! Stay tuned for updates."

To most Second Life newbies and critics the userinterfacing and crude navigation has always been high on the list of Second Life mishaps. So this redesign should be very much welcomed.

On the forums or other official newswire there is no additional information to who this 'award winning design firm' is, but popular pick is it will be a prolonged teaming with Vectorform with whom Linden Lab partnered up back in April to redesign Landmarks and Navigation.

Especially if one looks at the jobvacancies at the Vectorform website, you'll see they're looking for much more experience than is needed to redo Landmarks and Navigation , besides that beta project is pretty much finished. Dusan Writer says:

"Now, that doesn’t sound to me like the kind of list that you’d need for their work on revamping the landmarks part of the viewer, about which Prokofy has comments and which will be included in a new release candidate that’s expected soon, according to Benjamin Linden.

What IS encouraging about the job posting is that it sounds like Vectorform takes usability analysis seriously - and have some serious process and innovation to back them up."

(Read full article)

Over at Massively Tateru Nino reported that Vectorform submitted the beta version for revamping Landmarks and Navigation.

"The project adds a new user-interface element to the screen that applies Web-style browsing semantics (forward/back/location) to virtual environment positions. Vectorform say that they recently submitted a beta of the modification to Linden Lab and are awaiting QA (Quality Assurance) feedback."

What I read here is dat Vectorform just submitted their ideas for QA review. Massively shows an image of the new design which comes from a powerpoint presentation which actually dates back to July and can be found at Second Life's Jira. What I think, in combination with Mark Kingdon's remarks is that the QA review has been completed, Linden Lab is satisfied and have decided to continue their partnership with Vectorform in order to revamp the entire interface.

I can't say with certainty the QA review has been completed, at least one is: Prokofy Neva has reviewed the new Landmark and Navigation extensively in her blogpost Destroying User Content to Make SL "Like the Web"

"Jacek is just splitting hairs, and it's not interesting to debate. But what he does say in refuting M Linden is that the Lindens' "Landmarks & Navigation" project may be what they *do* insert into the viewer. Alarm bells went off for me, because I remember seeing something about this on the God-awful wiki some time ago, and thinking "I better to something about this" but it was one of many things. I remember seeing that a group of graduate students were being hired by SL to work on tagging and such; but this seems to be an actual firm now hired by LL as an outsourced viewer-fixer."

It actually is fun to read the full extend of Proky's ranting. As Second Life's resident full-time critic she does have a point at a few issues. It may well be worth to read these remarks from a user point of view, and not only look at things from a design or technical point of view. That should be the core of interaction design. I know we IT guys screw up often enough in that area, creating marvellous things that work, but can't be handled.

Tag 'em & Bag 'em I'd say.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

BT AvaTalk - TTYL

Sometime Mid 2007, at the height of the hype, we saw a number of telecom providers digging into Second Life. Now, these first wave pioneers are slowly moving away, such as Vodafone. Others still have got no clue as what to do in Second Life. When I talked to someone from KPN earlier this year, they were in Second Life, fiddled around, explored a bit, but couldn't find any real use yet. However, what they did do was setup a messaging center that could send SMS from SL to RL.

So, I was kind of surprised when I learned British Telecom ran a trial with inworld-outworld communications, a trialperiod which just ended though. They set up a splashing website called BT AvaTalk.

Interested to see where this would lead, I browsed the website to see where I could find BT in Second Life. Finally, I ended up in the FAQ section:

Where can I find the BT AvaTalk Phone Box?
You will only be able to find BT AvaTalk Phone Boxes in select number of exclusive Second Life regions

Well, that doesn't lead me anywhere either. Let's immerse then and seek out the goodies... The review at Digital Urban pretty much sums it up though:

The movie below provides full details into a service that we cant quiteunderstand - sure the main pull is that its free, but take away the free aspect and why would you ever want to call someone in the 'real world' from Second Life rather than just use a 'real' phone on your desk or a service such as Skype?

BT AvaTalk - Second Life - video powered by Metacafe

We tend to get a bit of flack at times for using Second Life in our research, but we fully believe that there is a strong argument for these collaborative environments in the realm of geographic and architectural visualisation. However, we still cant see why we would want to pick up the phone in Second Life to ring someone, as we obviously are not actually in the environment.

Perhaps we are missing something on this one...

I wouldn't be that sceptic either. I think it is a road we must pursue, even if it has no immediate use. Eventually it is about fast changing ways of communication. Who would have predicted we would stream microblogs to our mobile phone a few years ago? If we do move to a world like Second Life to do real business meetings calling in and out to the Real World might be very usefull for the ones left behind in a Traffic Jam, or could not be present for any other reason.

For now, it's TTYL (talk to you later) though, and I'll pick Orange as the most successful telecom provider in Second Life. There is activity there, for instance with the currently running Innovation Week.

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The Wheel of Time Turns and weaves Tar Valon in SL

One of the greatest works of fantasy in the known world is, beyond any doubt, "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien. The special Centenary edition (1892-1992) I have of this trilogy, published at the 100th birthday of Tolkien (post-mortem of course) quotes the Sunday Times:
"The English-speaking world is divided into those who have read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and those who are going to read them."

Thousands of works of fantasy have been published ever since, yet few come close to the absolute mastery of Tolkien. There is one though, that may have surpassed him, which is James Oliver Rigney a.k.a. Robert Jordan (actually -and sadly- was, as he passed away last year) who wrote the epic Wheel of Time series.

The Wheel of Time series is currently an 11 book epic story about good vs. evil (no surprise there). A particular place in the series is the city of Tar Valon.

Tar Valon is a city located on an island on the River Erinin, within sight of Dragonmount. It is the center of Aes Sedai power and is also the largest, most populous city in the Westlands. Tar Valon also controls a small amount of territory directly adjacent to it, although it does not have as much land as it did before the War of the Hundred Years. Tar Valon is ruled by the Amyrlin Seat, although the day-to-day bureaucracy is handled by a council of Aes Sedai sisters and civil administrators. The city is notable as the only place where Aes Sedai have wielded officialized administrative power since the War of the Hundred Years. The population of the city in 1000 NE is roughly 500,000. It has remained independent of outside control for its entire existence, although it has suffered several major sieges and even direct assaults. [WoT Wiki]

A shade of this magnificent city was created in Second Life and just opened today, so time to take a few snapshots. Let me start off with an official map of the city as it appears in the books of The Wheel of Time.

The Second Life version has to do with limited space on a one-sim build, but the outlines are quite similar.

Dominating the island is the White Tower, seat of the Aes Sedai. A few snapshots from the inside. The 'knight' you see standing there in the library (of the Brown Ajah) is actually me, VeeJay as a 'Warden', which are masters of war, bodyguards to the Aes Sedai.

A close up of me dressed as a Warden. Well actually, it's not just 'a Warden' This is me as al'Lan Mandragoran,

al'Lan Mangragoran - Uncrowned King of Malkier, a land which was swallowed by the Blight shortly after his birth in 953 NE. He is Dai Shan (DYE SHAN) a Diademed Battle Lord of the Malkieri and the last surviving Malkieri lord. At the age of sixteen he began a one-man war against the Blight and the Shadow which continued until he was bonded as Warder by Moiraine in 979 NE. Warder. His full name is al'Lan Mandragoran and his title is Lord of the Seven Towers.

The Aiel call him Aan'allein which means "a man who is an entire nation" in the Old Tongue. [Encyclopedia WoT]

The armor was tailormade for me by Jet Control, master armssmith and possibly the largest armsdealer in Second Life and was inspired by the cover of the first book in the Wheel of Time series, "The Eye of the World"

In June 2007 is sought out the Wheel of Time fans in Second Life and called them to start building the World of Robert Jordan in order to enter a calendar competition, which at the time didn't succeed. Now finally we've got our first place to RolePlay. Enjoy the fun at Tar Valon.


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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cranial Tap opens virtual business showcase

I'm not sure if I or Aleister Kronos noticed the presence of Cranial Tap last year, but they've been around a while. The first time I ran into them was with the Things To Do group (Good old days) when we visited the Cyberextruder in June 2007. Another one of their projects has been 1-800 Flowers, blogged at KZero. These were pretty cool projects and when I received a press statement today, I didn't have to take long before putting it up. Here's the introduction.

Cranial Tap, Inc. today launched a business solutions showcase geared specifically towards 3D online virtual worlds. Located on Cortex Island in Second Life®, businesses and organizations can now connect remote teams, conduct
research, offer training, recruit candidates and conduct meetings. These solutions are aimed at increasing productivity while reducing operating expenses.

The four showcase areas provide working technologies that demonstrate the benefits of Teleworking, Virtual Meetings, Training and Presentations. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the featured solutions. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by Tia, a computer driven character (bot) that provides information related to Cranial Tap and their services. She serves as an example of an automated character that can be used in place of human hosts.

Read the full press release here.

Folks over at Cranial Tap are doing pretty slick things at the moment. Go check out their website and visit their showcase in Second Life:


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Monday, September 29, 2008

The Revival Of Consumer Virtual Worlds

During the weekend topnotch research agency Forrester released a new paper on Virtual Worlds: "The revival of Consumer Virtual Worlds -- Virtual Worlds Emerge From Their Initial Boom/Bust Cycle". Here's the executive summary from the 6 page paper:

"The two years since virtual worlds went "mainstream" have been a roller-coaster ride for all involved; for every success like World of Warcraft, there have been negative developments such as the media backlash against Second Life. Now, as a number of new worlds are appearing, the technology is improving, and interest levels are growing, virtual worlds are ready to enter their second phase. Forrester recommends that consumer product strategy professionals watch the space carefully — if they are not involved already — as we expect the next 12 months to be momentous for consumer virtual worlds. Much-heralded new worlds will arrive, marketers will return to the medium after initially being burned, and Web3D elements will start to creep into consumers' lives. "
The first sentence makes me extremely sceptical immediately, since Virtual Worlds are far from being "mainstream yet" Especially with the market behaving as it is (The Dow downed severely today after the US Governments bailout failed in congress) I predict there won't be many consumer product strategy professionals out there that will take a shot at immersion.
In short, Im not yet up to paying $ 280,- on this paper yet, will have to wait for it to become available through my office.

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Linden Lab appoints Tom Hale as CPO

Early this morning Linden Lab, creators of Second Life, released a press statement in which they announced Tom Hale as Chief Product Officer. To Linden Lab it is the next of many steps they've taken over the past year to move Second Life from a startup to a viable, mature, business.

Linden's CEO Mark Kingdon says:

“Tom brings deep experience at every stage of the product lifecycle – from creating, launching and marketing great products to building large businesses
around them. Second Life is made up of an unusually complex array of products, and few executives have the range required to craft and execute a product strategy for such a rich, vibrant and diverse experience. Tom does. He will play a pivotal role in taking Second Life to the next level and will be a great partner for me.”

Indeed, Second Life is made of remarkable products, but most of these reside with the inworld residents. It will be Tom's job to productize the grid, splitting it up into neat customer and business-ready packages to monetize.

Read the full press release here (along with Tom's CV)

Curious to see where Second Life be going? Then join in for tonight's Metanomics session where Philip Rosedale, former CEO of Linden Lab will be attending a panel discussion on his vision for Second Life.

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Virtual Banking (17): Banca MPS

Banca MPS

Amidst all the turmoil on the financial markets I decided to see if there has been any chance in the status of a couple of banks I spotted a while ago in Second Life. The sim is called Banca MPS, which stands for Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SPA

"Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SPA (MPS) is the oldest surviving bank in the world. Founded in 1472 by the Magistrate of the city state of Siena, Italy, it has been operating ever since. Today it consists of approximately 1,800 branches, 28,000 employees and 4.5 million customers in Italy, as well as branches and businesses abroad. A subsidiary, MPS Finance, handles consumer finance.

Its headquarters in the Palazzo Salimbeni in Siena are host to a magnificent art collection and a large number of priceless historical documents spanning the centuries of its existence. However, this collection is not usually open to the public" [wikipedia]

On the sim you see a complex of buildings, in which nothing much happens. I've spotted this sim about a year ago and the evolution has been slow. Yet the the detail on the buildings is pretty good.

