In late May, we launched the Gold Solution Provider Program with 31 members. The Gold Program identifies Solution Providers who have significant experience developing successful projects for real world companies and organizations, enjoy a high level of client satisfaction, and successfully engage their clients in Second Life over a long period of time.
Today, we are inducting 4 new Gold Solution Providers into the program, for a total of 35 Gold Program members:
bluepill GROUP (Spain, Belgium, Germany)
New Media Consortium (US)
The newest Gold Program members continue to highlight the international nature of Second Life. They also reflect the diversity of services that they provide to enterprise clients with which these Solution Provider work, creating projects for prominent companies, organizations, educational institutions and government entities. Services that the new Gold Program participants have provided include:
- Organized and managed international events and inworld presence for government organization
- Developed and conducted mixed reality scientific conference and simulcast of a satellite launch in conjunction with a European university and scientific institutions.
- Created a simulation tool allowing a major American university to simulate and visually evaluate different options in redesigning a real life campus building
- Constructed exercises to directly engage and test knowledge of different cultures of participants to a international conference on intercultural learning professionals.
All Gold Program members are designated with a Gold Program logo next their listing in the Solution Provider Directory, and on member websites. A complete list of Gold Program members is also included below.
The Gold Program reflects Linden Lab’s continuing commitment to supporting the successful use and experience of Second Life for enterprise users. Linden Lab will continue to review, identify and add new Gold Solution Providers to the program, expanding the pool of expertise available to organizations seeking to understand, explore, develop, and incorporate Second Life into their business or educational activities.
Linden Lab accepts and reviews Gold Program applications from Solution Provider program members on an ongoing basis. The next round of Gold Program members will be announced in October. Future program members will continue to be reviewed and added on a quarterly basis.
For more information on the Gold Program and the Solution Provider Program, please visit http://secondlifegrid.net/solutionproviders and http://www.secondlifegrid.net/gs/virtual-world-sol
Congratulations to the newest members of the Gold Solution Provider Program! We look forward to working with you to continue to make Second Life an effective and successful place for enterprise users.
Complete Gold Solution Provider Program Membership List
A&D Consultants (Italy)
Avatrian, LLC (US)
Beta Technologies (US/Portugal)
bluepill GROUP (Spain, Belgium, Germany)
Bokowsky + Laymann GmbH (Germany)
Chant Newall Development Group LLC/FutureWork Institute (US)
Clarity International (Italy/UK)
Community Chest (France)
Corporation Pop (UK)
Cranial Tap, Inc. (US)
Daden Limited (UK)
depo USA, LLC (US/UK)
Designing Digitally, Inc. (US)
Firesabre Consulting (US)
Gronstedt Group (US)
Ill Clan Animation Studios (US)
Indusgeeks Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (India)
Involve, Inc. (US)
ISN Virtual Worlds (Italy)
MadeVirtual Ltd. (UK)
Metabirds Co., Ltd. (Japan)
Moderne Interactive (US)
New Business Horizons Ltd (UK)
Siterma VWP (US)
Stonfield InWorld (France)
The Magicians (US)
virtual-e Ltd (UK)
Virtualis Center/Corporation Planners Unlimited (US)
VirtualMind (formerly SecondMind) (Spain)
Youin3D GmbH (Germany)
To find the Solution Providers that best fit your needs, please visit the Solution Provider Directory (http://solutionproviders.secondlife.com).
Holding an important meeting or event in Second Life really isn't that different than real life - except for the venue. You'd likely hire an event planner to work with you to assure the value and outcome of an important meeting in the real world, and it's worth doing the same in Second Life.
We've found two companies with track records real-world meeting facilitation who have set up shop in Second Life along with tools and environments to help you make your meeting or event successful in Second Life. Their migration into Second Life is a good indicator of Second Life's usefulness as an event venue, and highlights the value of merging real-world experience with Second Life experience.
Alpine Executive Center: Alpine Center, created by Tony Adams (TonyEMS Heying in SL), is an offshoot of years of meeting support work by the Swiss company groupVision. Tony has created a space with formal and informal meeting areas that replicates an Alpine conference center, complete with a train, ice skating, a glacier tunnel, and other fun areas to explore.
While fun and exploration encourage informal relationships and discussions, Tony's very serious about the tools he's built and the skills he brings to planning and facilitating meetings in Second Life. With groupVision, he built a practice around using a network of computers with meeting-support software to facilitate brainstorming, analysis and voting in a structured workshop environment. He's replicated many of the real-world meeting support tools and created others that uniquely take advantage of Second Life to support intensive process-driven meetings in Second Life. This offers meeting support that represents a paradigm shift over existing web-based meeting support sites. To view a video of the Alpine center, click here.
Virtualis: Dan Parks (DanParks Voom in SL), the President of Corporate Planners Unlimited, sees huge value in providing meeting and event services in Second Life. Again, he's taken the skills and tools created from years of real world meeting and event management and created an event space in Second Life where they can provide meeting facilitation services in a flexible space. Virtualis is designed to provide a flexible space for events from five to hundreds of people, in a setting that is designed for relaxing beauty.
Recently, Virtualis did an event for Trend Micro (watch the video) that got rave reviews from the participants and has Trend planning to have a future event in Second Life as well. A key to Virtualis' success is the experience of their team of award-winning event facilitators, his attention to individual orientation to Second Life, and the event planning skills honed from years of real-world experience. To view a video of the Virtualis Center, please click here
If you have an event planner or facilitator already available, then you may want to find someone who has experience in managing events in Second Life, which you can find in the Solution Provider Directory by searching for Services: Events. You can further qualify your search by language or country.
You’ve been planning a conference with 150 of your colleagues for months and then—the whammy hits. It’s canceled due to budgetary cutbacks on travel. What to do?! Well, increasingly, companies like IBM, Schneider Electric, and now Intel are holding their events in Second Life.
When Intel’s bi-annual Embedded Channel Conference (ECC) was canceled, the conference organizers sought a less expensive means to deliver the same content and level of interaction to 150 employees and business partners. Encouraged by the work other groups at Intel were already conducting in Second Life, ECC organizers unanimously decided to execute their conference in the virtual world. The virtual ECC conference (vECC) saved Intel $265,000 of the $300,000 budget for the real world event that they cancelled–not including saved travel expenses. The vECC was executed the pilot event using The Immersive Workspaces™ solution by Rivers Run Red, a virtual world meeting and collaboration product developed exclusively for Linden Lab--for both Second Life and private networks--that hosted numerous keynote presentations, live product demos, and social networking.
That’s the good news, but the conference wasn’t without its set of challenges—as is true with any emerging collaboration technology. In this new joint Linden Lab and Rivers Run Red case study, Intel shares many lessons learned. Despite the short timeline of just three-weeks to organize the entire inworld conference that caused many of these issues, here are some tips that everyone can use:
- Work directly with the corporate IT department early in the early planning stages to assess desktop system requirements, firewall portals, and software compatibilities.
- Make sure that all participants are set up to run Second Life smoothly from their computer and at the location that they will be using during the event.
- Pre-event training is key. The more prepared participants are for inworld events, the greater the focus will be on content instead of accidentally bumping other avatars or learning how to communicate.
“We learned so much from this first virtual conference – our next one will be much better,” said Elaine Cook, the Events Manager for Intel’s ECC and added that more time will be spent in pre-production in the future. In fact, Intel is committed to virtual conferences and now understands the best practices to produce an event in Second Life. And, now you do, too!
A thought-provoking report by Robert B. Cohen came out recently from the Athena Alliance, a non-profit public policy consulting group that looks at how information and innovation underlie competitive advantage and the creation of wealth. This is a useful report to reassure business decision-makers that virtual worlds are here to stay and have value for business and can positively impact business practices. For companies that value innovation, collaboration and faster time-to-market, this report provides a coherent view of how virtual worlds, coupled with computing technology changes can significantly transform the business environment. While it examined virtual world in general, it mentions Olive (Forterra) and Second Life, and the few examples given are all Second Life. It also has an extensive bibliography of anecdotal uses and some studies.
The heart of the story is encapsulated in this paragraph from the Introduction:
"Virtual Worlds not only elicit customer-generated information and ideas, they enhance collaboration within and between businesses. These platforms facilitate a wide range of business activities and opportunities, such as training and education, product and service development, marketing and strategy creation, and finance exchange that can be executed in new, interactive environments. Virtual Worlds, by enriching and deepening collaboration within and between firms, can transform U.S. businesses in the modern era. This vision—now plausible with current and ever-evolving technology—sees the modern corporation operating and receiving knowledge and inputs from suppliers, employees, and customers in wholly new ways." The major conclusion of the report is that Virtual Worlds are likely to transform business by contributing to the creation of two new types of corporations: modern “guild system” firms, that use Virtual Worlds to manage technical expertise and collaboration and join with similar firms on a project-by-project basis and multi-industry conglomerates that expand their vertical and horizontal reach and integration via enhanced control over collaboration."
In essence, this report focuses on the potential for social media in general and virtual worlds in particular to support development of "the collaborative enterprise." The flexibility of collaboration coupled with powerful data visualization through integration of virtual worlds with back-end data systems will enable companies to quickly and flexibly assemble both external and internal teams to work across suppliers, customers, partners to solve problems and create new products and services.
The report also looks at impact of cloud computing, storage on demand and next-generation networks will affect business. It describes how growth and adoption of virtual worlds benefits from the technology changes of next-generation networks (higher bandwidth, greater fidelity), cloud computing (more processing power, especially for servers to render 3D scenes); and storage on demand (inventories of 3D scenes and objects).
While the focus of the report is on policy changes to enable faster development and application of virtual worlds to enhance business collaboration and productivity, the overall review of practices and trends will be useful to businesses considering virtual worlds.
The first part of the report prepares that vision by providing examples of ways companies are using virtual worlds today. Here they highlight some of the key values of virtual worlds - the ability to see objects and interact with them as a group; the sense of "connectedness", the impact on relationships with distant team members, the impact on people's self-perception, and the increased sense of participation or membership compared to other communication technologies.
