Wednesday Oct 10, 2007

How real is Virtuality?

We travelled north up the strip, and had dinner at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba. It was a bit of a european thing with a bunch of brits, french and germans. This cafe has an excellent if more limited wine list and we were fortunate to have the advice of Eric Bezille and Dave Tong. Our waiter was excellent, knew what he was selling and very patient. It must be hard selling to a bunch of opinionated engineers.

We talked about a number of things, of which one was second life. If you've been following the suncec2007 technorati feed, you may know that we broadcast the general sessions into various rooms of second life and some of us have been preparing for the conference by signing up and preparing our accounts. Sun also haven experimental virtual world, about which you can find out more at Horst Thieme's blog. I don't think I spent as much time there as some of my colleagues, but the second life team had built a Vegas virtual world representing the two hotels we actually used. Now since one of these was the Paris, or is that Paris, we have a software implementation, of an imitation of a real place. Very eXtisenz! In fact, the first time it went onto the screen, Dan Berg on the stage in an imitation of Paris, met Dan Berg in Second Life, in a virtual imitation of Paris. This is odd, nearly as odd as Las Vegas. I didn't think highly of the video quality and wonder if it was due to the number of people in the 'island'.

My feeling is that the virtual worlds will take off as we develop new metaphors for problem solving. I wonder if one modelled a data centre, for instance, if you could enhance the systems management console, by for instance illustrating where jobs were using colour coded object overlays and illustrate the system utilisation. Visualising the temperature of the air and the systems would also be possible. This is a fairly poor example of what I mean in that new problem visualisation techniques are required that rely on having three dimensions (or more) and the 3D value becomes compelling. (I am not sure the above example is.) I have not yet tried to have a virtual meeting in Second Life, so I can't comment as to how effective it is in replacing the conference call, but there now a number of desktop tools that enhance the conference call, and second life conferences can't be joined if participants only have a phone, although the voice quality might be mightily enhanced by the necessity to use a laptop, connect to the internet and use voice over ip.

Mike Ramchand & Olaf Schnapauff also explored the theory that the Linden Lab scripting language didn't enable any insight into the problems being represented. One manipulates second life, and doesn't model reality, or even the virtual reality of the problem.

I am not sure I get it as a game, but if Second Life remains merely a virtual reality implementation of the real world, while it may not fail, it will not become the next big thing.

If you havn't already, see also "GetaFirstLife".

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Thursday Oct 26, 2006

The shady border between the virtual and the real

Chris Melissinos takes issue with Ashlee Vance of the Register about the utility of Second Life, on his blog last week (I can be a bit slow). He quotes a number of organisations using the virtual world of "Second Life" to offer virtual services, including Universities and it seems Reuters. I expect the financial services companies will be in on it soon. To me its a shame; West Nottingham College implemented courseware in the Neverwinter Nights game engine, which may have been more fun; it probably depends upon what your studying. WNC believes its an excellent learning/teaching vehicle, so perhaps this'll take off.

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