As I couldn't get in, I couldn't explore the buildings. However, I could peek through the opened doors allowing me to get a view of classical Italian paintings. I suspect this is the collection Wikipedia refers to. If the Real Life collection is not usually open to visitors, giving them a free entrance in Second Life would probably be a good thing. So why not open up folks?

In the Netherlands, Banca MPS is primarily known for acquiring Banca Antonveneta from Grupo Santander late 2007, which took over a part of the Dutch ABN Amro Bank, which in its turn had just aquired Antonveneta, making it the first non-italian takeover in the industry in Italy

(Okay, this is a soap... ABN AMRO was taken over by a trio of banks, aside from Santander, these were Barclays and Fortis. The latter of which is now being rescued by Belgian, Dutch and Luxemburgh governments and there are talks of selling the ABN Amro part again at a severe loss, most likely to the Dutch ING or French BNP Parisbas).


Banca Transylvania

The second bank on my list is Banca Transylvania, but this one is also closed for public. It has no neighbouring sims so I couldn't get any snapshots of that one. Hopefully someone can give me a few pointers.


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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Microsoft: 3D Future will be Photosynth

There's only one place to be for the techcrowd this week, and that's Amsterdam with the Eduverse Symposium on the 23rd followed by 3 days of PICNIC 08. It isn't the only event going on though, there's also the Emerging Technology Conference (in short EmTech) at the MIT Campus.

"Microsoft's Craig Mundie has dismissed the potential of "synthetic virtual worlds" like Second Life, saying that the potential for immersive environments will be likely realized through 3D tools that capture and model the real world.

Mundie, who oversees research and long-term strategy for Microsoft, devoted a significant portion of his "Rethinking Computing" presentation at MIT's Emerging Technology conference to what he called the "Spatial Web," a blend of 3D, video, and location-aware technologies. At the center of several of his demos was Photosynth, a Microsoft software tool that can create 3D models using 2D photographs taken with an ordinary digital camera. In one brief demo he showed how a small, camera-equipped robot could be used to model a large room. In another, he showed a 3D model of a commercial district in Seattle that had been created with Photosynth, and demonstrated how a virtual visitor could come to the district using the Internet, enter an art shop in the area, and examine and buy a virtual sculpture that had also been "photosynthed" by the shop clerks or the artist.

Mundie noted that Microsoft is counting on the creation of a 3D "parallel universe" modeled with tools like Photosynth. However, he dismissed the potential of social virtual worlds that include user-modeled objects. "Many people are familiar with Second Life, which is a synthetic virtual world that
people came quite enamored with," Mundie said. "Our view was that there was a fairly limited audience who was willing to deal with the construction of avatars and operating in that virtual space."

[read the full article at The Industry Standard]

I would go along with Mundie when it comes to short term vision -only to a certain extend though. I agree with the part that there is a huge market for the Paraverse, virtual worlds that mirror our own real world, and that these mirror worlds will be fit for business sooner that general VW's in all likelyhood when augmented reality kicks in.

Question is... will the dominant one be a Microsoft product? I would have been very surprised if Mundie would have said the future is in the hands of Google Earth, but I don't think Microsoft, despite Photosynth being a cool product, has what it takes at this time to be a thoughtleader in this area.

So, speaking off the next couple of years, he's right and the paraverse may get a bigger business crowd moving, but in the long run, I wouldn't put my money on Microsoft.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Philip Rosedale at Eduvere Sympoisium

Yesterday I visited the 3rd Eduverse Symposium in Amsterdam, which Sogeti Netherlands kindly sponsored. Probably one of the highlights of the long and intensive day was Philip Rosedale's talk on his dreams for Second Life.

Phil's speech started with his initial dreams for Second Life, a lush green forest world -a sort of Utopian Garden of Eden - and how it evolved to what it is right now. The good thing about stepping down as CEO from Linden Lab is, according to Phil, that he nw once again has time to work on his dreams, one of them is to bring SecondLife to the 3rd world.

His speech was passionate about how virtual worlds are easier to use as an interface to knowledge than the worldwide web. He admitted it was a troublesome experience to get to know Second Life and people would have to go through extreme pains for 7 or 8 hours to try and understand how to navigate the world, but... That's far less than the time it would take to teach a n00b how the internet works.

His second argument was that virtual worlds are cross-cultural and do not stop at language barriers whereas the internet has difficulties to overcome these barriers as it needs you to understand the language of the page to be able to navigate and understand the contents .

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CIGNA Healthcare in Second Life

One of the latest, more interesting, corporate excursions into Second Life probably has been the immersion of the US Based insurance company Cigna.

"CIGNA can trace its roots back to 1792, and the founding of the Insurance Company of North America (INA), the US's first marine insurer. Its first life insurance policy was issued two years later. In 1865, the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CG) was formed in Hartford, Connecticut. Nearly 120 years later, in 1982, CG and INA merged to form CIGNA. In 1993 CIGNA introduced its Tree of Life brand identity. In 1998, CIGNA sold its individual life insurance business to Lincoln National Corporation, and the next year it sold its property and casualty insurance business to ACE Limited. In 2000, it sold its reinsurance business to Swiss Re. In 2004, it sold its pension business to Prudential Financial. CIGNA's business segments include CIGNA Healthcare, CIGNA Group Life & Disability, and CIGNA International, all core businesses designed to help customers improve their health, well-being and security." [wikipedia]

Cigna has teamed up with Metaverse Development Company Method to shape their virtual presence. In what I think is a highly succesfull build the company focusses on health awareness, as thinking in the Healthcare business (and thus healthcare insurance) shifts from treatment to prevention.

Unfortunately the island itself is closed for the general public, but I hope to be able to post some more info shortly. In the mean time, here's some links to the press coverage the immersion received:

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Metapage: SL Shop Directory

On the main MindBlizzard website I've created the MetaPages a while back which basically is a list of links to virtual worlds, metaverse development companies and the well know RL Brandlist of Real Life companies in Second Life.

This weekend I've made a start with a new page; the SL Shop Directory, which now is a list of about 140 links to websites of well known Second Life shops.

As usual, updates to the list are welcome, through reply on this blogpost, but better yet, why not register at the MindBlizzard website and be able to suggest links directly.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 Commemoration today in Second Life: Giving virtual voice to those who were lost

There's this odd blog, which I read every once in a while, and almost always, it has great articles. The blog I'm referring to is "The click heard round the World" by Rikomatic. Today it featured a great story on the 9/11 commemorations.

"Today was a particularly emotional day for lots of people from around the world. However most of us don't have the luxury of sharing those emotions and thoughts in the middle of a workday with our friends and family. So virtual spaces like Second Life serve a potentially important role in providing emotional outlets and support for people on days like September 11.

I checked in briefly on the memorial service going on in New York NYC sim (click here to teleport). What I experienced reminded me again of what a special place Second Life is.

There were 70-80 other avatars present, beaming in from
who knows where. Several friends of mine were there, who I exchanged greetings with. Most folks sat on the grass in respectful silence, restricting communication to instant messages. A couple of avatars in soldier's uniforms stood at attention.

Believe it or not, it means a lot for a bunch of avatars to sit in silence. It just never happens, unless they are

Read the full blog here.

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Pratchett to touchdown in Second Life

Although my latest entries to this blog may speak a different language, this blog still primarily deals with virtual worlds, with occasional outings to other fields of interest, such as good reading stuff. Occasionally there's a cross-over when great authors visit Second Life (we've had Gibson in the past), this time it's Terry Pratchett, author of the hilarious Discworld series.

"Terry Pratchett is to make an appearance in the virtual world Second Life. Pratchett will feature in a sim version of a South Pacific tropical island, modelled on the island Nation which features in Pratchett's new novel, NATION.

The island will be created complete with scenes and locations from the book. Pratchett will appear on the Nation and take part in a live question and answer session with fans on 9th October at 8pm.

The month long Second Life promotion, which runs from 11th September to 10th October, will enable visitors to take part in themed quiz nights, special events and fancy dress competitions. A treasure hunt will lead users through a series of clues to find virtual books and treasure as well as real, physical prizes.

An exhibition will be organised in Second Life to promote the new book, and free e-book samplers will be available in Random House UK's own bookshop on the Elysian Isle, from where visitors will be able to travel to Terry's websites at and

NATION will be published in the UK on 11th September by Doubleday, price £16.99 and in the US on 30th September by HarperCollins."

Thanks to @Torley Linden for pointing it out.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Real X tend

About two years ago, Second Life exploded and became -as far as virtual worlds go- extermely popular. Many of us wanted it open source, and along came Open Sim, but now there's another world, based on Second Life technology: RealXtend

Here's Caleb Booker's account on his first immersion:

They’ve added some major features, including “meshes” (the graphic component almost every 3D environment but Second Life uses) and the ability to import and export everything from avatars to objects. They even include some great tools for working with standard 3d applications.

Launching the server was as easy as launching any other application, and in no time I was walking around a world
on my hard drive. I was able to log into a remote demo server as well, and exported my avatar onto their server with no problems.

Modifying avatars in this thing is fantastic. Everything is pull-down menus and buttons, making it very easy to browse content. Clothes look awesome, actually draping on your avatar in a very realistic way. You can even tweak the way it handles animations, changing your posture and walk speed, and you get extremely fine control of the way you look right down to the length of individual fingers.

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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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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What Works in Second Life

Over the past year many companies have wondered what in Metaverse's name they should, could or would do in Second Life. Throughout this search for added value, one particular application has stood out as being succesfull: Training and Simulation.

Marked by Forrester as one of the key areas of Virtual Worlds, a number of succesfull training programmes have been initiated over the past year. Here's two recent projects in the media:

Quick Stat: Second Life Boosts Canadian Border Guard Training Scores by 28%

Through Virtual World News

Wagner AU, of New World Notes has been following the use of a Second Life-based simulation for training Canadian border guards designed by Loyalist College's Virtual World Design Centre. It's saving money and having real-world impacts on the interview section of the students' final test. "2007 - Without using Second Life, student interview skills average grade: 58%," Ken Hudson of Loyalist told New World Notes. "2008 - after using Second Life simulation, student interview skills average grade: 86%."

How to Set Up a Second Life Presence for Federal Agencies

Through Virtual World News

Anne Laurent who blogs about virtual government at The Agile Mind and reports for NextGov is putting together a YouTube series on how agencies can join the virtual world. She's following the story of the National Defense University's Information Resources Management College in Second Life, beginning with the process of convincing management, buying islands, and setting up its environment before looking at its current use with students. It might be basic as an introduction for some readers, but it's an interesting case
study as well.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Grid Jumping

Tomorrow the Fall-Edition of the Virtual World Conference and Expo starts again, this time in Los Angeles. It's been a year since I visited the one in San Jose. At that time, there were a few buzzwords around, amongst which "Interoperability" was very hot.

Popular belief is that in order to become mainstream, virtual worlds need to have interoperability, i.e. the possibility to exchange information between various virtual worlds, like teleporting your avatar from say Habbo Hotel to World of Warcraft, or to put up the Wikipedia definition:

"With respect to software, the term interoperability is used to describe the capability of different programs to exchange data via a common set of exchange formats, to read and write the same file formats, and to use the same protocols.(The ability to execute the same binary code on different processor platforms is 'not' contemplated by the definition of interoperability.)

The lack of interoperability can be a consequence of a lack of attention to standardization during the design of a program. Indeed, interoperability is not taken for granted in the non-standards-based portion of the computing world."

A year ago, this was the gospel according to IBM and Linden Lab that would change the face of the virtual earth. And thus they made a deal to work together. Aside from this more or less official partnership, dozens of companies, like Philips and Cisco teamed up and the Interoperability Forum was opened, a wiki to discuss interoperability issues. This forum didn't really live up to my expectations, with barely 50 posts (50% of which deal with organisation proposals and quabbles) in a year and the last post more than 3 months ago.

So, what happened to interoperability, is it dead? Not yet. In June 2008 IBM officially announced they had succesfully teleported an avatar from the Second Life grid to OpenSim. The following account, posted by Zhaewry gives a little insight into the extent of interoperability:

"At about 11:00 AM, Linden, Ruth arrived on an OpenSim server, quite quietly, and to her surprise. We had been testing some code, and I’d asked Layla Linden to try to log on again, to see how the bug looked on the client side. But.. the latest fix, put on moments earlier, was, in fact, the last one we needed. I logged in as well, and several other folks from Linden lab joined us.