Perhaps the most useful chapter for businesses is "Collaboration, Virtual Worlds and Competitiveness." The author notes that the first stage of virtual world use focuses on training and education - which mirrors the business use we've seen of Second Life for meetings and training in the last year. He envisions a second phase in which the focus is more on collaboration, and a third phase where the collaboration capabilities are harnessed to improving time-to-market in developing new products and services. In a sense, you can think of this as the transition from learning what virtual worlds are to learning how to use virtual worlds in ways that directly relate to the purpose of the enterprise. This transition is common in the adoption of virtually any other major technology in business in the last 50 years. At first, there is a lot of experimentation, then the technology simply replaces an existing technology. As people get more experience and the technical barriers to use drop, people finally start using the technology in transformative ways that change business practice.
Some examples he gives of use of virtual worlds include ABN-AMRO (a Dutch multinational bank) using SL to develop new ways to interact with clients, provide relevant business information, and hold interactive seminars. He notes the value of virtual worlds as a platform for 3D product design, particularly for automobiles and airplanes (although those industries have developed their own 3D design and visualization tools). Collaboration with customers and suppliers can benefit from virtual worlds both from collaboration and from the ability to visualize products or data. Virtual worlds provide a platform for business gaming which enhances leadership development and particularly innovation and continuous improvement (referring to an IBM study on "serious gaming"). Virtual worlds can help manage and integrate the supplier network. He also provides a brief nod to use of Second Life for training, saving travel costs, reviewing physical projects in detail, holding conferences, doing language training, and aggregating remote teams for projects "as if they were in the same room." He notes the value of the capability to transfer and view information immediately in Second Life, along with low production and infrastructure costs.
Early adoption by architecture, media and entertainment highlight the potential of virtual worlds to enable faster analysis of complex designs and models. Some 3D applications are expanding to provide realistic 3D environments for viewing models created in the tools (note, these are not 'virtual worlds' as they usually lack the ability to represent multiple participants and only provide a 'viewer' of the scene in which there is no real participation).
Virtual Worlds and the Transformation of Business is available under Creative Commons license online from Athena Alliance in the Papers section of their site. In Europe, the report has been published as a book entitled Changing the Face of the Internet: Virtual Worlds and the Information Economy.
A few weeks ago, Erica and Sam Driver at ThinkBalm, an industry analyst and strategy consulting firm focused exclusively on the Immersive Internet, published a 36-page groundbreaking report entitled, “ThinkBalm Immersive Internet Business Value Study, Q2 2009." (In the spirit of full disclosure: Linden Lab was the gold sponsor of the report. Other sponsors include: Qwaq, Forterra Systems, Atadyn, Proton Media, and Tandem Learning.) You’ve probably already heard about it, but it may still be in your “To Read When I Catch my Breath,” file. You have a few minutes now if you’re reading this blog post, but you don’t really want to open that scary folder. I get it. So, here’s a much more interesting option….
Today, Sam and Erica Driver unveiled the ThinkBalm Data Garden on their blog. When you teleport to the region, you’re led along a path—a journey—that visualizes the study findings in engaging and interactive ways. According to the ThinkBalm blog post today, “The ThinkBalm Data Garden was designed as a proof of concept for the next-generation ‘webinar.’” Interesting idea!
Although the experience on ThinkBalm Island is thoughtfully laid out, beautifully designed, and skillfully created, don’t lose sight of the actual findings. Why? Erica and Sam have created a report that has a rock solid methodology with stunning findings, particularly in light of today’s economic climate. Let me highlight a few that really struck me:
- More than 40% of those surveyed (26 of 66) saw a positive total economic benefit from investments in immersive technologies in 2008 and 1Q 2009. More than 50% of respondents (34 of 65) expect to obtain a positive total economic benefit in 2009. The number of respondents who expect to obtain economic benefit of $25,000 USD or more in 2009 is more than double the number who indicated they achieved this level for 2008 / 1Q 2009.
- One third of respondents (22 of 66) said their project data shows success. Another 61% of respondents (40 of 66) said the project “feels like” a success, for a total of 94% of respondents.
- Over a third of those surveyed (23 of 64) said their organization will definitely expand investment in immersive technology in 2009 and 2010, and another 38% (24 of 64) indicated that they might expand their investment.
Sounds like just the kind of report that would help Immersive Internet champions convince peers and upper management that virtual worlds create real business value and economic benefit. In fact, many companies are increasing their invest in this technology, despite slow downs in most other IT sectors.
So, if reading the full report isn’t in the cards today, then take some time to enjoy a peaceful and informative stroll through the blooms in ThinkBalm’s garden while the data is fresh (Direct Slurl).
We’ve all been there. You’re about to decide what to have for lunch and the right decision is a fresh green salad and a piece of fruit, but all you want is a greasy cheeseburger with fries. We all conceptually know that there’s a big difference in calories, fat, cholesterol, and nutritional content between the two choices, but it’s hard to know how much of a difference really exists. Sometimes the numbers are so abstract that they just don’t sink in. That’s where CIGNA’s vielife’s nutrition training comes in—as well as our new case study entitled, “CIGNA-vielife in Second Life: Engaging and Interactive Health & Lifestyle Training for the Global Wo....”
The executive summary reads, “In December 2006, global health services company CIGNA acquired vielife, a leading U.K. based provider of integrated health management and lifestyle coaching programs. vielife provides targeted and measurable health & well-being solutions including health risk assessments and lifestyle management programs to clients such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Unilever, KPMG, and GlaxoSmithKline. vielife’s services help client employees establish and maintain healthier lifestyles by better managing their nutrition, physical activity, sleep and stress. In 2008, CIGNA and vielife launched the pilot phase of a nutrition program in Second Life on an island branded GET: Go, Experience, Thrive. The program was so successful that they are exploring a wider range of virtual world training programs in Second Life addressing health issues such as sleep, stress, and fitness.”
So, back to our quandary—fruits and vegetables or junk food. Taking full advantage of the virtual environment, vielife makes these kinds of decisions easy by visually driving the message home. “Cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and fries loom larger than life above the presenter’s dais illustrating the calorie and fat content of the typical fast food meal. Healthy foods are later represented by a literal shower of fruit that rains down from the sky demonstrating that eating right doesn’t have to mean eating only a little bit.”
Ultimately, these kinds of experiences are not just meant to educate the employees at vielife’s client organizations, but they are also designed to inform real world behavior. Delivering practical information in a comfortable and engaging environment paid off with fantastic results. vielife found that over 50% of pilot participants said they had made some real change in their lifestyle based on what they learned inworld.
An experience in Second Life making a physical impact on our health!? I couldn’t think of a more important or meaningful ROI.
To download the full case study in English, click here (PDF). Additional translations to come shortly.
With the recent recognition and success for Dave Taylor and the team from Imperial College London in the Linden Prize (http://lindenlab.com/lindenprize/finalists/clinica
Dave’s first Second Life project related to Healthcare was to develop Imperial College London’s research islands. Since 2007 they have received over 32,000 visits by over 13,000 unique avatars as they help people to understand a vision for future healthcare delivery, stressing the patient experience and a new focus on keeping healthy rather than the historical focus on curing patients once they fall ill.
Users can tour the hospital, investigate new healthcare delivery option such as polyclinics, a "keeping healthy showcase" based on London and key organizations can hold events, seminars and conferences in the NHS auditorium.
Clare: “Dave, I know you are very active in bringing together the Science community in Second Life. How did you find yourself working on these important opportunities in medical training and healthcare?”
Dave: I joined the National Physical Laboratory in 2004 where, after years in industry working with networks as collaboration technologies, I was determined to modernise the way that researchers, government and business communities communicated with one another in the pursuit of technology-based innovation.
My first venture in Second Life was an NPL pavilion for the International Spaceflight Museum which I built myself just before the museum first opened. I rapidly discovered the power of networking in Second Life and helped to create the SciLands, a community of now over 60 islands dedicated to Science and Technology. I wanted to ensure that the UK’s presence in the growing metaverse reflected our international academic and industrial reputation in STEM (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
For me personally Second Life enabled me to combine my lifelong passion in all branches of science and technological innovation with my background in productivity and collaborative software product development and marketing. While working on Nanotechnology Island I got a call from Professor Ara Darzi from Imperial College who had the idea of using Second Life to visualize future healthcare delivery models. I suggested the way that we could achieve this and Imperial College set up a research project to investigate. The result was ‘Second Health’, based on NHS London’s framework for action report. This project was amongst the most challenging I have undertaken as it required many different skillsets – in multimedia, filmmaking, knowledge transfer, software integration, scientific research, 3D design, metrics, animation and web marketing. It also enabled me to work with talented clinicians and surgeons whose domain expertise was essential in making our clinical environments realistic and believable. Since completing Second Health I joined Imperial College to help put together a research and development programme to apply virtual worlds technology to healthcare and related disciplines. So here I am.
Clare: “Your projects are very collaborative between healthcare providers, government departments and the academic world. What are the main challenges to getting technology solutions such as Second Life accepted as a platform to undertake these projects?”
Dave: I’ve always worked at the junction between specialists or experts in a specific field (such as nuclear physics, surgeons or in an earlier adoption wave, graphic designers) and software technology – being able to select the most appropriate tools and to match their capabilities to what the experts want to achieve. I have a broad background in science and technology and that helps me to translate both ways between what stakeholders want to achieve and what software and new media are capable of providing. In industry this was called Product Marketing, while in the Public Sector it is called Technology Transfer.
I have always championed new product development and I am used to describing new possibilities, especially where a paradigm shift is taking place (for example from 2D to 3D web, or web 1.0 to social networking). Then it is important to connect up the dots for people, to point out the way the technology could evolve and to find a connection with what they want to achieve today and tomorrow. It is important to be able to understand (often simply to recognize) the Best Practice uses of an emerging platform like Second Life. For many people one technology might look very much like another and often people cannot see the path through the wood for the trees. So they might overlook a platform like Second Life, regarding it as a ‘toy’, or they may attempt to use it in a trivial way where it does not add any business value. Or they might just get distracted by the number of options available (in this case other virtual worlds) and not do anything. Prior examples are the PC, and later the Web. It is no coincidence that a number of the innovators I know in Second Life had the prior experience of championing the web in an organization – they learnt a lot in the process.
