Beyond con-calls

I have been looking at ways of making virtual meetings easier, more effective and fun. As part of that I have looked again at secondlife, and one of my new correspondents pointed me at "The future is virtually here". This, despite being published last August, and while containing two fun stories about EVE Online, tries too hard in my mind to use language which proves the author's Yoof credentials. Also quoting IBM and World of Warcraft as the exemplar's of using virtual worlds is to my mind lazy. Many companies use secondlife as a virtual store front, although I admit that IBM's virtual data centre, (see also my blog report on the IBM virtual data center) is a quite a cute toy, but a number of people are on the trail of WoW, and its monthly subscription is high for school students.

The killer app. for virtual worlds seems to be training. Sun has just launched its "Solaris Campus" on secondlife, but its the truly compelling case for virtual training is where the where real life exercises are either very expensive or very dangerous, such as the US Marines' use of Doom, and its growing use in urban disaster relief planning. Its certainly dangerous training soldiers realistically. I have argued before that game fan forums helped develop remote collaboration techniques and the games world is now offering a lot to the infrastructure providers. Besides Sun 's very own Project Wonderland, it would be worth checking up on Torque, a science toolkit, & maybe Gaia Online, one of the virtual worlds. (Now in my del.icio.us feed, tagged virtualworlds). Another interesting arrival is Runescape, a british FRPG written in Java, with a free to play subscription option. The science engines are important as they potentially enable the extension of virtual worlds beyond social collaboration into prototyping problems for real world designers.

One interesting aspect about the juvenilsation of games is that actually it also seems to be true the 16-20's aren't there; they're busy 'Getting a First Life', however it could be an indicator that Dave's theory of Youthful Conservativism is true. Today's 16-20 year olds adopted their technologies before the virtual worlds came out, and they see no reason to use the virtual worlds because its too new, and offers them little beyond messaging. Another inhibitor for this age group is that these worlds don't have phone hosted clients yet. (Although iphone has a secondlife client.)

I know there is a lot of knocking copy about Second Life in particular, but con-calls often don't work any more, and training is a different application to e-commerce. Perhaps its only the virtual shopkeepers who are unhappy.

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