What’s so unusual about logging into OpenSim? Nothing. But.. this wasn’t a normal login. All three Avatars had been logged on via the Agent Domain in the Linden Lab Aditi test grid. The Agent Domain took a “place_avatar” request from the client, and issued a “rez_avatar” request to the OpenSim, which handed the Agent Domain the necessary details so it could relay it to the client, and permit a login. We’re all Ruth, because we’re not yet syncing the agents with openSim inventory yet. That’s just a small matter of programming… (Well, that’s what we programmers always say.) We have no inventory, and we’re stuck on the single region. But.. It’s a very nice first step."

It is not full interoperability yet, but it's a step. I'm wondering how big a step it actually is, as OpenSim is a reversed engineered Open Source Second Life thing in which both IBM and Linden Lab themselves highly participate. It actually is miles off interoperability between say OpenSim and Active Worlds. The question is, will it ever get there?

Dozens of worlds out there do not see the value of interoperability, right from the start, as I wrote in one of my reviews on the VW Conference last year:

"While talking to Craig Sherman on this he let me know that Gaia is pursuing its own target group and has no intention whatsoever to even start thinking about portability. pretty much the same goes for Habbo Hotel, as Timo Soininen doesn't see much chances to asses the value of goods for portability."

Tomorrow the fall edition of the Virtual World Conference 2008 kicks off. I am curious to see if Interoperability degrades into a purely Linden Lab - IBM project, which really would be a shame. Maybe the interoperability these two pursue isn't the one that will fit the market, but there will have to be standards in the end. We've tried Microsoft Passport, OpenID and a few others for the flat-web, and those were also disappointing.

It's going to be a long hard road. Don't stop walking it.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

ArcelorMittal: Virtual Stocks

Due to family issues I've not been poking around Second Life for quite some time now, and it's been a while since I've seen interesting reports and blogs on new companies entering the world of Second Life. Although I've not immersed myself for several months now, I did keep a close tap on several noteworthy blogs through my feedreader, and didn't see any new (noteworthy) companies entering Second Life.

We all know companies aren't as eager to enter Second Life as they once were (over a year ago), but every once in a while one does enter, and this time it's the worlds' largest Steel company:

"ArcelorMittal is the largest steel company in the world, with 310,000 employees in more than 60 countries. It has led the consolidation of the world steel industry and today ranks as the only truly global steelmaker. The company was founded in 2006 when Arcelor and Mittal Steel merged. It ranked at 39th position in Fortune Global 500 companies list. The company is headquartered in Luxembourg City, in southern Luxembourg, the former seat of Arcelor."


Somehow you don't see a steelcompany to be a hip, Web 2.0 ready company, but Arcelor is doing the social Jive. In 2007 it launched its own Web TV, and inaugurated their virtual presence on June 17 this year. Here is the account from the ArcelorMittal blog:

"On June 17, ArcelorMittal held its annual Individual Shareholder Event. Whether in Japan, Russia or Europe, shareholders were able to listen in, ask questions
and access information - all in real time - as they were transported into a virtual ArcelorMittal world!

15 ArcelorMittal shareholders arrived at the snazzy lounge set-up at Luxembourg headquarters as Lakshmi Mittal, our
Chairman and CEO, hosted ArcelorMittal’s 2008 Individual Shareholder meeting. Another 60 existing and potential shareholders joined the event via Second Life – a virtual meeting centre which enables you to create your own character by choosing your physical features and your virtual name.

Another great advantage for shareholders was the possibility to consult the Company’s different publications (Activity Report, Fact Book, Sustainability Report, etc.) in one direct click from the meeting centre.

After a brief presentation by Julien Onillon, VP Investor Relations, outlining the Group’s growth targets and ambitions, shareholders were invited to put their questions to Mr Mittal via instant message. My favourite one? How do you make steel?!"

I haven't visited the facility yet, so I can't really show much more than a YouTube video of the meeting, but I think I'll peek in to see what they've actually built.

Here's a number of links to press coverage of this event:

So what do we do now ?

The question is, did it work out, and what will ArcelorMittal do with their Second Life presence in the future? I don't know yet, here's a quote from a sceptic blog:

Just read in MINT newspaper that Arcelor Mittal had organised shareholder meeting in Second Life, the popular online virtual world.

The result?? Well, the results were not even close to good, atleast that's what the newspaper reported. for this 90-minute long event around 50 avatars turened up. The event was confused and uncertain. The residents were puzzledabout what are they suppose to do. They kept asking so, what do we do now?

As for as the company is concerned they realized that it is difficult to find investors, especially on such sites!

So, What do we do now?? :)

Well, I'm for one am going to enjoy my last day of the summer holidays and seek out to visit the Arcelor site in Second Life in the near future.


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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Integrate or wrap up

Many will agree that Virtual Worlds are wonderful tools when it comes to visualising hard to explain stuff and offer a range of quite useful possibilities. Yet NVE's are still a niche market and have obviously failed as marketing tools. They don't hold the power to overturn the internet yet and become mainstream applications.

In my opinion the key lies in integration with mainstream and social networking tools. Virtual Worlds such as Second Life are still mainly social worlds, used for social interaction for certain special interest groups and in this regard they are a mere 3D Chat addition to social networks. In this day and age these social networks are in charger of the internet with Facebook, Myspace etc. holding vast communities. If Virtual Worlds are to stand more than a "snowballs' chance in hell" in this web 2.0 battle for numbers they have to bridge the gap.

I think I've mentioned Kaneva in the past as pioneering this with their user profiles with blogging, etworking features etc. to enhance the social power of their virtual world. I've mentioned integration a number of times in the articles here on MindBlizzard and in presentations I did in the past year and a half.

Just over a year ago I wrote:

"One of the great features of Kaneva is the personal homepage that you get as a resident - a good start to integrate Web 2.0 and Web 3D into one environment. Think of the power of integrating Second Life with Flickr, Blogger, YouTube, Twitter/pownce and Facebook all in one!"

We've seen a small Facebook widget appear last year in which you could linkup with your Second Life friends, an attempt to integrate Second Life with Joomla, but now the integration takes a step forward as Tribal One integrates Facebook and OpenSim in a first step towards a new approach to 3D/Web integration

As usual, UgoTrade, has a very extensive and thorough blog on this integration:

The picture above shows the in the left pane fetched pictures from Stefan’s Facebook photos. As Stefan explains a hybrid web app is talking to the region to change the picture accordingly and pull the photos into frames on the wall (for a more detailed technical explanation see here).

read more at: UgoTrade.

More to come

There's bound to be more to come on cross platform interfaces and 3D/Web integration. Check out Digado for example with it's accounts on the "Second Life Interface Debate", and here's a vid from Smashing Magazine on "Futuristic Interfaces"

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Linden Lab Appoints Frank Ambrose as SVP Global Technology


"Linden Lab has hired Frank Ambrose as SVP Global Technology, according to CEO Mark Kingdon in a article this week. The move reportedly comes as part of Linden's efforts to ramp up in the face of competition from the recently launched Google Lively. Although Second
is increasingly being used for collaboration and Lively seems, initially, like a social play, Linden is still hiring for competition. In addition to Ambrose, who previously oversaw network and technical infrastructure services as an SVP at AOL, taking over computer systems, Kingdon said the company would hire new sales staff to bring in more businesses to Second Life.

"Who wouldn't be concerned when Google comes after their business?" Kingdon told Bloomberg. "We want to supercharge that growth by making it more accessible."

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Google Lively


"Google introduced a program last month called Lively, designed for users who want to mingle online. Unlike Second Life, which is one big world, Lively lets customers create many smaller chat rooms that can be linked to blogs. The service allows users to post YouTube videos and connect to other rooms and Web pages.

``The idea is to enhance the Web experience that you already have, as opposed to creating an entirely different life,'' said Niniane Wang, an engineering manager at Mountain View, California-based Google.

Wang, 29, created Lively about two years ago, starting it as a '20 percent' time project that engineers work on one day a week. She declined to say how many employees are devoted to the project. Google isn't making money from the service, and Wang wouldn't discuss whether Lively will show advertising -- the company's main source of revenue. "

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Me the Media - about me as well

Mid april the Sogeti Vint Institute released its latest book, called "Me the Media. Past, Present and Future of the Third Media Revolution".

VINT is Sogeti Group's New Technology Research Institute, founded as the Verkennings Instituut Nieuwe Technologie in the Netherlands in 1994. Currently VINT has offices in Amsterdam, Paris, Stockholm and Washington.

"Me the Media " investigates the exciting development of web media. It envisages a future of hyper-individualization, of ICTainment on top of ICTechnology, and of meaningful web conversations between organizations, customers and employees. Somewhere in the book you run into a picture of yours truly, both avatar and Real Life and referral to the MindBlizzard blog. On the Me The Media website you'll find a short outline of the book in English as well.

To get more info on the novel, sign up for the book presentation at the Vint Quarterly Technology Update in 't Spant in Bussum on May 13th.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Taking it Slow - Living the Life

Taking it Slow

It's been about a month since I last posted here at the MindBlizzard blog. Some havhave thought it for audacious reasons, like 'banning Second Life' because of the new Trademark Regulations, and I wish it were true.

Prime reason for my absense is that Real Life needed a lot of attention. My mother has been diagnosed cancer and has been on and off into the hospital. It puts a little strain on my family as well as we have to go over regularly and help out. Since winter has been long, and we're all dying to get some warmer, sunny weather, my own health has been failing a little as well, being floored by the flu twice in a month.

Live the Life

What spare time I had, I spent outside the Metaverse -in private gaming. One of these adventures I'd like to share with you. In the early 90's I played a lot of Sid Meier games, like Civilisation (1991) and Railroad Tycoon (1990), which would fit onto 3 floppy disks at the time. I've been playing Civilisation a lot over the years, upgrading every version as soon as it came out. There was one more game which I played for a little while, which was "Pirates! Gold" (1993)

Last year I already tried out the new Railroads version, but aside from improved graphics, I think the gameplay didn't match the original. Some two months ago I ran into the new Pirates version, titled "Live the Life" (Official Site)

"Sid Meier's Pirates! is a 2004 strategy/action/adventure computer game developed by Firaxis Games and published by Atari.[1] The game is based on Sid Meier's earlier 1987 game, also named Sid Meier's Pirates!. Overall, the gameplay remains similar to the original game, though it features a 3D game engine (NDL's Gamebryo). Some elements such as sun sighting have been removed, but other features have been added, such as a ballroom dancing mini-game and an improved turn-based land combat system." (Wikipedia)

As with "Side Meier's Railroads" (2006), this new Pirates! version isn't much more than a brush up of the graphics, but its been fun to play for old times sake. A couple of screenshots:

Most importantly, as a pirate, you sail the caribbean seas, chasing Spanish galleons laden with treasure, troops or spices. Visit the various Governors regularly to get promotions, and be sure to marry a Governor's daughter, as this is where the real money is. Once you're married, she'll give you clues to Lost Cities of the Aztec, Incan and Olmec empires which will yield great treasures.

Here's a screener of the retirement page. Final rankings, Pirates defeated, treasures found etc.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

IBM and Linden Lab create 'enterprise-safe' grid

Though the potential of Virtual Worlds for businesses has been established, the concerns of safety and security of (sensitive) corporate data has been a major issue and caused much reluctance for corporations to create their Virtual Office. Today Reuters announced IBM and Linden Labs have been working on a solution and are ready to go public with their 'Grid behind the Firewall'.

Using the server and client software of Linden Research Inc.'s Second Life, and the interoperability program created by IBM they managed to create a separate place which would allow any of the (well over) 5,000 employees of IBM to enter the private grid, but keep the rest of the Second Life users out of their corporate servers.
IBM has more than 5,000 employees using Second Life for purposes such as sales training or collaborating across different geographic regions. The company will also allow the employees to explore Second Life. And whey will be able to cross into IBM’s secure firewalled corporate network, much like users do with a virtual private network, which creates a secure connection from the Internet into a corporation so that users can log into enterprise applications from their homes.