When PCs were being used for the first time often people bought one to use Lotus 1-2-3, the standard spreadsheet of the 80’s or as a word processor. Few people realized that gains in productivity would only emerge as they were connected together in networks. When the web was new in 1994-1998 many people used it to build a monster that reflected their company’s internal structure and silos. And Government websites multiplied because people did not realize that their value came from engaging customers and employees with existing or new business processes rather than serving up information in a one-way and often fragmented manner.
So with virtual worlds today, their value comes from their ability to immerse and engage with other people and processes in a very direct way.
Clare: “What is your vision for the way Second Life can support medical training and healthcare over the coming years?
Dave: As you said in the introduction the Department of Biosurgery and Surgical Technology at Imperial College is world renowned for its work in simulation. Nevertheless the implementation of widespread simulated experience-based training programmes in medical education has been slow. This is partly due to the high cost of dedicated simulators and the scale of the simulated clinical environments needed to provide realistic training. Virtual World Environments, and especially Second Life can provide cost effective, widespread access to training scenarios that have the capability to enhance general or specialist healthcare training.
As another example, medical devices like infusion pumps are common technologies that the majority of healthcare professionals must be familiar with, and yet device associated incidents account for a significant proportion of medical errors. Widespread medical device training can be difficult to provide and where provided it often lacks the appropriate clinical context. We have demonstrated how Second Life could be used as a new and cost effective simulation technology to effectively overcome these obstacles to improve patient safety across the UK’s National Health Service.
As you know we created a fully interactive scenario around an IV infusion pump that had been badly mismanaged just prior to the user entering the simulated ward. Participants were to undertake routine safety tasks, engage with other (automated) members of staff and interact with an (automated) patient as well as the medical device during the scenario.
Scenarios such as this can present a more realistic training environment and enable the participant to see the consequences of their actions in a clinically safe environment that does not endanger the real patient, and can help reduce real life medical errors. There is significant potential for the development of this technology in medical education to improve existing training and quality of patient care.
The other members of staff and patients were played by bots, but we are now experimenting with training entire teams together who may be based in different locations whilst training.
In fact Second Life has already improved the ways that interdisciplinary teams within the medical profession are able to work and function. With much of the work done remotely, people that would normally never have met were able to collaborate and refine their ideas as if they were all in the same building. Working virtually has brought departments and experts together that previously would not be able to afford to meet face to face so often. By continuing this work we will not only reduce medical errors but also bring medical departments, authorities and the general population together in a dynamic collaboration that will improve the livelihoods of all.
Clare: “Thanks Dave, it seems that we are really on the brink of some very significant advances in the way technology such as Second Life is used to improve healthcare training and thanks to the whole team at Imperial College too!
Project Island: Medical School at this slurl http://slurl.com/secondlife/Medical%20School/112/1
Clinical Scenario starts here: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Medical%20School/48/13
The island is public whenever possible but may be restricted when research is being conducted, so please contact Dave Taylor if you require access.
When Kimberly Rufer-Bach’s new book, “The Second Life Grid: The Official Guide to Communication, Collaboration, and Community Engagement,” appeared on my desk this week, my curiosity was piqued. Even from a brief skim of the table of contents, it’s clear that this book is a great Second Life resource that spans business basics to 'best practice' discussions about what enterprises, educational institutions, non-profits and others are doing in Second Life. Whether you’re an enterprise decision-maker who’s interested in working inworld or you’re a seasoned Second Life content creator who wants to pick up additional development tips and tricks, then this is a must read. And, if you’re a Solution Provider, then this would make a great give-away for your clients.
So, who is Kimberly Rufer-Bach, you ask? She’s the founder of The Magicians, one of the oldest and most innovative content-development companies in Second Life. This book developed in cooperation with Linden Lab and is packed with cool case studies from Kim’s work with NASA, British Council, University of California Davis Medical Center, and Wiley Publishing.
The book helps answer some tough questions that organizations considering Second Life, or already in Second Life, are faced with everyday. The detailed guide helps readers understand the infrastructure of the Second Life Grid and decide if they should go it alone or work with a Solution Provider. It covers many Second Life features including taking advantage of Resident-created tools, running well-attended events, launching effective marketing campaigns, and managing virtual space, staff, and inventory. Readers will also:
- Understand the Second Life Grid: Explore the platform your organization will inhabit
- Study what educators are doing: Try remote learning, lectures, simulations, and collaboration
- Learn from NASA and other government agencies: See new ways to inform, educate, and get feedback from the public
- Get virtual business sense: Find out how nonprofit and for-profit organizations conduct real business in SL
- Market in the virtual world: See what works and what doesn’t
- Take control of events: Set up and publicize successful in-world events
I have the book tucked into my bag as we speak.
Three Questions for Mike Sullivan at Schneider Electric About Collaborat
ive Planning with Clients Inworld
I recently read a very interesting story from Sales and Marketing Magazine, entitled, “Case Study: Giving Your Sales Relationships a Second Life,” by Dave Stein. What intrigued me most was the notion of collaborative planning—or co-creating—between partner companies in the Second Life environment. Can you use Second Life to develop closer and more effective business partnerships? Well, Schneider and IBM did and I wanted to know more. So I asked Mike Sullivan, the Vice President of Global Strategic Accounts at Schneider Electric, three questions about how he made the event work. And, for those of you that aren’t familiar with Schneider Electric, it’s a global Fortune 500 company that is headquartered in Paris with over $25B USD in revenues and 120,000 employees globally.
As a bit of background, according to the article, “IBM has been a Schneider Electric customer for 20 years, a strategic account for 10, and a partnership-level strategic relationship for five. As part of their worldwide partnership, Schneider Electric provides IBM data centers with power, cooling, lighting control, security, HVAC controls, energy saving/monitoring, experts, and project managers.”
Amanda: Based on your initial event objectives, do you believe that your collaborative planning in Second Life was successful? Why or why not?
Mike: Our initial objective was to identify areas where we could co-create new value/solutions with our strategic customer IBM. Normally we would fly in a team for a meeting like this. Our pilot in Second Life was to see if it was possible to have a collaborative meeting/customer workshop without the travel costs/time and perhaps create a means for even more customer intimacy because we could collaborate much more often with key people.
I think we exceeded our expectations. In a two- hour meeting the Schneider Electric and IBM teams were able to identify 14 new areas where we could co-create new value around our customer IBM's business drivers and plans. Our customer IBM was enthusiastic about the experience, felt it had exceeded their expectations, and thought the Second Life environment created a sense of team that wasn't as easy to achieve with a traditional face-face meeting/customer workshop.
Amanda: What were the challenges that you encountered and what did you learn from them?
Mike: Although Second Life offers huge potential and helped us create value in even the pilot stage for strategic customer meetings, there are a lot of opportunities for improvement:
- Some participants had bandwidth issues.
- Second Life does not yet have all of the collaborative tools that people would typically use in a face-face meeting/workshop (yellow sticky notes, white board, easy PowerPoint projection, on-line tools to build common work like Excel or MindManager). We needed assistance to build tools for our meeting.
- Second Life is not yet a standard or approved application for our corporate environment. And, that’s a big barrier for some users because they have to do more to get it set up and there is no internal IT support.
It's very early in the adoption curve for most corporate business-business customers. The platform needs to mature to convince customers that an application like Second Life can replace a face-to-face workshop or meeting. Most of these challenges will be solved with time. The key, in the early stages, is to carefully choose customers who could be early adopters of this technology. It's also very important to try it with customers where we have strategic partnership and high level of trust.
Amanda: How did the inworld environment change the social and team dynamic when compared to prior face-to-face meetings?
Mike: The Second Life environment created more of a ‘sense of team’ than in previous meetings. Our customer, IBM, had seven senior managers present and Schneider Electric had nine present (senior managers, the account team and solution specialists). With everyone represented as an avatar, it was difficult to tell the IBM team from the Schneider Electric team. As we worked closely together to brainstorm and identify key value areas around IBMs business drivers, it created a sense of one common team.
Second Life also enabled participated in multiple dimensions. In a typical business meeting/customer workshop with 16 people, only a few people can speak at one time. Second Life offered the additional advantage of enabling people to type in their ideas concurrently, and then ranking and voting on ideas concurrently. This was efficient.
A big advantage was timesavings by eliminating travel. We wouldn't have been able to get all of the senior managers from our customer to participate if they all had to fly. The same was true for the Schneider team. It's a lot easier to participate in a meeting like this if you are investing 2-3 hours vs. 2 days, including travel time. Reducing the time and cost associated with these client meetings means that we could potentially have many more in Second Life vs. one face-to-face meeting.
Many thanks, Mike. Sounds like the event was not only productive, but also created a closer “sense of team.” Looking forward to hearing more in the future!
And, if you want to see a great machinima/video showcasing the event, click here (YouTube).
Trois questions pour Mike Sullivan de Schneider Electric sur le « Collaborative Planning » dans Second Life.
Récemment, j'ai lu une histoire très intéressante dans un magazine de marketing et de vente, intitulée : « Étude de cas : comment mettre du sang neuf dans vos relations clients » (<(article en anglais), par Dave Stein. Ce qui m'a intriguée le plus, c'était la notion de planification collaborative, ou co-création, entre les sociétés partenaires à l'intérieur de Second Life. Est-il possible d'utiliser Second Life pour développer des partenariats plus efficaces avec ses clients ? C'est ce qu'ont fait Schneider et IBM, et j'ai voulu en savoir plus. J'ai donc posé à Mike Sullivan, Vice President of Global Strategic Accounts chez Schneider Electric, trois questions sur cet événement. Pour ceux qui ne connaissent pas , il s'agit d'une société classée dans les 500 premières entreprises mondiales du magazine américain Fortune. Son siège est à Paris, son chiffre d'affaires est de 25 milliards de dollars, et il y a 120 000 employés dans le monde.