The firewall will also prohibit regular users of Second Life from gaining access to portions of Second Life that are available only to IBM employees. Spohrer said that the companies have to work out exactly what to move behind the firewall to guarantee security.
Source: The Standard

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Playboy gets Dressed

This weeks top story features Playboy getting dressed for the occasion. Playboy getting dressed isn't your typical April Fool's Day prank but a very smart move by the popular magazine, as reported by James Wagner Au at the NWN blog:

Smart Bunny: Playboy Sells Fashion Created And Co-Branded By Second Life Designers

With regular events and a staff of gregarious, frequently dancing Bunnies, Playboy's official Second Life presence, a tropical island club developed by Boston's Green Grotto Studios, is one of the few real world company sites boasting steady visitor traffic. (Direct SLURL teleport at this link.) And unless I missed a previous announcement, it can now claim another title: the first major company to link its brand with Second Life-only brands. In this case, Playboy-branded fashion sold on the official island, but created and promoted by SL designers who are an integral part of the label; among them, KO Designs, Alpha Male, Sharkture, and Simply Spoiled.

Playboy started out in the Metaverse with the opening of the Playboy Island in Second Life in June 2007 (read blogpost here), which surprisingly (for many) didn't become the house of sin in the sex-filled world of Second Life. No actually, there was nothing sexy about Playboy's presence.

This time, everybody is getting fluffy with the bunny as Playboy is now in cohoots with a quality selection of Second Life fashion designers. Reactions from the more marketing oriented blogs are pretty happy about Playboy's move;

Nic Mitham says:

"The company is selling Playboy-branded items on the island created by residents inside Second Life - they are tapping into the expertise incumbent in-world."

And Digodo writes:

"It’s an interesting move because apparently Playboy thinks they can fill a gap the Metabrands have - a recognizable, A-brand that separates the quality from the B products for people who haven’t spend months in Second Life. On the other hand, the metabrands bring ‘good will’ of the existing community to the table, a recognised and appriciated brand amongst people who have spend some time in Second Life and are well rooted into the community.

What the most important thing is, in my humble opinion is that Playboy seem to understand how communities work and that is even more important than getting your product out in the virtual world. I have been very disappointed with the things (the majority of) real world companies have done in Second Life sofar. It's been a marketing trip mostly, and the community just isn't interested. It's time companies skip the promo-attitude blabla and start taking their business into Virtual Worlds.

This would have been easy for Playboy, to bring their business to a Virtual World which is sex-infested according to many. Doing the opposite; getting dressed gets them my respect and it shows they understand the way the Second Life community works. Whereas most brands come in and invite people to 'leave their natural habitat' to come to their island, Playboy is bringing the brand to the community.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

exitSL Avastar Recap

The new Linden Lab Trademark policies have caused a row amongst bloggers and citizens of Second Life. Allthough the actual legal impact may not be as big as feared at first sight, it still is a fuzz and the manner in which in was announced has certainly caused havoc. The exitSL logo I created to express my 'frustration' made it to this weeks' Avastar (Issue # 67).

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

SEAT and Mitsubishi inSL

Just spotted in Second Life: Car manufacturer SEAT. Not much more to tell as the island is blanked out and inaccesible.


And another automotive company (and many other things) is rezzing in Second Life as well, Japanese Mitshubishi Corporation is going six isle strong.


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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

inSL Program - exitSL Fun

Logging into Second Life yesterday, a new ToS (Terms of Service) was pushed. As usual, you hardly read these things and click 'accept', but this one is tricky. Especially for bloggers.

The thing is... they've started being picky about the use of the Second Life(TM) logo. On monday the 24th, Linden Lab opened the all new Brand Center;

"With the Brand Center, we’re also launching the inSL Logo Program, which provides a new community logo for Second Life Residents. Display the inSL logo to show you and your brands are a part of the Second Life community. This logo may be used on your website, business card, promotional materials, product packaging, and in many other places where you may wish to promote your contributions to the Second Life world. When using the logo, be sure to follow the Guidelines for Using the inSL Logo."

Be sure to comply, and change your blog. You've got 90 days;

"If, after reading the Trademark Guidelines, you realize you’re using a Linden Lab trademark incorrectly, please use the next 90 days to change your use to comply with the Guidelines. For more information, see our FAQ. Signing up for the inSL Logo program is fast and simple."

Signing up for the inSL Logo program might be fast and simple, changing years of blogging is not, and, what does it actually mean to you and me? As James Wagner Au describes it at New World Notes:

The Lindens have announced a 90 day amnesty for third party sites and individual users which incorporate the company's eye-in-hand logo or the Second Life/Linden Lab name into its material. Extensive FAQ here. An SL bloggers group has an extended conversation here, and offhand, I tend to agree with Kanomi Pikajuna, who says, "A company as dependent as Linden is on the goodwill and contributions of their community cannot possibly be stupid enough as to harass their fans for failing to put a TM after their company name. My guess is these guidelines are there to give them protection and cause to go after bogus currency exchange web sites and other profiteers."

Unsurprisingly, the new policy has caused some ripples of anxiety, particularly among longtime Residents who've enjoyed five years without this being much of an issue. (Especially as it'll apparently impact sites that have long included variations of "second life" in its URL.) Jennyfur Peregrine, for example, who co-launched the annual Second Life Community Convention with the Lindens' blessing in 2005, says, "I know that we are not alone in our contempt for this new decision."

One resident, Rheta Shan, has gone to extremes though in cynically replacing every mentioning of Second Life in her blog to You-Know-Where.

Another way is to replace the old Second Life(TM) logo with the logo of a Dutch shoe manufacturer, called Teva, which basically is the hand...

What happens if I don't agree with this new stuff? I'm going to get kicked out of Second Life (TM). The thing is. I'm a paying resident. I agreed to the terms of service at the time I registered, and when I renewed my subscription. I'm actively considering to not renew my subscription and follow the EXITSL strategy as Linden Lab isn't doing much to keep the fun alive, nor to improve on business usage of the Grid.

PS - there's absolutely no Trademark or Copyright on the EXITSL logo. Use freely.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wipro Innovation = Redundancy?

Today's last expedition led me to te Wipro Innovation Isle (I guess it they'd love to abbreviate it to Wii - but that one's already taken in SL). For people working in the IT Services a well known name as it is one of India's giants when it comes to IT services.

"Wipro Tech is an information technology service company established in India in 1980. It is the global IT services arm of Wipro Limited (in operation since 1945, incorporated 1946). It is headquartered in Bangalore and is the third largest IT services company in India. It has more than 79,832 employees as of December 2007, including its business process outsourcing (BPO) arm which it acquired in 2002. Wipro Technologies has over 300 customers across U.S., Europe and Japan including 50 of the Fortune 500 companies." (Wikipedia)

Near the end of 2007 there were speculations of Wipro Technologies considering to take over Capgemini and thus Sogeti as well, but in the end it was a no show. The corporate website puts focus on 'applied innovation';

"At Wipro we have fine-tuned the science of viewing innovation through the lens of practicality to design unique solutions for end customers. Applied Innovation is the ability to infuse newer ideas and newer ways of doing things into all parts of the organization, and improve business outcomes, often without major disruptive change. It is a 360-degree business approach covering process, delivery, business and technology Innovations that help Wipro to work
collaboratively with clients for cost take-outs, speed to market and new business opportunities."

It is this theme that is the starting point for the Wipro presence in Second Life, which looks to be in the first stage of the experiment. It is a 3 sim cluster, of which only one is fully build, one only holding an expo stand and an empty sim.

Applied Innovation is the ability to infuse newer ideas and newer ways of doing things into all parts of the organization, and I can well imagine this applies to their Second Life expedition as well. I do believe we have to bring Virtual Worlds (newer ways) beyond the average marketing department (i.e. into all parts of the organization). The question remains how to do this.

Let's see if Wipro can bring the answer. The sim is filled with an assorted array of buildings, with two larger builds standing out. The first of these is the 'Learning Center' and is shaped a little like the Sydney Opera (not really, buyt you can see which building I'm referring to).

Please reread the lines on the triple sim: "One build, one half build, one empty." This is pretty much the case with the Learning Center as well. It holds two auditoria, and right outside there's an amphitheater. Also, at the second level it has several empty officerooms.

Further onto the campus we see various buildings, like a 'Client Engagement' building, a library and a datacenter each filled with several workstations / cubicles.

Finally I arrived at the second large building, a four storey square concrete office block which looked a little cramped when I walked into the hall and up the staircase. It made me wonder how much of the build is actually shaped like their real life offices... This building is labelled 'Offshore Development Center' and that is what interests me, what would bring innovation to the virtual workspace.

I was a little disappointed though when there were more rooms with workstations, and more and more. But no show. One of the great benefits I see for Virtual Worlds is what they potentially can do for the offshoring industry, as offshoring projects often require a lot of attention; extra management, extra communication, extra code checking etcetera and in the virtual workspace where you can collaborate while both in offshore and rightshore location would greatly aid this process.

Yet I'm fully aware of the limitations Second Life has in this regard. There's no real integration with development suites or management tools. Then there's always the issue of security. I can't really blame Wipro for not finding the solution for Second Life, but I had hoped for more info, more ideas.

The last redundancy in the sim was when I moved from the cantine inside the ODC to 'the Glacier', a cafe on the campus.

As for the build itself, I find it of average quality. It is a melee of textures (a lot of default SL texturing) and styles. As I said, I'm under the impression that part of it is based upon real life buildings, so maybe they had to work with what they had. Otherwise, I'd say the triple auditorium, the cramped staircases etcetera don't really utilise the 3D-ness of a virtual environment.


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Eye Gaze Interaction

For those of us having problems navigating Second Life, there's some new technology about to hit the market.

The video shows eye gaze interaction with Second Life using our "Snap Clutch" software; developed at De Montfort University, UK in collaboration with University of Tampere, Finland. The software allows us to change quickly between
interaction modes to allow for a more real-time gaming experience. This research will be presented at ETRA 2008, US.

For more information on the project please visit: and

When looking at the video, I'm pretty impressed with the technology. However, when you've got both hands left, use them, as this is getting very passive.

Thanks to Pieter Bosch for the Tip.

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Pasona Recruitment

Remaining in the employment branch, but crossing an ocean in Real Life, there's Pasona which first started as Temporary Center Inc. in 1976 and now is one of the leading Employment services in Japan.

Ever since its inception, PASONA GROUP has used job creation to pursue a clear corporate philosophy of building a better society and creating a system of employment infrastructure that provides each individual the opportunity to work and the freedom to find the job of his or her choice.

There isn't much to tell about this build. Like many other Japanese firms they've decided not to build a dedicated island, but take a parcel in the busy Japanese cluster. And seemingly it works in this case. Today is just a regular Tuesday and the agency had a crowd of 25 avatars looking for a job, which is more than I've found in many many corporate sims on any given day except for 'grand openings'


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Monday, March 24, 2008

Basic Belgian Business Builds

Up till now I haven't seen much Businesswise activity from the Belgians in Second Life, although there is a pretty active Belgian community present in Second Life, which shows in a pretty large amount of Belgian cities to be recreated in Second Life; We've got several Brussels / Bruxelles sims, Brugge, Gent etcetera. What I'm told though is that most attention still goes to entertainment and mature content.

One of the first Belgian companies to rez was Dutch / Belgian radio station Q-Music (which has already left Second Life again). A second was telecom provider Belgacom and in november 2007 there was the Keytrade bank (which I blogged just before the weekend). When I published the updated version of the RL Brand Directory though, I was prompted with a number of Belgian firms on the grid. Most of these aren't on dedicated sims, so it's no wonder I haven't spotted them.

First of these firms are on the bordering sims Chopin and Beethoven, and are build by Metapartners.

MetaPartners NV currently owns 15 islands in Second Life®, making it the largest sim owner in Belgium: Beethoven, (home to Packaging & Converting Essentials), Grieg (home to MetaPartners itself), Chopin (home to UniPartners) as well as Vivaldi Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, which are the R&D areas of UniPartners. Other islands are Albinoni, Bizet, Bach, Mozart, Verdi, Haydn, Ravel and Brahms.

The companies in question are Packaging & Converting Essentials - which deal in... guess what: Packaging and Converting -

Packaging & Converting Essentials has been using Second Life® for almost a year now as an additional communications tool to its RSS feeds, newsletters and website and has expanded its already global reach to a virtual environment, where residents can read the newsheadlines and access the
website directly.

and the second one, UniPartners, is an IT Service provider.

UniPartners NV, with over 80 IT specialists, uses the virtual world as a recruitment area, a meeting place for its own employees, a place for staff meetings, trainings and conferences. In addition to that, UniPartners NV also has a competence and R&D center.

To be honest, I wasn't really impressed when I visited the sims. It's all pretty basic. Here are a few snapshots:

There are a few other Beglian firms I intend to visit, I hope they'll be more like the Keytrade and Belgacom builds than these firms who probably don't have a clue to what the potential of virtual worlds can do for these companies.

SLURL Unipartners:

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vBusiness Expo - April 2008

It's been a couple of months since I heard the first plans from Clever Zebra to organise yet another vw conference and expo. Here's the first announcement:

The vBusiness Central project in Second Life will launch in April with a 4 day Expo, to be held bi-yearly in April and October (which coincides with the Virtual World Conference).

The conference aims to cover 4 key areas:

We'll be announcing dates and details very shortly. If you want to keep up with developments, including other Clever Zebra events and product updates then join our email list to be first with the news.

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Roleplaying Potter at Hogwarts

While browsing Paisley Beebe's Flickr Photostream I came acros this picture:

I couldn't find any more, so I went into Second Life to see if I could find Harry Potter and found the Hogwart Project Group. They've build several important decorums from the Potter series in Second Life (Two sims: Sunset Harbor and Phoenix Estates).

This first snapshot is of the Wizard's Alley:

The second snapshot is the Hogwarts school of Magic, and at the right bottom the Quidditch arena:

Finally, there's the Hogwarts express that traverses between the Hogwarts School of Magic and the Wizard's Alley.

A virtual world like Second Life is extremely suitable to do things which are not possible in Real Life, like playing Quidditch. I'd suggested this to a friend of mine a little over a year ago. He was very doubtfull. Off course, there are tons of Potter fans out there who'd love roleplaying the series. However, he was weary of copyright issues. The Potter series have been such a smashing success that it would probably be very hard to get Rowling's blessing to recreate the series in Second Life.

This build is certainly not an official build, but a very great hobby project. I don't think they've considered copyrights, but it's fun while its there.


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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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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Virtual Banking (15): Gruppo Banca Carige

Sticking in the Italian corner, there's the Gruppo Banca Carige, one of the many banks in Second Life and the 9th largest bank in Italy with a market capitalisation of 3.0 billion Euro's.

One of the things the bank boasts about is its international orientation;

At last a bank that cares for those who come from afar. The Banca Carige Group has created "Carige Senza Confini", the account that speaks every language in the world. But that's not all: Carige Senza Confini offers you an international
prepaid card to make payments and withdrawals, a money transfer service, a mortgage for your new home in Italy and much more. Carige Senza Confini is a service dedicated to all foreign nationals with residency in Italy.

Although, at the sim there was one building dedicated to the Senza Confini account, the only language on the sim was Italiano again. Let's have a look at the build:

It's main venue is something what I'll be calling Italian style. I've seen quite a number of Italian builds which have typically arched constructions build with aluminium and glass. The main office is dominated by the sound of silence.

Again it's hard to find a business sim that hasn't been blogged by Al Kronos already, and this one is no different:

"The previously mentioned Leisure Area seems to take up around a third of the island, with a (short!) golf course, tennis court, gym and pool. In a nod towards the city of Genoa, there seems to be a recreation of the city's
lighthouse. But we've not finished yet - no sirree. There are several more buildings - all largely complete: a recruitment office; an overseas relations office and meeting spaces for both domestic and business clients. Oh... and
finally, there's a dance area. Phew! And all of these set around an ornamental lake. It is a neat piece of juggling to fit in all of these features without it looking strained and crowded."

Here are the snapshots of the assorted melee of buildings:


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Cantiere SugarMusic

Yesterday I wrote I'd stay out of SL for the Easter holidays, but as the kids are asleep and Mrs. V. is out of the house, I couldn't help myself. Entering SL and skimming the map, I came across a heavy load of Italian sims. One stood out, as it wasn't called Genova, Torino or Milano, but carried the very Italian sounding name (not) "Sugar Music Land". What I could figure from the Italian Sugarmusic website wasn't much, as it was all Italiano. A little digging brought me to the mothercompany, Gruppo Sugarmusic from Spain.

Although it is a Spanish firm, it is a publishing house for Italian music with a wide range of classical publications, but also big names like Andrea Bocelli. A little history:

Sugarmusic was founded with the name Edizioni Suvini Zerboni in 1907. At first specialized in the management of some important Milan theaters, the company then looked to pop music signing some of Italy 's most representative authors. In 1948, when Mr. Paolo Giordani passed away, Mr. Ladislao Sugar became the only owner of Edizioni Suvini Zerboni. Since then, the company business never stopped, achieving one success after the other.

Sugarmusic's current activities mainly focus on scouting young talents and helping them grow: Negramaro, born and bred in the label, have become Italy 's best selling act between 2005 and 2006 and had 9 songs pitched in Alessadro
D'Alatri's movie “La Febbre”.

Sugarmusic, holding of the Sugar Group, proudly administers a 60.000 titles catalogue and its rights acquiring and protection policy is carried on bearing in mind the quick progress of the digital era.

Okay, now let's have a look at the build, which is being performed by the folks of SL Consulting, and looks pretty neat. The build isn't finished yet. I couldn't enter the parcels, but I could fly over at 60 meters. The main venue is a pyramid and several walkways lead to smaller buildings, and a stage.

There were a number of things I couldn't explain. What is the enormous spiralling platform doing there? Another tyhing is that there were I few buildings on the side of the sim that looked totally out of place. As it isn't finished yet, I can't tell which way this sim is going to go, but from a building point of view it looks pretty decent.


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Updated Branddirectory for Second Life

Last night I had some problems to log into Second Life. This means I've finally had some time to update the MindBlizzard RL Brand Directory.

The MindBlizzard RL Brand Directory is a list of Real Life Companies which have a presence in Second Life. The list includes SLURL's for direct access. I've updated the brand directory with the brands I've blogged in the last 5 months and it's grown to about 150 entries. Surely there are more brands in Second Life and I'll do my best to get the list as complete as possible.

Here's the complete list as an image:

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Friday, March 21, 2008

VeeJay goes OOC

Don't worry, I'm not getting OOC as in Out Of Character... just have to get Out Of Computer for the holidays. Be back after easter

I think I may have to talk and play with the kids face to face ;)

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nikon puts focus on Scenery

Bienvenuto Nikonista! is the first thing I see when the world rezzes around me. Just after blogging the Japanese Pioneer Corporation build in Second Life I immersed at Nikon island. Although another Japanese company, it's clear this isn't the mothership which has landed in Second Life.

"Nikon Corporation is a Japanese company specializing in optics and imaging. Its products include cameras, binoculars, microscopes, measurement instruments, and the steppers used in the photolithography steps of semiconductor fabrication. It was founded in 1917 as Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō ("Japan Optical Industries"); the company was renamed Nikon Corporation, after its cameras, in 1988. Nikon is one of the major companies of the Mitsubishi Group. The name Nikon, which dates from 1946, is a merging of Nippon Kōgaku ( "Japan Optical") and an imitation of Zeiss Ikon. Among its famous products are Nikkor camera lenses (notably those designed for the company's own F-mount SLR cameras), Nikonos underwater cameras, the Nikon F-series of
professional 135 film SLR cameras, and the Nikon D-series digital SLRs. Nikon has helped lead the transition to digital photography with both the Coolpix line of consumer and prosumer cameras as well as DSLR system cameras."

The island basically has one building, surrounded by a number of small information stands on the Nikon group in Second Life and competitions.

The main building has two levels and at ground level we find various seats in front of slideshows and some general info on Nikon and their latest camera models. The second level houses a museum with information on early Nikon camera's.

However, the sims main focus is not on the brand, but on the scenery, which I think is an excellent choice. Not just another build and another brand, but an attempt to show the beauty of things, trying to depict the essence of why people start with photography. I must say, the scenery is absolutely fantastic.

The build was done by an Italian MDC named "NoReal-it" (I doubt there's a pun intended), which in my opinion have done a great job at the scenery and in putting the foucs there.


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Life 2.0 in Wonderland

One of the prime Technology events is Dr. Dobbs Life 2.0 Conference. Today saw a series of talks in Second Life as well. Unfortunately I didn't have time to drop in. The good thing was that I was kept up to date through the Metanomics group IM on today's keynote;


9:00 AM PDT - 10:00 AM PDTKEYNOTE:
Project Wonderland - 3D Toolkit for Building Virtual Worlds. Nicole Yankelovich, Principal Investigator, Collaborative Environments Project, Sun Microsystems Laboratories

Project Wonderland is an open source toolkit for building 3D virtual worlds for business and education collaboration. Within a Wonderland virtual! world, p s, interact with team members, and have chance encounters with colleagues, all using natural voice interaction. Most importantly, real work can be accomplished with Wonderland's support of X and Java applications as well as innovative telephone integration. With application sharing as the default, people can create, edit, and share documents within the virtual world.

Wonderland is built on top of the Project Darkstar game server platform, which provides enterprise-grade scalability, reliability, and flexible integration with other enterprise systems.


Surprisingly enough, synchronisity strikes again. Thursday I have to give a presentation on collaboration and project management in Virtual Worlds, and one of the options I will discuss is the Wonderland project as it is one of the most advanced platforms when it comes to collaboration at this point in time, I think.

Perhaps we have to clarify a bit on the names used, as it sometimes causes some confusion.

  • Darkstar: (also referred to as project ~) The game server platform which is the foundation of the technology
  • Wonderland: (or project ~) The open source virtual world produced by Sun, which is built on top of the Darkstar platform.
  • MPK20: The wonderland version Sun uses as its own private development VW.

Some bits and pieces on Darkstar / Wonderland from the speech:

Darkstar permits users to participate in one space without sharding. In addition to Darkstar they use jVoiceBridge for audio. It also permits interacting with telephone systems. They are also trying to get their artwork to be open source or CCL. Part of Wonderland includes collaboration capability that can be extended to enterprise software.It can interact with business data. Darkstar also scales instance with 2-3 users can run on a laptop

There are external worlds live today: and some coming up fairly soon. They have tested some already. Small wonder; Wonderland is not planned to interact with SL... However, except maybe in the interoperability space (transportable avatars, etc.) and they will cooperate as much as possible.

For a complete schedule of the Dr. Dobbs Life 2.0 conference in Second Life click here.
More info on the Wonderland click here.

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Pioneering SL with sound, vision and soul

When browsing the map and randomly entering a few letters in the search I noticed a sim called "Pioneer Corporation." I had noticed the plain "Pioneer" sim months ago, but that wasn't any corporate build. This one is.

Pioneer Corporation is a Japanese multinational corporation that specializes in digital entertainment products, based in Tokyo, Japan. The company was founded in 1938 in Tokyo as a radio and speaker repair shop. Today, Pioneer is well-known for technology advancements in the consumer electronics industry.

Pioneer played a role in the development of interactive cable TV, the Laser Disc player, the first automotive Compact Disc player, the first detachable face car stereo, Supertuner technology, DVD and DVD recording, plasma display, and Organic LED display (OLED). The company works with optical disc and display technology and software products and is also a manufacturer. Sharp Corporation
took a controlling stake in Pioneer in 2007.

The sim is actually built quite well to cover a wide range of products offered by Pioneer. The main venture is the AV Tower in which various systems are on display.

In the North-East corner there is a small residential block in which their KURO hometheatre systems are on display.

The various locations on the island are linked by a road, winding across the island. Take a balloon trip, or rent a car (with Pioneer sound off course) to see the scenery. There's a waterfall and a surf area. Unlike most (western) corporate sims, this one was actually in use. I counted about 9 people coming in for a balloon flight or a surf on the beach.