Selon cet article, « IMB est un client de Schneider Electric depuis 20 ans, un de ses comptes les plus importants depuis 10 ans, et les deux sociétés sont dans une relation de partenariat stratégique depuis 5 ans. Schneider Electric fournit à IBM des centres informatiques comprenant installation électrique, système de refroidissement, gestion de l'éclairage et contrôles HVAC, gestion de l'énergie, experts et gestionnaires de projets. »
Amanda: Par rapport à vos objectifs de départ, pensez-vous que votre modèle de collaboration avec vos clients dans Second Life soit une réussite ? Et pourquoi ?
Mike: Notre objectif initial était d'identifier les domaines dans lesquels nous pouvions co-créer des valeurs/solutions avec notre partenaire stratégique, IBM. En général pour une réunion de ce genre, il faut faire venir l'équipe en avion. Notre premier pilote dans Second Life était de voir s'il était possible de nous réunir et de collaborer avec notre client sans devoir voyager et peut-être nous rapprocher ainsi plus du client en organisant plus fréquemment des réunions.
Je pense nos attentes ont été dépassées. Au bout de deux heures de réunion, les équipes de Schneider Electric et IBM ont identifié 14 objectifs et projets pour lesquels elles pouvaient collaborer. Notre client, IBM, a pensé que cette expérience allait bien au-delà de ses attentes et que l'environnement de Second Life permettait de créer un esprit d'équipe beaucoup plus facilement que lors des réunions physiques.
Amanda: Quels ont été vos défis et quelle leçon en avez-vous tiré ?
Mike: Bien que Second Life ait beaucoup de potentiel et nous permette de créer de la valeur, même dans un projet pilote pour les réunions avec nos partenaires stratégiques, il y a encore beaucoup de choses à améliorer. Par exemple :
- Certains participants avaient des problèmes de bande passante.
- Second Life n'intègre pas tous les outils de collaboration utilisés communément lors de réunions : post it, tableau blanc, PowerPoint, partage en ligne de documents Excel ou MindManager. Nous avons eu besoin d'aide pour utiliser les outils nécessaires à la réunion.
- Second Life n'est pas encore une application standard approuvée pour les entreprises. Et c'est un gros problème pour certains utilisateurs car ils doivent faire des efforts au niveau de l'installation et qu'il n'y a pas d'assistance technique interne
Nous sommes au début de l'adoption de Second Life par les entreprises. La plate-forme doit mûrir pour convaincre les clients qu'une application comme Second Life peut remplacer les réunions en personnes. Ces problèmes seront résolus dans l'avenir. L'important, c'est de choisir avec soin les clients qui peuvent être les premiers à adopter cette technologie. Il est aussi très important de l'essayer avec nos partenaires stratégiques avec lesquels nous avons développé une relation de confiance très poussée.
Amanda: Dans Second Life, y-avait-il la même dynamique que dans les réunions physiques?
Mike: Dans Second Life, « l'esprit d'équipe » était plus fort que dans les réunions précédentes. Sept senior managers d'IBM, et neuf représentants de Schneider Electric (senior managers, l'équipe en charge du compte, et les spécialistes de solutions) étaient présents. Avec les avatars, il devenait difficile de dire qui appartenait à l'équipe d'IBM et qui appartenait à l'équipe de Schneider Electric. En travaillant et en réfléchissant ensemble sur les secteurs clés et les objectifs d'IBM, nous avions l'impression de ne former qu'un seule équipe.
Second Life permet aussi de collaborer en simultané. Lorsque 16 personnes participent à une réunion dans le monde physique, en général, seules quelques-unes peuvent s'exprimer en même temps. Avec Second Life, les participants peuvent exprimer leurs idées par chat écrit en simultané, les organiser et voter en même temps. C'est très efficace.
Un des gros avantages de Second Life est de gagner du temps en éliminant les déplacements. Nous n'aurions jamais pu réunir tous les senior managers d"IMB s'il avait fallu qu'ils prennent l'avion. C'est également vrai pour l'équipe de Schneider. Il est beaucoup plus facile de participer à une réunion si elle ne prend que 2 ou 3 heures au lieu de 2 ou 3 jours. Second Life représente un réel avantage en réduisant le coût et la durée des réunions.
Merci beaucoup Mike. Il semblerait que cet événement ait été productif et qu'il ait aussi rapproché les équipes. Il me tarde de voir comment les choses vont se développer dans l'avenir.
Pour avoir une courte vidéo de l'événement (en anglais), cliquez ici : (YouTube).
In 2006, we launched the Second Life Solution Provider program to help enterprises, educational institutions, government organizations, non-profits, and individuals connect with the global community of companies and individuals skilled at developing projects and experiences in Second Life. Since then, the Solution Provider program has grown to include more than 250 organizations from around the world, offering a wide variety of products and services.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen many organizations begin to use Second Life as a work or learning environment by holding meetings, training sessions, and conferences inworld. To help them understand how to best take advantage of this new immersive technology platform, many organizations turn to Solution Providers to help them get started in Second Life. To make it easier for them to identify well-qualified Solution Providers among the more than 250 currently in the Solution Provider Directory, we’re pleased to today announce the new Gold Solution Provider Program.
The Gold Solution Provider Program is the first of its kind in the virtual worlds industry, reflecting the strength, longevity, and unique ability for users to create and own their content on the Second Life platform. The new Gold Program identifies exceptionally qualified Solution Providers with a high level of client satisfaction, a track record of developing successful Second Life projects, and demonstrated expertise working with real world organizations. Today, we are inducting 31 Gold Solution Providers into the program who comes from the United States, Europe and Asia (full list of members below). They have business backgrounds in areas ranging from design and web development to marketing agencies and training, and have developed projects for multinational corporations, educational institutions, government agencies, and non-profits.
Gold Program members provide many services and products to help enterprise customers effectively use Second Life for their business. Below is a small sample of the services they provide:
- Host and provide innovative training experiences for employees spread out across the world, saving travel time and expenses
- Design and create engaging spaces for mixed-reality meetings and classes enabling remote attendees to participate in real time
- Cultivate and manage vibrant communities around brand marketing efforts
- Organize events, contests, and other activities to offer non-profits a new venue for fundraising efforts
- Develop simulations for educators to recreate science experiments that would be cost-prohibitive and/or dangerous in a physical setting
To help organizations find the right Solution Provider to fit their needs across a range of skill sets, experiences, and geographies, all Gold Solutions Providers are now designated with a Gold Program logo next to their listing in the Solution Provider Directory, which is also displayed on member websites.
Linden Lab is committed to supporting the successful use and experience of the Second Life platform for enterprise users. As part of this effort, Linden Lab will work closely with Gold Solution Providers to better understand the needs of their clients. We will also continue to review and add new Gold Solution Providers to the program, to continue to expand the pool of expertise available to organizations seeking to understand, explore, develop, and incorporate Second Life into their business or educational activities.
We want to congratulate each of the inaugural Gold Solution Provider Program members! Your hard work and extraordinary skill is a true testament to the talent and vibrancy of the Solution Provider community.
We look forward to working with you and supporting your growth as more large organizations explore Second Life and virtual worlds as a powerful work and learning platform.
Gold Solution Provider Program Membership List
A&D Consultants (Italy)
Avatrian, LLC (US)
Beta Technologies (US/Portugal)
Bokowsky + Laymann GmbH (Germany)
Chant Newall Development Group LLC/FutureWork Institute (US)
Clarity International (Italy/UK)
Community Chest (France)
Corporation Pop (UK)
Cranial Tap, Inc. (US)
Daden Limited (UK)
depo USA, LLC (US/UK)
Designing Digitally, Inc. (US)
Firesabre Consulting (US)
Gronstedt Group (US)
Ill Clan Animation Studios (US)
Indusgeeks Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (India)
Involve, Inc. (US)
ISN Virtual Worlds (Italy)
MadeVirtual Ltd. (UK)
Metabirds Co., Ltd. (Japan)
Moderne Interactive (US)
New Business Horizons Ltd (UK)
Siterma VWP (US)
Stonfield InWorld (France)
The Magicians (US)
virtual-e Ltd (UK)
Virtualis Center/Corporation Planners Unlimited (US)
VirtualMind (formerly SecondMind) (Spain)
Youin3D GmbH (Germany)
To find the Solution Providers that best fit your needs, please visit the Solution Provider Directory.
Let’s talk about bombs for a minute. Yes, real bombs. Northrop Grumman’s Cutlass Robot is an armored all-weather six-wheel vehicle with a 360° pivot manipulator arm with a state of the art gripper designed to disarm a bomb—as safely as possible—in the physical world. There are only a few of these machines in existence and not only are they expensive, but it also costs thousands of dollars to transport to the teams of personnel for training purposes. So, when Northrop Grumman built an exact replica of the Cutlass Robot in Second Life—to enable their employees from all over the world to learn about how to operate the machine—they not only helped get everyone up to speed more quickly and efficiently, but they also removed any risk of danger or damage. According to Northrop Grumman’s Cutlass Robot Project Manager, the machine in Second Life, “works just like the real one!”
That’s the magic of prototyping an object and creating a simulated training environment in a virtual space. You can do things in Second Life that are too dangerous, physically impossible, or completely unthinkable in the real world.
We capture that story—and more—in our new case study entitled, “Simulation Training and Prototyping in Virtual Worlds: Northrop Grumman in Second Life,” available here (PDF) in English with additional translations coming shortly. (And, for the sake of clarification, this case covers what Northrop Grumman is doing in the main Second Life environment; it does not address their activities in our new behind-the-firewall version of Second Life, currently in alpha.)
I’ll leave you with this final thought from Matt Furman, Developer and Second Life Project Lead at Northrop Grumman, when he was just beginning to explore Second Life as a collaboration and learning environment. “It didn’t take long to identify a myriad of effective uses that could either save corporate monies or generate them. We found a way that this could benefit every single NGC employee.”
Music to my Enterprise Marketing ears.
The European Space Agency is launching the Planck satellite this Thursday in Guyana. Most of us won't be able to attend the launch - but we can attend it in Second Life.