NB: Pioneer's slogan is "Sound, Vision, Soul" Although I like the sim, I missed out on the visionary part for Virtual Worlds.

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Mercedes (B) Enz SL Adventure

In skimming the blogosphere a post caught my eye, which read: Mercedes-Benz ends Second Life test run with positive findings.

The article in question was posted earlier today on the Mercedes Benz SL blog which had been quiet since august 2007. Seeing the inactivity at the blog for the last 7 months, this isn't a big surprise, but it doesn't mean Mercedes has been inactive in Second Life during these months.

The remarkable thing that they end their test run with positive findings. The blog reads:

"A little over a year, Mercedes-Benz opened its dedicated presence in the virtual world of ‘Second Life’. Since the launch of the brand’s virtual island, we won several vital insights and received plenty of positive feedback, especially for our unique communications policy. Over the course of the year, our brand avatar ‘Mercedes Milestone’ led more than 10,000 inspired dialogues.

We truly enjoyed developing this new, innovative communications platform and would like to extend our thanks to all those who visited Mercedes-Benz Island and demonstrated interest in our virtual outpost.

Our ‘Second Life’ stint will draw to an end on March 18th 2008 – as of this day, you will no longer be able to access Mercedes-Benz Island. This brief and exciting foray into virtual communities brought us several essential realisations and the conviction that 3D worlds play a vital role as engaging communication channels. We will continue to monitor this theme and keep you updated on any new developments."

Well, Mercedes has new insights. Good for them. It is still a withdrawal from a virtual world, and the umpteenth withdrawal from Second Life which makes it very clear that companies still have a very hard time in making a usefull and persistent presence in a virtual world and that Second Life desperately needs to improve if it wants to play a role as a business platform.

Since august 2006 Second Life has been the premier platform for companies to start experimenting with the Metaverse, which worked for a year or so. It's key attraction point has been the relatively low cost its ease of building and its economy. Due to this immersion Second Life has seen an enormous growth between august 06 and august 07. Since august 07 the corporate exodus has begun as the initial advantages are getting outweighed by its disadvantages, such as:

  • Lack of security
  • Lack of real collaboration tools
  • Lack of interfaces

Take heed Linden Lab

No doubt Linden Lab will state that they're not worried by the exodus of companies. There's still hundreds left, and more coming. Yet these initial pioneers have greatly aided in the growth of Second Life with the attention they received. Linden Lab is probably focussing on making a better world, but if they can't provide for these companies, if they can't make the tools work that companies need then there's only one conclusion possible:

Second Life will degrade to being just another pimped 3D chatroom, a game with bad graphics or a chaotic placeholder for a surplus of user generated content no one needs.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Virtual Healthcare 3: MS Island

Hidden between a number of ABN Amro employee islands I stumbled upon a simulator called "MS Island". As things go with synchronicity, this week seems to run a streak of hospitals and medication in the virtual and real world alike.

Probably the best way to describe the intended use of the build is by dropping the notecard which comes in Dutch and English:

This is the island of VU university medical center and the MS Center Amsterdam. This is a pilot project to see if a virtual world and community can have a positive influence on the wellbeing of people with MS.

This project is a cooperation of:

  • VU university medical center
  • MS Center Amsterdam
  • MSWeb
  • Dutch MS Research Foundation
  • Dutch MS Society (MSVN)
  • Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF)

In this building you will find more information about these organizations, a meeting room for people with MS and other interested parties, and a presentation and consultation room.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask one of the hosts.

The agenda contains the opening hours of the pub and presentations.

We wish you a pleasant stay.

The build itself is quite different from the slick Palomar hospital. The main venue is decently build and gives a lot of information on MS.

The rest of the sim is a little too unorganised in my opinion. A large part is set up as a stage (what's the use of a permanent set up if you only give a concert at the opening of the sim?) and is surrounded by a jumble of market stands and advertisements. Collecting money isn't a crime, especially not for organisations like this and it is admirable that residents donate their stuff to be sold, still it had a somewhat cheapy look and feel to it.

One of the lines in the introduction note was waiting to be answered:

This is a pilot project to see if a virtual world and community can have a positive influence on the wellbeing of people with MS.

Unfortunately, the sim has given me no answer, nor was there any greeter who could help me out. Because I could not find any answer to these project goals I was largely disappointed in this build.

However, please drop in and donate a few Linden Dollars to this good cause!

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

SL's Next Gridmaster ?

What if... Usually it's pretty useless to talk about 'what ifs', and perhaps it is in this case too, but it's an opportunity.

Yesterday we received the news that Philip Rosedale is stepping down as CEO of Linden Lab, the Metaverse Service Provider (MSP) for Second Life and as far as the news goes, no successor has been named yet.

I am of the opinion (and there are others with me apparently) recognition of the fact that a big, grown-up company (which Linden Lab has now become) requires an entirely different sort of leadership then the hip, young start-up LL has been in the first years of development. Though not everyone has the same idea though, one of the contradictory views is voiced by Prokofy Neva in the comments to my previous blogpost as she writes:

"I find it really distasteful seeing all these tekkie male Internet gurus slapping each other on the back and saying "I told you so" about having Philip, the visionary, "log-off" and have "the grown-up management types" come in, as if
this is progress."
(full comment here)

Linden Lab, Headquartered in San Francisco, has grown rapidly over the past year and a half, but has been one step behind the explosive growth of Second Life for most of the time. A lot of metaversal residents still feel LL needs to improve its service, the stability of the grid and so on...

The question is:

What would you do if you were appointed Second Life's Next Gridmaster?

This almost sounds like a contest like America's Next Top Model or American Idols, but I challenge you to write down your ideas for the future of Second Life. What are the things you would change. What are the things you'd choose as keyprojects? What would the future of Second Life and Linden Lab be in your eyes?

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Rosedale logs off

Mister Second Life himself, Philip Rosedale a.k.a. Philip Linden, founder and CEO of Linden Research Inc. announced he steps down as CEO.

“I feel that the most important contributions I have made and will continue to make to Second Life are related to building both the product and the company through my direct contributions to vision, strategy, and design. As we grow, the role of our CEO will increasingly be to hire and grow the right team - to lead and help the company scale - to thousands of people and tens of millions of users of Second Life. I believe that we can hire a fantastic person in that
role, and also give me the ability to totally focus myself on the job that I do well. I bet this will be the most interesting job opening in the technology world.”

It is not that the man who brought in the idea and the streaming technology into Sansome Street, San Francisco, will be shut off from the grid entirely, According to Reuters he...

"will become chairman of the Linden Lab board when his successor is found, replacing Mitch Kapor, who will remain a board member and the company’s largest investor. Rosedale said he will also keep a full-time role at the company
working on product development and strategy."

This move comes as a surprise to many as Philip has been the real life personification of Linden Lab. Will it really change? Will Phil fade to grey as this snapshot predicted?

Though nobody is panicking, things are changing at Sansome street. By the end of 2007 we saw Cory Ondrejka leaving the buidling as well. Aleister Kronos has a pretty accurate remark about the change of flavor and Linden Lab:

There doesn't seem to be any air of panic, just the recognition that a big, grown-up company (which Linden Lab has now become) requires an entirely different sort of leadership from a hip, young start-up. I made this point (as many others did) when Cory Ondrejka left Linden Lab at the tail end of last year: "once you have a large (and largely
successful) implementation on your hands, your focus shifts from rapid innovation and heads more towards Quality of Service and effective service delivery."

Provided they get the right person - and that's a big proviso - then this should be a good thing for consumers of Linden Lab's services - that's us residents, both private and corporate. Hopefully, we will continue to see innovation and creativity from the Lab, after all Mr Rosedale is only moving within the outfit, but tempered with the skills needed to deliver a customer-centric, high quality service. Well... I can hope, can't I?

The question is, who's going to be the new man? I do know a couple of candidates...

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bantam Dell: a little lack of creativity

It's been a while since I look in the area surrounding the Electric Sheep Island, but early this morning I scrolled by and noticed the Bantam Dell island.

Probably depending on which writer to promote and which audience to target the mothercompany Random House uses one of their many subsidiary imprints as a stand alone publisher or a combination. This time it's the Bantam-Dell combination, which are both respected publishing houses.

Probably best known of all the Random House imprints is Bantam which has published major science finction writers such as Isaac Asimov, Jean Michel Auel and the early metarati such as William Gibson and Neil Stephenson.

Bantam has published the entire original run of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of children's books, as well as the first original novels (aimed at adults) based upon the Star Trek franchise, publishing about a dozen such books
between 1970 and 1982 when the licence was taken over by Pocket Books. Bantam also published a dozen volumes of short story adaptations of scripts from Star Trek: The Original Series. Bantam is the American paperback publisher of The
Guinness Book of Records.

The other part of this imprint is Dell Publishing, most notable for publishing works by H.G. Wells and Alfred Hitchcock.

Dell Publishing was an American publisher of books, magazines, and comic books. It was founded in 1921 by George T. Delacorte Jr.. During the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, Dell was one of the largest publishers of magazines, including pulp
magazines. From 1929 to 1974, they published comics under the Dell Comics line, the bulk of which (1938-62) was done in partnership with Western Publishing. In 1943, Dell entered into paperback book publishing with "Dell Paperbacks". They also used the book imprint of "Dial Press", "Delacorte Books", "Yearling Books" and "Laurel Leaf Library".

The Bantam Dell island is an excellent build, as far as building goes. The island is set up for 6 builds, but only half of it is build: The Bantam Dell Bookshop & Cafe, the central plaza and the auditorium.

The main venue is the Bantam Dell Bookshop & Cafe which is an excellent build and breathes the atmosphere of a classic bookshop and lounge. The books on display aren't the ones I'd buy at Bantam though.

As for interactivity there isn't much beyond clicking the books and opening the corresponding webpage (old fashioned style with an external browser) and a HUD promoting the Bantam Dell podcasts.

There are event lawns which are currently empty and asking for ideas. This is pretty much a disappointment for me as the Bantam Dell combination has a wide range of authors that would fit in with this new media of virtual worlds. I'd suggest they combine elements and scenes from the aforementioned writers to create an immersive experience, a tour of the future rather than settle for an old fashioned bookshop.


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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Grid Zero: Open Grid Protocol

Earlier today a new page emerged at the Second Life wiki. It's a page many of us have been waiting for: Zero Linden publishes the first draft outline for opening up the Second Life grid in Second Life Grid Open Grid Protocol, SLGOGP for short.

Here's a short extract:

"This protocol is about a three way interaction between viewer, agent and region in order to facilitate a shared experience between people. The viewer is the element that senses and acts on the state of the virtual world. The viewer does so from the vantage point of an agent. An agent is persistent identity and persona that interacts in a virtual world. The agent persists and can be interacted with even when the user controlling it (though a viewer) is off-line.

Regions are persistent locations in the virtual world. Multiple agents may be present in a region at the same time, and when they are they have a shared experience. Groups of regions and agents are managed by domains. A region domain is responsible for a collection of regions. An agent domain manages agent accounts.

This protocol makes few assumptions about how a domain manages its collection of elements. In particular, it does not assume that a region will be entirely managed on a single host, nor that an agent will or won’t be managed by
a single process. It is useful to think of the “stance” that each element takes in the three-way protocol: The viewer is the direct proxy for a human that wants to control an agent. This control can be direct as in the case of an interactive 3D viewer, or indirect as in the case of a web site that the user directs to display their agent’s status.

The agent domain is responsible for the agent itself. The persistent state of the agent is held within the agent
domain, and requests to interact with the agent, even by the viewer, are mediated by the agent domain. The region domain runs the live simulations of regions in the virtual world. The region domain manages the persistent state of these regions."

(Architecture representation by Ugotrade, september 2007)

SL watcher for Massively, Tateru Nino writes:

"While very preliminary and far from complete, the SLGOGP is essentially the beginnings of the technical underpinning that will ultimately allow the cohesive operation of both Linden-operated and non-Linden-operated Second-Life style
simulators and grids."
I can't wait for the grid to open up and I'll be able to hook up my own sim.

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Immersive Shopping at

Purely by accident I landed on a sim called 'Weltbild'. Not only the name is German, also the style of the build: A surplus of white. Every German build in Second Life seems to display an absense of color. A color which is used as support-color for the build is a deep red, a combination which reminded me of the Avastar build.