This event is being brought to you through the CNRS (National Center For Scientific Research) and the APC (Astroparticule et Cosmologie) Laboratory. The APC laboratory lies at the interface between the study of the very large and the very small, and it brings together several communities (experimentalists, observers and theoreticians). It is centered on three themes: cosmology and gravitation, high energy astrophysics, neutrinos.
During the inauguration of The House of Astroparticule on 14 May, it will be possible to view the launch of the Planck satellite at Kourou (Guyana) at about 1300 UTC (6AM SLT), to visit its virtual replica and to meet with scientists during the conferences and the projections which will surround the event. APC Laboratories Second Life presence was created by i-Marginal, one of our French Solution Providers. (CNRS Press Release in French)
Of course, this is not the first space event to be viewed in Second Life; NASA has had a long presence, with a model of the Space Station and many activities in Second Life. There's the wonderful International Spaceport Museum which has replicas of most rockets that have been sent into space. And there's Science Friday, NPR's Friday science program in Second Life (and sometimes hosted in Second Life). There's a brief listing of science-related sources and places in Second Life on the Second Life wiki.
I think this is a great example of the power of Second Life to take you to a place and event you would otherwise not be able to attend, and put you in contact with people you otherwise would not have any contact with. How cool to talk directly to scientists involved in the creation and launch of Planck! This also is a nice event to highlight the huge science community (SciLands is one manifestation of it) already in Second Life and the content they provide - from DNA experiments to visions of the solar system.
So come over to the House of Astroparticule on Thursday, and watch the European Space Agency launch Planck, chat with some of the scientists involved - and help celebrate the entry of a major French science agency as it joins the others that are bringing you real world science in Second Life.
I recently had a meeting with Nortel & a few other folks about the Nortel UK effort to explore the next dimension of customer service inworld that I had to share with you. They created a bank demo in Virtual Dublin to test a virtual customer service application—completely integrated with the Nortel Contact Center 6.0 (huge customer service app). This video from Vrising walks the viewer through the process .
First of all, integrating a massive enterprise application with Second Life is an impressive feat. I’m sure that others have done similar things (and if you know of other examples, please chime in on comments), but I believe that this kind of integration is one of the most important factors to quickly accelerating the adoption of virtual worlds for enterprises, governments, educational institutions, etc.
And, the idea of virtual customer service is fascinating—how it differs from other customer service channels—the unique challenges and the enormous opportunity. Although Nortel’s system is currently a prototype, I just had to learn more. I asked Steve Kinge, the Business Development Manager of Customer Contact Solutions in Nortel Europe a few questions. And, here are his responses—fascinating discussion fodder.
Amanda: Why do you believe that Second Life is an effective platform to deliver customer service?
Steve: You only need to look at the traditional high street or shopping mall to see the impact the recession is having on 'bricks and mortar' stores. However, famous names disappearing and the closure of physical stores isn't just about the recession. The Internet has dramatically changed the way we do many things and, in particular, how we purchase goods and services. There was a time when you had to trawl a number of premises to find what you were looking for. Not so today. The plethora of price comparison sites can make finding the best deal a simple mouse-click away. To me, the most dramatic thing is how quickly we have accepted this as the norm. Even those initially cautious about conducting transactions on the Internet have succumbed and are happily buying on-line. We've fully embraced this technology, which has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for us all.
In saying that, one thing that does continue to worry many people is how they get help if needed. This is where the smart cookies are winning with excellent customer service. Make the process as hassle free as possible and your customer will come back for more. We know that businesses are beginning to see the benefit of having a presence in Second Life. This really is, and will be, the next step in the evolution of on-line commerce. In a Virtual World, if consumers get the opportunity to see what a product looks like or how it can be used, then you're opening up whole new sales opportunities. We know the growth of Second Life users is dramatic. Why should a resident have to leave Second Life when they see something they like and wish to make a purchase? In learning environments, shouldn’t a history student walking around Second Life Egypt be able to simply touch an ancient statue and be in instant contact their tutor?
For this kind of interaction to work, inworld users need instant access to a real person who can help when they get stuck or need a question answered. That's why we at Nortel have integrated our Contact Center with Second Life allowing customers in the Virtual World to have real-time Instant Message, voice communication or ad-hoc conferencing with Contact Center agents in the Real World. We believe that the power of existing Unified Communications and Contact Center applications should be available in any environment, including Virtual Worlds, and not just within the context of a dedicated infrastructure. This further blurs the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds and dramatically improves the experience for the Second Life consumer.
Amanda: This is really interesting, but we’re clearly at the very beginning of this kind of inworld brand experience. Let’s look to the future? In three years, what do you envision as a typical customer service experience in world?
Steve: Totally absorbing and completely natural. If we'd have said in the mid-nineties—which is really not so long ago—that a huge proportion of us would be buying our groceries on-line; would be comparing hundreds of insurance quotes on-line to find the best deal; would be booking our own, self created, holidays on-line, etc. we'd have been called mad. And yet, we all do this today as if it is the most natural thing in the world. Let's face it, who today would want to queue in a bank for twenty minutes during their lunch break to pay a bill when you can do the same thing on-line in the comfort of your own home in a matter of seconds?
Yes, there's skepticism about Virtual Worlds. But, let's not forget that there was the same skepticism of the Internet. The way we communicate is changing rapidly and there is a greater appreciation and understanding of the power of the Internet. For example, in the last year up to the end of March, Twitter users grew from 500,000 to over 14 million! By January 2009, there were more than 200 million Facebook users. These are big numbers and they're growing every day. The people that use these services are totally comfortable using virtual worlds and if we can marry the power of Second Life with the customer service experience demanded and expected in the real world then commerce in this environment will become as natural as buying a CD from Amazon is today. By integrating Nortel Contact Center with Second Life, we have demonstrated how to give consumers that same-world experience and we have also shown how the smarts in our software can actually anticipate the needs of residents. Over the next three years graphics will improve, broadband rates will increase, Second Life will become even more immersive than it is today, and the concept of delivering customer service in this environment as natural as any phone-based service today.
Amanda: Well, it’s a lovely vision, but we have a long way to go before we get there. What do you think are the biggest challenges standing in the way of highly effective customer experience in Second Life and other virtual worlds?
Steve: I guess the biggest barrier is perception. To some, Second Life and similar environments are still seen as games or a gimmick. I think some businesses are beginning to understand the power and value of Virtual Worlds, but there is still some way to go before it can be seen as 'mainstream'. As I said earlier, from a technical point of view, Nortel has already integrated our Contact Center technology with Second Life allowing organisations to offer "live" customer service in Second Life today. At Nortel, we have led the market in delivering consistently future-proofed communication channels into the Contact Center such as email, Web Communication and Instant Messaging. These are the technologies customers want to use; yet organisations continue to be slow at embracing them and try to insist on their customers using the phone. The new wave of consumer will not tolerate this and we need companies to see that, by ignoring the needs of those customers, they run the risk of losing them.
I can really only see Virtual Worlds such as Second Life becoming more immersive and the number of users growing. The technology is available now to allow organisations to offer great customer service in this environment today. Let's not allow perception to cloud what's really going to happen and embrace this commerce opportunity with open arms because, for sure, in a few years time we'll find it hard to imagine how we did without it.
Amanda: Absolutely! Many thanks for the post and your leadership in this area. Looking forward to hearing about how virtual customer service unfolds.
Credits: This post and prototype would not be possible without the following folks. Big thanks to Steve Kinge and Neil O’Connor from Nortel, Gary Leyden from Vrising (that developed the prototype Bank for Nortel), Sitearm Madonna who gave me the heads-up on this one, and John Mahon (aka Ham Rambler) who runs Virtual Dublin in Second Life.
On Tuesday morning, the Enterprise team had its first inworld office hours. Our topic? How we like to bring enterprise or government client newbies into Second Life for the first time for a demo and tour of a few of our favorite spots. Our goal? To get new potential customers comfortable in Second Life and to clearly demonstrate that Second Life is not a game—but a powerful collaboration and learning tool. (Ok, for some Residents, Second Life can be a game, but you get my drift.) Our tour guide? Chris Collins, or Logan Linden, joined by Glenn, Betsy, Todd, and me.
Most business people entering Second Life for the first time are used to browsing the web; they are “point and click” people vs. “walk forward” people. So, our first priority is to make the first experience a controlled one. We generally take 15 minutes for a brief Second Life training and then about 45 minutes for a tour to 3-5 places that vary depending on how the customer is interested in using Second Life, what industry they are in, etc.
We start on the phone and in the Lindenworld Lobby—a safe place for them to learn how to walk, turn, text chat, and configure voice. Once voice is set up, then we can dispose of the telephone and keep all of our interactions inworld. We not only watch them learn how to interact, but we also watch their avatar’s eyes. For example, if we ask them to move their mouse to the menu at the top of the viewer, their eyes should also go upwards. If we teach them how to adjust volume levels at the bottom right of the viewer, then their eyes should swing down. Good. They are still with us.
Two things that we don’t do—teach them how to fly and bring them to crowded places until they are ready. Why? Once a customer knows how to fly, we’ve lost ‘em. It’s just too tempting to fly off into the virtual sunset…. And, crowds can be overwhelming when you’re just getting the hang of an immersive environment.
Now we’re ready for our tour. As I mentioned, there are dozens of places that we take prospects, but there are a couple of tried-and-true staples that connect the physical world (what’s known) with the virtual one (what’s unfamiliar and new) in interesting ways:
- Spaceport Alpha: This from the International Spaceflight Museum at Spaceport Alpha, right next to the NASA area. We show them where NASA streams live video of real life rocket launches. And, while we are there, we check to see if there’s a conference going on for their first taste of a crowd. (Many thanks to Greyark Hightower for the correction.)
- LAX Mashup at Daden Prime: This is primo spot to demonstrate data visualization. They have mashups of Google Maps and near real-time data of air traffic to and from Los Angeles Airport (LAX).