The island is owned by the Weltbild Publishing Group, which is a major German publisher and media retailer, owned by the dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church of Germany, based in Augsburg (see also Augsburg in SL) and now in Second Life as well.

"As of 2006, Weltbild claims to be Germany's largest media and mail-order company, with a market share of ten percent. It also says it is No. 2 among online book retailers (presumably after Weltbild employs some 4,500
employees and has a revenue of 1,4 billion EUR. According to the enterprise, some 5,5 million customers in the German-speaking countries buy Weltbild books by mail order, in one of the 300 Weltbild shops or over the Internet. Its
mail-order catalogue has a print run of four million.".

The island is another tropical beach setting, like many builds from the rainy North-European continent, today I don't mind however. The weather outside is indeed shitty and I can use some sunshine.

The Avastar association is perhaps more than coincidental, as the islands auditorium is showing a movie auditioning contest in cohoots with the Avastar newspaper.

The main venue of the island consists of three shops:

  1. Film
  2. Books
  3. Music

The thing I like about these shops is that they're not only plain links to the Weltbild website, but also offer trailers you can watch with your friends so it really is a first step towards immersive shopping.

Immersive movies:

Despite my prejudice about German builds I like the quality of the build. There are a few unnecessary things, like a telescope pointing to nowhere and a totally lost 3D tetris game though.

I wonder if the build will be revamped with the new html-on-a-prim technology, making direct interaction with their webshop possible.


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Nokia: Connecting Communities

Many telecom companies have ventured into Second Life in the past year. Usually they've played with the environment without much success. Once I noticed the Nokia sim and went over for a quick visit, my first impression was that it wasn't much different then what the other Telco's have done. The longer I stayed, the more positive I got though.

There are several Nokia Islands to be found, usually the Nokia-Siemens combination, but these aren't accessible. yet. This blog will focus on the Nokia island, in a later stadium I may blog Nokia Italia, which focusses on the Nokia Trendlabs.

"Nokia Corporation is a Finnish multinational communications corporation, focused on wired and wireless telecommunications, with 112,262 employees in 120 countries, sales in more than 150 countries and global annual revenue of 51.058 billion euros as of 2007. It is the world's largest manufacturer of mobile telephones: its global device market share was about 40% in Q4 of 2007. Nokia produces mobile phones for every major market segment and protocol, including GSM, CDMA, and W-CDMA (UMTS).

Nokia's subsidiary Nokia Siemens Networks produces
telecommunications network equipments, solutions and services.

Nokia plays a very large role in the economy of Finland: it is by far the largest Finnish company, accounting for about a third of the market capitalization of the Helsinki Stock Exchange (OMX Helsinki) as of 2007. "

The first thing I received on the island which opened in february was a notecard which read:

Welcome to Nokia Island!

Have fun and relax!

Visit the beach and take a swim, and get a yourself a brand new free Jetski!


Enjoy the spectacular experience of being inside a real Holodeck.


You can view some models is the shop, from where you can 'Zoom in' on the object in the designated productrooms. Use the Shop sign to return to the store.

(Note the immense typo in the virtual devices part - I know my blog isn't typo-free, but this is a corporate build, come on!)

The second thing I saw was the Auditorium Maximus (left), which didn't really impress me. With this mindset I turned towards the Nokia shop (right) and thought it to be just one of those things.

Inside the shop it got a little better. On the ground floor it focussed on the usual promotion stuf, but it offered huds and flying phones as well.

The second floor has a phonestand in which you can give feedback on the various models

When I walked out of the shop, my view was largely blocked by a large peacock, which stood in front of a rental sign. "Oh no... not rentals," was my first thought.

Then suddenly I noticed the virtual representation of the Burj Al Arab, the world's tallest Dubai, which had several empty floors, several Nokia branded offices (mainly Scope Cleaver Design) and finally I noticed a MetaLife office. Here I got my first impression that they are really trying to fit their slogan "Connecting People" to this virtual world.

With that in mind I suddenly looked upon the build with new eyes. The whole of the sim is set up as a beach resort with various huts and bars along the inner lake. Although the main landmark is the Burj al Arad from Dubai, the statues from Easter Island dominate the scenery. The beachhuts are filled with benches, fireplaces and jacuzzi's to meet up. The sitting animations are always in couples. It's about connecting people, not sitting alone.

Finally, I took a ride with the Jetski and noticed a Greenie on the sim as well.

It wasn't really busy at the sim, so I can't really tell if it's a big success. To me it looks like they've managed to take their presence a step beyond their competition, but I don't know if it will be enough to really start connecting communities. It will probably depend on the type and frequency of events they will plan at the island.


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Monday, March 10, 2008

New HOAP for Second Life

I had lost a little faith in Second Life, but there's new hope coming about when it comes to Second Life being a serious tool for business: Html-On-A-Prim.

Gwynneth Llewelyn wrote an excellent article on this new feature and its implications, here's a short extract:

"A few months ago - not many in terms of “real life”
hours, but an eternity in Second Life® - a brief discussion with Linden Lab exposed the rumour that they were planning to integrate an HTML browser inside the Second Life application client. This is not a revolutionary breakthrough - things like ActiveWorlds or OpenCroquet have done it ages ago, and the world did not shatter and end at that time.

Some eager residents of SL were happy about the idea. At the very least, you would be able to exchange notecards with “rich text”. Perhaps even have a way to browse a bit while in-world - no more need to open up your browser to check the Help pages, do some forum posting, or even insert events directly from in-world.

On a second stage (according to Linden Lab®), HTML may be directly drawn on top of a prim face. This would mean, for starters, a way to get outside information on top of a 3D world. Older platforms already allow for this usage of HTML. Things like proper text management on top of a prim are finally possible - books, slide-show presenters, coreboards, even clothes vendors, will be able to get away with textures for writing text, and use HTML-rendered text instead.

The third stage is full integration. Prims with HTML pages (and LL is still thinking on how this will happen) will be point-and-click browseable. Neither we nor Linden Lab have yet figured out how exactly this will be implemented..."

HTML on a Prim boosts options for virtual workspace

Although the features at this time are pretty basic, it has brought Second Life back into focus for me as a possible platform for serious collaboration. My frustration with SL was mainly caused by lack of real collaboration possibilities.

What it all boils down to is that you rez a prim and put a webpage on it. Now you can look at a webpage with others. Nothing spectacular, but it gets more serious when you can look at secure webpages. I've done some tests with a colleague displaying secure content. Through the built-in media browser you can access and log into secure sites, then use the option to 'send current URL to parcel' and it will display set itself at the parcel media URL and display at the screen. Your fellow observer won't see the webpage unless he's logged in as well. Today we started working through some of our project tools (like JIRA) in which we can monitor our projects.

It works. We could both look at 'classified content' and discuss the status of a project, manage service calls and have a look at the time budgets for the project at hand. At the end there was one question nagging me: Security? Anyone?

The thing is, Second Life doesn't have the reputation of being a safe and sound business environment (remember ABN is partly moving to Active Worlds because they need a secure environment). What happens with my username and password when I enter this info in the built in browser?

A Quick HOWTO:

Maybe it's me, but it took me some time to fiddle out how it worked. And because there's a little bug (it can crash your sim) I thought I'd do you the favour of a quick 'howto'.

The feature only works with the new Release Candidate 1.19.1 client (March 6th) and there are a few new features that are obvious - such as the extra media tab next to the talk settings - and some little settings to tweak in the 'Preferences' bit.

The basic element for displaying web content is in the estate management settings, the 'About Land' configuration where you have the option to set the media url for the parcel. The downside is that you can only set one URL per parcel. Remember to select the texture that will be used on the prims to display the content as well. If you're working behind a firewall or proxy, you now have the option to set proxy stuff as well in the preferences bit (pic right)

Then build the prim, select the desired texture (in this case the new *default media texture) corresponding with the texture set at the media options in the previous step. Then go to the general tab and select prim properties. Where you used to have buy, open and sit options, there are now two extra's: Open Media Content and Play Media Content.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Autism in Second Life

Second Life can be a place to meet and greet, and because of the anonimity an NVE offers hope for many who have social disabilities. Here's a YouTube movie about Autism in Second Life:

Although I've been writing about Education in virtual worlds, I really wasn't looking for this one. I got pointed to this one while keeping up with my favorite authors. The one pointing out to this particular video was one of the metarati, William Gibson, who wrote:


Absolutely . [hat-tip to my wife]

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Syntens Innovation Island

It's been a while since I came across a new Dutch build in Second Life, but here's one under construction. It's called Innovation Island (in Dutch Innovatie Eiland).

The island is an initiative by Syntens and aims to be a Second Life portal to innovative companies. A Robot welcomes you (in Dutch again) and explains about the island which is divided into several regions, each for a specific branche;

  • Construction
  • Agriculture
  • ICT
  • Logistics
  • Human Health
  • Industry

Then there is a knowledge region for Universities, TNO and the Dutch Telematica Institute and another region focusses on MKB (Small and Midcap companies) and innovation. The sim is far from completed yet, but it'll be interesting to see where this goes.

At this moment there's a farm in present and probable future shape, and a futuristic infrastructure on the island, but mainly it's occupied by spheres as placeholders for the various branches.
Syntens is an initiative by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs to aid Dutch companies in innovation projects.


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Siemens Solid Edge to enhance Second Life 3D design

PLANO, Texas, Feb. 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of Siemens Industry Automation Division and a leading global provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services, today announced a new interactive tool that enables users to create their own 3-D Razor Scooter in Second Life. The tool is easy to use like Siemens PLM Software's Solid Edge(R) software and meant to expose Second Life residents to the possibilities of CAD software.

In the real world, Siemens PLM Software hosts "test drive" Solid Edgeseminars to illustrate how easy the software is to use. Solid Edge is apowerful hybrid 2D/3D design system and a core component of the VelocitySeries(TM) portfolio.

In the virtual world, the new interactive tool provides companies a glimpse into the use of 3-D modeling software inproduct development. A transparent screen guides Second Life residents to click through a range of selections to create a custom-built scooter in less than a minute. "

In our industry it's important to be able to vet out design ideas as quickly as possible," says Bob Hadley, product development manager, Razor(R). "In the real-world, with Solid Edge, we're able to introduce at least two or three times as many new products each year as we could previously. To compete in our industry, that's essential. Siemens PLMSoftware is taking this to the next level by integrating real-world design experiences in virtual worlds."

According to a recent report, "Getting Real Work Done In Virtual Worlds," Forrester Research, Inc., Jan. 7, 2008, "Virtual worlds like Second Life ... are on the brink of becoming valuable work tools ... " Thereport notes that virtual worlds have advantages over other approaches to communication and collaboration. One example is "they allow people to work with and share digital 3-D models of physical or theoretical objects. Many disciplines rely on 3-D models and designs: Surgeons, architects, engineers, and product designers all use CAD models or sophisticated visualization systems to explore and create complex real-world objects ...You can release near-final designs to a limited external group of users and solicit feedback before starting fabrication." The report predicts that within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today.

"This new tool is a great example of how companies can use some of the unique characteristics of the Second Life platform to create interactive experiences for their products," said Chris Kelley, vice president, Platforms and Partners, Siemens PLM Software. "Our goal in Second Life continues to be to find new ways to collaborate with our customers and partners in an effort to provide a more immersive way to experience our software. The user experience in Second Life is based upon our successful Solid Edge Dare to Compare Test Drive events where you learn first-hand how easy it is to use Solid Edge compared to competitive products."

In the real world, Solid Edge Dare to Compare Test Drive events guide users through key stages of 3D design: part modeling, sheet metal, assembly creation, drafting and documentation, plus analysis and full motion simulation.

To reach the Siemens Innovation Connection on Second Life, visit

To attend a real-world Solid Edge Dare to Compare Test Drive, visit

Source: PRNewsWire

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Western Illinois University in SL

Western Illinois University's College of Education and Human Services, or shortly named "Western COEHS" has recently acquired "land" to enhance its academic offerings. I read at the Western Courier, the student newspaper.