- Virtual Birmingham at Daden Prime: And, while we’re in the region, we wander over to Virtual Birmingham. This is another 3d Google map of the earth on the floor and you can interact with different buttons along the perimeter to see where news is happening around the world; little pins appear in the map with the headline associated with each pin in the map. You can also bring up pictures of various places in London and the circle becomes a completely immersive city experience.
We would love to hear your suggestions about other places that we should take prospective enterprise or government customers. Together, we can create a great list of locations for all of us to use. So, pile on!
P.S. The picture is of our office hours in my treehouse. Pretty cool, huh? Thanks to Daniel Voyager for taking the pic.
“You can read about a tsunami in a textbook or you can experience one in a virtual world; I believe that experience has a greater impact,” said Eric Hackathorn, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Virtual Worlds Program Manager. Makes you want to go play in a tsunami now, doesn’t it?
NOAA’s long-standing mission in real life is the same in Second Life—to create an informed society that understands the role of the ocean, coasts, and atmosphere in the global ecosystem to make the best social and economic decisions. By incorporating Second Life into their multi-media communication and educational programs including inworld events and a vast array of immersive simulations and 3D exhibits, NOAA has found meaningful and profound ways to reach new audiences—in the virtual world and in the physical one.
The NOAA areas in Second Life—Meteora and Okeanos are wonderful examples of how government organizations and enterprises can create compelling content that takes full advantage of contextual, experiential learning. Many of you have heard of—or visited—the NOAA spaces. However, here’s something that you may not know. By creating interesting and novel experiences such as the tsunimi exhibition or the interactive real-time 3D weather models, NOAA has created a powerful word-of-mouth buzz effect that has raised their general brand awareness. It’s viral marketing 101—create something remarkable and the pass-along factor within social networks will do the brand awareness work for you. Ultimately, it’s just so cool—you have to go check it out and let your friends know, too.
The proof is in the numbers. Roughly 40 percent of visitors to NOAA in Second Life reported that they hadn’t heard of the organization prior to their Second Life visit and 94 percent recommended that NOAA expand their virtual presence. And, the NOAA presence in Second Life extends beyond the borders of Second Life; over 49,000 YouTube viewers have watched NOAA’s inworld tsunami demonstration. By any standards—remarkable results.
To read more, check out our new NOAA case study here. (This case is in English only; additional translations to come shortly.)
This week, Strategy + Business Magazine published an interesting story on virtual worlds. First, for those that aren’t familiar with Strategy + Business (one of my favorite publications, by the way), it’s a “thought-leadership business magazine for senior business executives and the people who influence them, reaches more than 100,000 readers worldwide, and is published by Booz & Company.” Needless to say, this is what enterprise business decision-makers globally are reading—or should be.
The “Leading Ideas” feature for this issue is titled, “It’s a Virtual World,” by Rita J King. The article is written from a more personal perspective, of how Rita investigated how enterprises—such as IBM, Northrop Grumman, and Manpower—are using Second Life to turn their innovation knobs up and cost knobs down. You probably know some of the examples that are covered, but this article is one of the best pieces that I’ve seen summarizing them in a powerful and cogent way. There’s even a pretty PDF that you can download and print. (Look on the right-hand side of the page—under article tools.)
The article ends with the following thought. “Despite successes in the corporate world, virtual environments are still probably some years away from mainstream acceptance. In August 2008, research firm Gartner Inc. said in a report on emerging technologies that it will take at least two to five years before virtual worlds become prevalent for business applications. By then, companies may not have much of a choice: The need to cut travel, training, and meeting costs, gain substantial access to global talent, trim back internal redundancy, and increase communications among departments that were once isolated from one another will force organizations to find new ways (and new worlds) to do old tasks.”
I agree, although I think that mainstream enterprise virtual world adoption is closer than we might think! Yes, it's true. I'm a glass-half-full person.
So, when someone asks you, “Is Second Life really a place where real work gets done?” then just send them this article (and the IBM case study) and hopefully we can work together to help businesses and governments understand the power of working in Second Life.
And, if you are looking for more great enterprise articles, then visit our “business article,” list on the Second Life wiki, maintained by Glenn.
Disclosure: Rita J. King is also a part-time consultant and writer for Linden Lab. Rest assured, this is a completely independent article.
M's post provides you with one view of how Linden Lab uses Second Life. Here's a slightly more data-centric view.
Starting in the spring of 2007 when voice capabilities first were added to Second Life, Linden Lab began a grand experiment. We were growing rapidly, and had employees working around the world and in several offices in the US. We decided that we were going to use Second Life as our primary platform for distributed meetings. It's been an interesting 2 years. You can see where we are today in M's post, "Fun Working Inworld."
We've had our share of meetings that were scheduled, only to have the grid down, or logins not available, or voice not working. We've scrounged tools for presenting slides, come up with dozens of different seating arrangements, built workspace that is mostly unused and more. Like any other pioneer, we've tried a lot of things that didn't work. But we've been eating our own dogfood. And it's working.
During a recent week, Linden Lab employees spent 2,690.6 hrs in Second Life. (This is not our alt or personal use, but use by our Linden accounts.) That works out to about 8 hours per week per employee: we're each spending about a day in Second Life each week.
We thought you'd like to know this as you think about the potential of Second Life for your business, meetings and events. We're there too - every day of the week.
Lindens spend much of their day IW meeting, working, exploring, explaining, testing, connecting, sharing. And, what a great place it is.
I was reminded of this last week when we substituted a traditional conference call (dial-in number/speakerphone) for our usual mixed-reality meeting in Virtual Isabel. It was miserable.
We spent all our time talking loudly at the speakerphone and no time talking to each other. In contrast, a meeting in SL is easy on the eyes and ears. Its beautiful and spatial voice is a powerful thing. Others have blogged on IW meetings and work, so I thought I’d show you what Lindenworld actually looks like, how Lindens work inworld and how you might get started if you’ve never had a meeting or training session IW.
First off, we have a couple of regions as you can see in the image above. My favorite is the “ghetto” region (Lindenworld A,B,C,D) where everybody does their own thing. It’s a big sandbox that changes everyday. Lindens meet there, work, hang out, play, learn, teach, study, share…it’s a busy place.
Most of the stuff you see in the image at the top of the post appeared in the last couple of months which is why I like this part of Lindenworld so much. Allowing people to make a space of their own gives them a great sense of investment, of connection, of permanence. It’s the antithesis of corporate cube-land which seeks to routinize and genericize the individual and her/his contribution. We do the opposite. We let people make Lindenworld their own and by doing so, they feel a great sense of ownership and actually use the space more than they would otherwise – to learn, to work and even to socialize. Arguably the buy/build/terraform tools in the SL viewer are among the best in the entire interface so this is reasonably easy, even for a novice. That’s the beauty of a “user generated” experience -- the secret sauce of Second Life. In a company with eight offices on three continents and about 30% of our staff working from home and/or remotely, its essential people have a place to gather. And, Second Life is just the place.
Lest you think we are just crazy creators, we do actually have spaces that are more conventional where we have meetings with reporters, vendors, partners, etc. called Linden Lab HQ and Lindenworld Lobby. Immediately below you can see what it looks like on the map. That image is followed by two snapshots of more "conventional" Second Life meetings -- on in our HQ and one in an Immersive Workspaces meeting space.
Last week, I had a meeting in the HQ (see the image below) with our Engineering leaders on all the work underway. FJ asked why there was still snow on the ground. Good question. It’ll probably be gone tomorrow.
I popped in on another meeting where Lindens were talking about the Render Pipeline project. They had created a visualization of the project they were working on which you can see in the background.
Most of my meetings, though, happen in Lindenworld M (the island in the distance in the image below). Why? It’s my little piece of the dream where I summoned the mountain out of the sea, terraformed it, added trees and made it my own. For those of you who own land, there’s nothing like it. It’s profound.
I like my space. We can sit outside or in. In the image below, I am meeting with Cyn who isresponsible for customer support.
Second Life has many magical properties, but one killer app is Second Life for work. It can’t be beat.
For those of you who aren’t doing business in Second Life. It’s easy to get started. I’d recommend you buy an Island or even a plot on the mainland, buy an office and some furniture and invite your colleagues over for a meeting. It’s that easy.
If you’d like to see more pictures of Lindenworld, meetings, and my island, visit me on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlinden.
Lots of people ask me how Second Life is better than conference calls, web conferencing, or other distance communication tools. In my experience, it comes down to one element: engagement.
Here's some research that helped me understand the importance of engagement. Nick Yee at Stanford University's Media X Project did some interesting research about 2 years ago that found that avatars in Second Life stand about the same distance apart as people do in the real world. This is pretty interesting - there's no reason to do that; voice and text carry further in SL than in RL, and you can zoom your camera, so distance isn't really an issue. But it is. This statistic points to people's engagement in Second Life - it's not a game, they're really see their avatar as themselves, not as some puppet they're controlling.
There's a nice article in Time ("How Second Life Affects Real Life") that summarizes several research studies - mostly by Stanford - that look at different impacts of our avatars on our perception of ourselves. As in real life, being taller or more beautiful influences people's self-perception, and has impact on their behavior.
And the MediaX people at Stanford have done research that helps explain why our avatars impact our self-perception. The recently came out with a study called "The Proteus Effect: Behavioral Modification via Transformations of Digital Self-Representation". A short summary of the research: Digital media allows us to make both dramatic and subtle changes to our self-representations with an ease not available elsewhere. These changes can greatly affect how we interact with others in virtual environments. In addition to gaining social advantages, our avatars (digital representations of ourselves) can also change how we behave. This occurs via conforming to expected behaviors of the avatar - a process referred to as the Proteus Effect.
While these research projects have looked at social interaction, they're relevant to business interaction as well. The bottom line is that virtual worlds in general, and Second Life in particular, seem to be a good platform for training and meetings because they enable us to be present and engaged -- and at the same time, give us the ability to "look over our shoulder" and have a little distance from ourselves.
Some related resources:
The stage is set, a fanfare announces the arrival of the dignitaries, the audience is hushed, the Vice Chancellor approaches the podium, the graduation ceremony begins.
For a group of students on the BP Managing Projects distance-learning course run by the Manchester Business School in the UK, this was the experience that awaited them in Second Life, a fitting celebration of their hard work. The students were awarded their certificates in the virtual world, complete with specially designed graduations gowns, lifelike avatars of dignitaries, an academic procession and speeches.
The ceremony took place in the Whitworth Room of Manchester Business School's Second Life Island. Created by Corporation Pop, the Whitworth Room forms part of the School's space-age tower structure and takes inspiration (in name only!) from Whitworth Hall where the University holds its real-life graduation ceremononies.
In a chat with me about the event Dom Raban, managing director of Corporate Pop explained that: "It would be almost impossible for BPs senior executives, who are spread across the globe, to take part in a traditional awards ceremony. By holding it virtually, we have made it possible for them to be rewarded for their achievements with minimal disruption, saving time and money as well as reducing environmental impact."
"Manchester Business School has always been interested in the possibilities that virtual worlds offer. They wanted a Second Life presence that could develop in a modular fashion, becoming sticky enough to encourage long-term interaction. The space has evolved from a place to share ideas, to a location for training courses, and now a place for students to take part in award ceremonies."
For BP, Don Hurrle, Director of the BP Project and Engineering College said: "This is another great innovative step forward which is in keeping with the desire to keep the Managing Projects programme at the leading edge of possibilities in modern learning and development techniques. It is another example of how technology can reach internationally distributed BP executives and be instrumental in building an effective community of practice."
Director and Dean of Manchester Business School, Professor Michael Luger pointed out that this was an important milestone in the MBS use of Second Life adding that: "MBS' innovative approach to e-learning is driving our presence in Second Life - adding value to the real time experience of our students. The Award Ceremony for BP executives is the first of its kind in the UK and we're delighted that we can bring the cohort together to celebrate their achievements in this way."
So we'd like to add our congratulations to all the students for their success on this programme and also to Manchester Business School and Corporation Pop for showing us that as well as helping businesses to work and students to learn, Second Life can also be there to celebrate and reward success. I hear the party afterwards was great too!
We’ve all heard it before….
“We have Webex and just paid a mint for my video conferencing equipment. And, now I need an immersive—or virtual—space, too? Why is it different from the other collaboration tools that I already have and what’s the return, because everyone’s looking at budgets with an eagle eye these days. If I ask for another line item, I need some serious ROI evidence. Ultimately, what’s the real value of virtual worlds?”
This is a discussion that we love having and the topic that Erica and Sam Driver at ThinkBalm are currently exploring in a research report along with Altadyn, Forterra Systems, ProtonMedia, Qwaq, Tandem Learning, and us, of course.
From the ThinkBalm blog: “The focus of the ThinkBalm Enterprise Immersive Internet Business Value Study is work-related use of virtual worlds and campuses, immersive learning environments, and 3D business applications. The core question we are trying to answer is, “What is the business value of using immersive technologies for work?” This study has two research components: an anonymous online survey and in-depth interviews conducted via phone or in-world. We are talking to enterprise Immersive Internet advocates, implementers, and explorers.”
You qualify to participate in the research study if you:
- Used immersive technologies for work in 2008 or the first quarter of 2009
- Have insight into the business value this technology has delivered to your organization (if any)
- Do not work in sales, marketing, product development, or customer support for a technology provider that offers immersive technology solutions
If that sounds like you, then go ahead and take the survey and help us all understand the bottom-line business value of virtual worlds.
Let the data collection begiin!
A few years ago when enterprises, governments, and educational institutions established their presence in Second Life, there was one piece of advice that we received consistently across the board, “The promise of virtual worlds is tremendous and the Second Life environment is great for some kinds of work. But, if you only had a behind the firewall solution, we could really incorporate virtual worlds into the core of our business.” Although Second Life is a safe place to work, many large enterprises and government institutions require complete control over their IT systems due to privacy and confidentiality concerns.
Last October, Mark Kingdon, CEO of Linden Lab/Second Life (affectionately known as “M”), briefly hinted that we were working on this at the Virtual Worlds London Conference. At that time, we were just beginning to build an Enterprise team and formulate our plan. Since then, we’ve been hard at work to make a stand-alone, behind the firewall version of Second Life a reality.
Today, we’re pleased to share that the stand-alone version of Second Life solution is currently in the alpha phase. We have nine alpha installations in the field at organizations such as IBM, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), New Media Consortium (NMC), Intel, and Northrop Grumman. And, we’re planning to go into a limited closed beta phase this summer with general availability later this year.
Yes, this is a server solution that is completely disconnected from the main Second Life environment with all of the rich functionality in the box.
Ok, you probably have a million questions that I’m not able to answer at this time—like, “What exactly is it? What’s the price? What’s included? And, on and on.” Patience, my friends! At this point, I just wanted to share that we’ve made tremendous progress and that I promise to fill you in on all of the details this summer.
In the meantime, if you, or a client, are interested in becoming a beta customer, then please contact us through www.secondlifegrid.net and choose the “I’m interested in running Second Life behind my firewall” option in the pull down menu and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
The freshly revamped Community Gateway program is live since February this year and it has been a very exciting time so far.
Have you ever wondered, what the so-called Community Gateways are?
The Community Gateway program at Linden Lab is designed to provide a customized first Second Life experience for new Residents. Communities from all over the world offer a friendly environment for new users. Orientation areas and greeters employed by the Gateway owners make sure that new Residents are able to find their way in Second Life. New Residents also have the possibility to learn from tutorials, currently in 10 different languages.
The communities are fully managed and run by their owners. The creativity and effort that program members have put into their welcome areas and surroundings are amazing.
Please visit the regions of our Gateway members. Also existing Residents are always welcome to join a community, make friends, visit events and explore Second Life. If you would like to see a complete listing of all current Community Gateway members, please check out the Second Life Wiki at: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Community_Gateway
The program members are working very closely with Linden Lab to continue to improve the new user experience and offer attractive experiences for all sorts of interests. We have established working groups, that share best practices in regard to creating a successful business, spread the good word about Gateways in regards to Marketing and PR and last but not least exchange experiences in regard to orientation spaces and the wonderful work the greeters and mentors are doing.
It is so exciting to see how much passion and experience each Community Gateway member brings into this program and I would like to thank all members for the continued support and hard work each one of them is doing in regard to improving the Second Life experience and bringing people together from all over the globe.
Teamwork is a word that Gateway members live daily by supporting each other, exchanging ideas, always trying to improve the quality and service they are offering as well as creating wonderful locations in-world where not only new Residents get excited about.
If you have a community up and running yourself and would like to know more about this Linden Lab program, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you with detailed information about the program criteria.
Please come around and visit us in-world!
I am sure you will find wonderful people to connect with and have a great time exploring the regions and attending rocking events.
By now you’ve all read the IBM case study and know that internal meetings within Second Life work well. But, what happens when you have many people coming together from across the globe from different organizations? More importantly, what happens when nearly everyone attending has never set a virtual foot into Second Life? Well, the technical, cultural, and usability challenges can potentially cause an SL event to take a turn for the worst.
But, thankfully, when the Trade Promotion Management Associates, or TPMA held an event in Second Life last month for 160 attendees representing manufacturing, retail, and industry analyst firms, the event went off without a hitch—in great part to the work of Gronstedt Group, TPMA’s inworld partner. Gronstedt led all participants through a 30-minute training session and all speakers and exhibitors through a 60-minute training session to ensure that when the conference day arrived, everyone was ready to walk, talk, text chat, and participate in this new virtual event experience.
When I read this story in Virtual World News, I had to find out more. And, so, I asked Diane M. Berry, the CEO of the TPMA for her thoughts on how the event went. Here are three questions for Diane and her responses:
Amanda: “What was the most pleasantly surprising thing about your inworld meeting?”
Diane: “I was pleasantly surprised with our entire experience: First, the number of registrants who were interested in attending the TPMA Brownbag event on Second Life surpassed our expectations; second, our partnership with The Gronstedt Group, which made attendance easy through many training sessions for speakers, attendees and our staff, and using their “real estate,” an “island” on Second Life, as well as their creation of booths, etc.; and thirdly the lack of technical difficulties. We felt the conference went off without a hitch. I was also pleasantly surprised that, just as you have in a live meeting, at the end of our sessions we had people lingering in groups, chatting together. Our organizations foster collaboration between retailers and suppliers; this was highly valuable because it was highly collaborative.”
Amanda: “What was the most difficult or challenging aspect?”
Diane: “The Gronstedt Group removed I would say all of the technically challenging aspects. On the non-technical side, however, there is still a lack of knowledge and awareness of Second Life, so that was a bit of a hurdle for us with speakers and sponsors. That said, the novelty of introducing people to Second Life is very rewarding, both from a personal standpoint and from a thought-leadership, image standpoint for TPMA. One disappointment was not knowing precisely who was in attendance as attendees naturally used their avatar names; similarly, we had a bit more drop off from registration to attendance than one normally sees, most likely due to the complexity of registering, creating an avatar, and joining the meeting.”
Amanda: “Do you believe that the meeting was less productive/as productive/more productive than a real world meeting--in terms of the ideas, collaboration, and action plans? Tell me why.”
Diane: “I would say the TPMA meeting was more productive than any virtual conference our organizations, VCF and TPMA have attended or run, including webinars, because it is such an immersive experience; attendees have the responsibility of responding to their avatar’s surroundings, including other individuals, so there is some “social pressure” to pay attention. The entire experience approaches the value of an in-person meeting, but there really is no substitute for developing relationships through in-person, shared experiences, and I believe these must be mixed into every organization’s marketing program. In today’s difficult economic environment, it may be more viable for companies to run Second Life conferences which avoid the cost of travel and provide the closest thing I’ve experienced to an in-person meeting.”
Wow. Need I say more?
Big thanks to Diane at the TPMA and to Anders at Gronstedt.
I almost didn't get hired at Linden Lab because I'd had no prior experience with Second Life at the time I interviewed. But I was hired, and my charter was to create a Developer Program for Linden Lab. At that time we had about 6 companies listed on a web page who could provide development services in Second Life.