Although Western COEHS is about educational institution number 1.000 to purchase a speck of land in Second Life, it still needs to start of with an introduction of what Second Life or an avatar is... it still is a niche market.

Here's the Western Courier article (without the What is SL introduction):

Western's COEHS has leased land through the New Media Consortium - a group of universities from across the country - to build academic classrooms and centers that will provide virtual learning opportunities for students and meeting space for faculty.

According to Dawn Sweet, COEHS instructional technology systems manager, Leaunda Hemphill, an instructor in instructional design and technology, is currently using "Second Life" to prepare IDT graduate students and their counterparts in China to collaborate on activities related to technology integration in K-12 schools.

"Teachers can use 'Second Life' for such events as
virtual field trips, role playing, re-creating worlds and so much more," Sweet added. "For example, Lincoln's boyhood home re-created in 'Second Life' would allow educators to take their students to this land to learn more about
Lincoln's childhood; students learning about social responsibility can visit such sites as Camp Darfur and other islands that illustrate social responsibility at work.

"COEHS's foray into the virtual world started during
the Fall 2007 Semester when college officials participated in a college fair on "Teen Second Life." From there, the college began exploring virtual uses for the academic realm.

"I'm interested in using virtual worlds, specifically 'Second Life,' to create richer learning experiences for my
students beyond the flat Web environment I currently use," Hemphill said.

"There is currently a debate among educators whether or not it is worth the effort of preparing learners and teachers to use the environment as the steep learning curve. Increased hardware and connectivity requirements are just a few of the issues that need to be considered. In my IDT 534, Issues in Instructional Technology and Professional Development for
Educators, course, we will be reviewing these issues as well as the professional development opportunities in 'Second Life' for teachers," she added.

In addition to using "Second Life" in the classroom, Western's Faculty Innovators, a 24-month faculty professional development program, will use the virtual world for workshops and collaborating with other professionals. The college will also maintain a virtual presence where
prospective students can learn more about Western, COEHS programs and university events.

"We have a central goal to provide a challenging and supportive learning environment that is widely recognized as meeting the new technological demands of a global society," COEHS Dean Bonnie Smith-Skripps said. "By becoming a tenant in 'Second Life,' we will be able to foster greater research and development in teaching with technology in the education and human services field.

"Other Western faculty entering the world of virtual reality as a teaching tool include social work associate professor Karen Zellmann, who will use "Second Life" as a mode for her students to participate in role playing and mock interview situations. Students will provide supportive counseling to clients (other avatars) in "Second Life." Jim Allen, art, is currently using "Second Life's" Virtual Harlem project to display art and lesson plan ideas. Virtual Harlem is a learning environment that lets students experience the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and '30s.

Mid 2007 we saw an enormous landrush in Second Life by Colleges and Universities from all over the world. Many of these have probably jumped in on the "everybody is here, so we have to be here as well" idea, without having much of a clue of what to do.

Many of these universities have bought complete islands at first, but since they don't really have a use for it (yet) we've seen the trend in the last months of 2007 that these institutions are clustering together in a sort of Educational Mainland, sharing sims and seeking to establish a virtual foothold on smaller parcels. Western COEHS is one of these. Here's a pic of the rest of the sim, which for example also hosts the University of Reading.

Here's the Educational cluster with NMC islands mixed with dedicated university sims.


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Campus Hamburg

At the Eduverse Symposium Dr. Torsten Reiners of the Hamburg University (a.k.a. Xon Emoto in Second Life) gave a tour of the virtual Campus Hamburg. The island is still in development, but there are several spots that are really worth looking at. Upon entering the island you immerse at a very nicely designed auditorium.

Although I'm under the impression the simulation isn't fully finished yet, it contains several student projects. The largest project (both in terms of decorum and potential imho) focusses on Supply Chain Mangement.

As the city of Hamburg is a former Hanzetown and one of the larger Northern European ports it's no suprise it starts with life at the docks.

While building the simulation, the students must have been frustrated with Second Life at times, and have made several jokes as you'll find containers like "Linden Lab - Bug shipment" and "Prims R Us - Butt Uggly Plywood Prims" on the ship.

The second simulation is on top of the supply chain area and is a project on waiting lines. It simulates how queues are formed and how they can be designed.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ohio State Testis Tour

One of the best presentations last wednesday at the Eduverse Symposium was the presentation of Douglas R. Danforth, Ph.D. at the Ohio State University who took us on the "Testis Tour", or as us non-biological or medically educated say: "The Virtual Sperm Tour" which sounds kind of cheap for such an impressive build.

It is impressive in my opinion as it shows the potential of virtual worlds in visualising concepts which would be very hard to explain otherwise. It somewhat reminded me of Isaac Asimov's "Fantastic Voyage" in which we are miniaturised and get on a submarine to explore the human body.

First of all, you get prompted to open a webpage containting the Telrport code of conduct and some more information on Telr.

"TELRport is a Second Life island sponsored by Technology Enhanced Learning and Research (TELR). The mission of TELRport is to provide an exploratory educational Second Life forum for The Ohio State University community; to
further TELR’s capacity to support virtual environments for teaching, learning, and research; and to establish an Ohio State instructional presence in Second Life."

The island itself appears to be quite empty, but teleport yourself to Danforth's location and you'll be up for the "Testis Tour." I'll spare you the details on spermatogonium, adrenal hormones or seminiferous tubule (There's an excellent tourguide programmed into the simulation) and will provide you with a visual summary of the build:

Up to here it's been introduction stuff. Pretty well documented. Now, let's get on to the tour...

Some facts about the build:

  1. It took his students 15-30 minutes to get through the SL orientation on average
  2. It took the doctor with no prior experience in VW’s to get settles in SL
  3. It cost him 6 months of 1 hour a day of work to build his presentation (last 2 weeks 4/5 hours a day)
  4. The medium of text messaging where for none of the students a problem

Danforth said he'll probably start working on an ovary and a demo of the fertilisation process in the near future. Right now it's a pretty expensive project if you consider all the hours of (spare) time put into it, and maybe this isn't your exact field of interest. I hope it will inspire you to think about the potential for your own field of expertise.

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Fiat inverts reality

A little while ago I blogged Fiat Brasil in Second Life. Today I saw two commercials of the Fiat Punto. I liked the sense of humour they'd put into their Second Life presence. These two commercials also have a nice sense of humour.

The first video is what I'd call inverted reality.

Is this second video something you dream of? If only you could really meet the virtual girl of your dreams...

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MindBlizzard Belgiums' Finest

The MindBlizzard crowd is getting more and more international by the day. Last week I received a call from Belgium requesting to put up a feed of this blog in their Second Life space.

So MindBlizzard is one of Belgium's Finest blogs (be it that I write from the Netherlands) and they've put me up next to the Official Linden Blog. Thanks Frans!


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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Big Blue starts to Jam

Blue Note is one of the well known Jazz labels in the world. Now it's Big Blue that starts to Jam. Last week I received an email by IBM's Rick Reesen with an update on Jazz, Open Sim and lots of other stuff. I never got round to blogging it , but as IBM's "Power Up" has been hitting the blogoshpere in the past days I'm going out of sync.

The most blogged IBM event was the launch of "Power Up - the Game" which basically is a game about powering up, i.e. energy.

Power up is an educational world, named Helios (Greek for Sun - no competition intented probably) for teens with a focus on energy and climate Al-Gorish hypes. Teens can explore and work in this virtual plant to save the us all from disaster.

A more interesting release though was the opening of Jazz which basically is a software development project, which was publically announced at January 14:

ARMONK, NY - 14 Jan 2008: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today unveiled new software and research innovations aimed at improving the way employees across an organization collaborate in a globally integrated enterprise.

The challenges of globalization are forcing companies to become more nimble, using an increasingly geographically-dispersed and virtual workforce to remain competitive. In the world of software development, this means 24x7 collaboration with specialized teams around the globe to pick up where another left off. IBM is also examining
how virtual worlds can help software development teams break down the barriers caused by globalization.

IBM is announcing it is opening up its development platform based on Web 2.0 technologies for developers to collaborate and contribute to software under development at is an open, commercial community designed to help companies globally and transparently collaborate on the development of Jazz-based technology.

More on Jazz (such as a promo) can be found in Second Life on IBM's codestation.

IBM's involvement in the Metaverse:

Somehow I keep running into IBM-ers working with virtual worlds in some way or the other. It doesn't matter if it's a Sogeti event or a VW Seminar or Symposium, but they're always there... and they're evangelising the metaverse. Some have asked me if I know what their budget is. Somewhere I picked up a figure of 100 million USD, but no doubt it's huge.

The IBM SL community holds about 6.000 members, which is impressive. What I've learned though is that only a few of these are paid to explore the metaverse and that the vast majority consists of enthusiasts which contribute in their spare time, which puts it all into perspective. For companies like mine (Sogeti) or Capgemini, most of the virtual world attention and development is still a spare time excercise of enthusiasts trying to figure out ways for their employers to coin in, or find meaningfull use of metaverses. Taking in the total population of IBM worldwide, one might even say that Sogeti's community in Second Life is even bigger (percentage wise) with over 90 members in a total of 3.000 employees in the Netherlands. Alas we don't have full time funding as ABN Amro has had over the past year.


One last thing that is nagging me about the email I received is the mention of the UgoTrade blog as a reference. I've been reading Tish's blog over the past year with great pleasure as she really writes good indepth stories on technology in Virtual Worlds. But when companies like IBM start to use it as a base of reference for their work in VW's I'm getting a wee bit hesitant.

Tish, please don't turn into a corporate blogger....

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

ABN metaverse update

Today I visited the Virtual World Seminar at the University of Delft and finally had time to sit down and talk with Popke Rein Munniksma, the team leader of ABN's 3D Experience and with Emmanuel Gruijs, CEO for Active Worlds Europe. In the past week we have had some contact on the blog ING and ABN flee Second Life which caused a little stir in the blogosphere.

First, of all, one of the remarks on the initial entry read:

"Maybe it has something to do with the company being taken over by Fortis."

Although the future isn't certain this has been denied completely. The takeover is not affecting ABN's presence in any way at this point in time. ABN is sticking in Second Life, but is indeed shifting focus to be able to do real business.

Popke Rein said: "As a bank we have the need to have 1 on 1 contact with our customers behind closed doors." By being a bank ABN is bound to very strict privacy and compliancy rules which make it impossible for them to conduct business in Second Life, hence their move towards Active Worlds.

Overview of ABN in Second Life

In December 2006 ABN Amro was the first European bank to enter Second Life and rode the wave of mass media attention perfectly. They primarily entered with a "just do it" mentality. Their initial 4 islands and offices have grown towards a 27 island presence at it's peak, but is being downsized now. A team of 4 full time employees on average has build and rebuild every experience over and over again, mainly based on user feedback (so I'm estimating a budget of close to 1 million euro).

Every build was an experiment to see to which part of the Bank's business they could find a virtual extention as they are convinced that Virtual Worlds are here to stay.

"Remember who said "The internet, we are not interested
in it," in 1993! That won't happen to ABN when it comes to virtual worlds. Every step the team made had to be checked with risk management and compliancy and other regulatory organs within the bank. We cannot afford to do that, go through that whole process, once virtual worlds become mainstream. Then it's too late."

That process of going through regulatory motions has become quite clear in their TechnoDesk and Tradeglobe sims in Second Life. In Real Life ABN has 5 TechnoDesk offices close to the 5 Technical Universities in the Netherlands. In these offices the bank offers information for High Tech startups and when looking at the population of Second Life, this was their logical 6th office.

The TradeGlobe is ABN's private banking vehicle with which they come into contact with their shamingly rich clients. In Second Life they've held investment meetings and so on.

Over the past year, the ABN greeter, the lovely Mrs. Jung, has had over 1.100 real business conversations with interested customers, which is more than the average local bankemployee has. In this regard, Second Life has been a success for the bank.

However, due to privacy rulings they found they would never be able to achieve one on one advice and were limited to general information only. Because of it's conservative nature and regulations the bank needs a secure environment to conduct one on one business. Active Worlds can offer this, said Emmanuel Gruijs on the growing affection between their world and the Dutch banker.

Popke Rein said: "Remember who said "The internet, we are not interested in it," in 1993!

Do you remember who said this?

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