I quickly discovered that Second Life was a great tool for business - I could meet with Solution Providers (a better name than "developers", since they provide solutions rather than writing code) regardless where they lived without having to travel. And when voice was added to Second Life, I was a convert -- the business potential was clear to me.
Over the last two and a half years, we've built a team stationed in Brighton and California to provide world-wide engagement with Solution Providers, and grown the program from the initial 6 participants to almost 200 in more than 22 countries. And we have tremendous support from the rest of Linden Lab. We're looking forward to providing much richer resources to the Solution Providers this year to enable them to be more successful in working with their business clients.
I came to developer programs somewhat circuitously - my first career was elementary school teacher, but I cut my teeth on developer programs at Apple, where I worked closely with the Developer Program in several different positions. At Openwave, and then Tellme, I managed Developer Programs and got firsthand experience in the value - and challenges - of supporting a wide community of individuals and companies.
I'm in Second Life a lot these days - I seem to average about 3 hours of meetings a day in Second Life, and spend more time visiting Solution Provider projects. Experience using Second Life is no longer an issue! My passion is for business uses of Second Life and the opportunities that our Solution Providers create for business engagement with Second Life, and I'll be blogging more about both of those topics.
I continue to be amazed by the vision that residents, businesses and Solution Providers have of the uses and capabilities of Second Life. We've just begun to scratch the surface of how a virtual world can change the ways we do business. Welcome to the journey!
In my humble opinion, there is nothing more torturous than the idea of being an auditor. Counting beans sounds like…well, boring to me. But, as I learn more about Second Life, I learn more about business and—in this case—about bean counters. Or, shall I say cookie counters? Today, several folks sent me a story in the Outsourcing Journal that made me sit down and say, “Wow.”
Ernst & Young, a global consulting and accounting company in more than 140 countries with over $24B US in revenue, has conducted an experimental training exercise in Second Life for young auditors. Their first assignment is to conduct a physical inventory of a cookie factory. Do the cookies baking in the oven count? What about the bags of wet and damaged flour in the storeroom? These are just the kinds of scenarios that a young group of E&Y employees experienced in Second Life—to help them understand the kinds of real world situations that they might run into. Of course, these are primarily Gen-Y folks—very comfortable with technology and there was ample pre-training to ensure that when the training exercise began, everyone was ready to go. And, to be fair, the technology didn’t always run perfectly. But, Michael Hamilton, partner and chief learning and development officer of E&Y of the Americas, summarized the results in the following way:
“Hamilton says one of the "ah ha" discoveries was that the young auditors who completed a simulated audit in Second Life were slightly less confident than their peers who completed the traditional training. "We suspect the auditors who participated in the traditional instructor-led training had an unwarranted confidence in their ability to conduct a physical inventory count," he reports. "The virtual learners had more anxiety because the simulation demonstrated they could not always anticipate real-world issues. This anxiety caused them to find the right person and ask the right questions. When you are learning a new skill, asking questions is an important part of the learning process" says Hamilton.”
Ok. Indulge me while I take a leap—a fair one if you read the entire context of the article. E&Y auditors trained in Second Life made better auditors. Whether that’s a fair leap to make, well—we can only validate that conclusion with the fact that E&Y continue to work in SL and expand the program.
After all, simulations in immersive 3D environments make perfect sense for corporate training. That’s the way we learn—the way our brains are wired. Other companies and government organizations are doing similar things and I can’t wait to share. Soon.
We all hear about organizations that are working in Second Life--meeting, training, simulating/prototyping, and holding events. But, these stories are often just that--interesting stories that pique your interest. They only hint at the true power of virtual worlds, but rarely deliver real evidence that working in an immersive venue pays off--both in terms of hard cost and softer metrics like collaboration, innovation, and effective teamworking.
Well, if you've ever needed real proof that working inworld works, here it is. This week, we released a joint IBM/Linden Lab case study entitled, "How Meeting In Second Life Transformed IBM’s Technology Elite Into Virtual World Believers." It details two IBM Academy of Technology events that were held inworld that were not only extremely successful, but also saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel and meeting costs. Plus, the teams had the opportunity to meet colleagues across the globe, socialize, and network, too.
Goodbye expensive corporate junkets, Hello virtual meetings.
Ok, I admit it. When I first joined Linden Lab to head up Enterprise Marketing three months ago, I wasn’t 100% convinced that working in virtual worlds really works. I mean, intellectually, immersive environments make perfect sense. We’ve all heard the key messages and I’ve been hard at work writing them. Meeting in Second Life allows global and mobile teams to collaborate in ways that aren’t possible other ways—improves efficiency, creativity, communication, and keeps travel costs in check. But, seriously—does working in the virtual world work?
My first official meeting in Second Life was an important and jarring experience for me—waking me up to how powerful the medium really is. The meeting took place in the Isabel conference room, here at the Battery Lab. The physical conference room—Isabel—has a virtual counterpart that is an exact replica—Virtual Isabel. A camera in Isabel captures what’s happening in the room and displays it in the virtual space. Simultaneously, the participants in Virtual Isabel are projected on the wall of physical Isabel. The result is a seamless experience—two conference spaces, one real and one virtual, merge into one. At first, it was a bit strange, but then I became absorbed into the discussion and the lines between the physical and virtual spaces blended. Then, in Virtual Isabel, I saw someone floating outside the window with a box on his head. What was my first reaction? I looked outside the physical window of the conference room to see if there was really someone floating outside. My colleagues caught me—in a completely confused state about what’s real and what’s virtual–and we all burst out laughing. I learned something very important that day. The virtual medium is extremely powerful and the ‘sense of presence’ is real—and that’s the magic ingredient that makes a meeting truly productive.
To that point, I believe that the only good alternative to virtual meetings is a face-to-face meeting. It would be a hard to argue the teleconference calls or WebEx can create as immersive an experience. I mean, how many wasted hours have we all spent staring at a Polycom or ‘multi-tasking’ (i.e. barely tuning into the meeting) during a WebEx presentation? Don’t remind me.
Video conferencing is increasingly being used as an immersive meeting technology, but there are some psychological aspects that limit its potential. Caleb Booker recently blogged on this very topic. He posits two very interesting theories. First, usually when you’re in a video conference, the camera is zoomed in on the speaker and—unconsciously—we pull back because we feel we’re in a conversation with a ‘close talker.” (Anyone remember that Seinfeld episode? A classic.) He makes the case for virtual worlds and says, “The entire virtual world phenomena works because it accomplishes one simple thing: the perception of space. This is one of the most underestimated and wildly powerful tools of the past decade. Without even needing 3D glasses, a virtual space moves another person’s “presence” to a comfortable distance while still creating a sense that you are somehow physically together.”
His second point is even more compelling. As you know, there are three types of learners—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (or experience-based). The virtual world is a perfect mix that accommodates all three. He says, “Visual folk can look around the room to ’place‘ the voice they’re hearing or the text they’re reading (critical for them if they want to remember anything that happened!). Auditory people can just sit back and chat, occasionally glancing at the typed text. As for the kinesthetic people, well, they’re in absolute heaven.”
In fact, there really isn’t any other collaboration platform that can successfully do all three for distributed teams—except for a physical meeting. And, with travel budgets completely decimated these days, the luxury of a physical meeting is no longer a viable option for day-to-day interactions.
These days, I’m spending at least 2-3 hours a day in Second Life, meeting with my colleagues distributed all over the world—collaborating, brainstorming, learning, and decorating my new office space in LindenWorld. Using Second Life as an enterprise solution is helping us get our enterprise solutions to market smarter, cheaper, and faster than we might otherwise.
Ok, I’m the Marketing gal who drinks my own Kool-Aid—true. But, I’m also a believer, and if you’re not already—you will be, too. Just try it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Hello, this is Madhavi Linden. I work with the Developer Relations team at Linden Lab. The Developer Relations team focuses on creating programs that support the efforts of businesses and individuals who develop, manage and maintain experiences and activities for companies, organizations and communities on the Second Life Grid. Our current offerings are the Solution Provider and Community Gateway programs.
I have been working on the Solution Provider Program for about 18 months. I manage the Solution Provider Directory, work with my team to develop and administer new offerings and provide information and resources to program members. I interact frequently with Solution Providers, learning (always learning!) about their current and upcoming projects, working closely with them to support their efforts and success on the Second Life Grid. I have gotten to know many Solution Providers and have learned much about the excellent work they have done to realize the visions and goals of businesses and organizations who want to develop a presence in Second Life and integrate it into how they work, develop, and succeed.
What are Solution Providers and What Do They Do?
Solution Providers are professional businesses and individuals who work on the Second Life Grid with real-world businesses to create engaging immersive experiences for a wide range of audiences and purposes. They range from Resident-developed businesses to departments of major agencies and web development firms and possess expertise on numerous technical and non-technical aspects of using the Second Life Grid.
Solution Providers provide a wide variety of services and tools for their clients. These services include creating the inworld content and space an organization needs to achieve a compelling experience for the intended audience, organizing and hosting inworld events, providing tools for companies to more effectively measure the ROI of using Second Life, and conducting brand awareness and marketing campaigns.
Solution Providers have helped clients realize their visions for engaging with Second Life through a vast array of projects. Some examples of enterprise projects developed by Solution Providers include developing and managing inworld conferences for companies to engage distributed workforces and reduce travel costs and carbon footprints, hosting discussions with authors on their latest books, conducting brand awareness campaigns through sponsoring inworld events and providing social spaces for Residents, conducting ‘hands-on’ training for employees, and building a compelling space for a university to hold classes for a remote student body.
In the coming months, we will provide information and updates about the Solution Provider Program and highlight some work and projects that Solution Providers have developed on the Second Life Grid.
In the meantime, to learn more about the great projects Solution Providers have developed, please visit the Solution Provider Directory. To learn more about the Solution Provider Program, please visit Join the Solution Provider Program.
Hi there, I'm DJ Linden, a Product Manager at Linden Lab, and am very excited to be focusing on what I consider the largest untapped market for SL, namely the "Enterprise".
I know a lot of SL residents cringe at the prospects of business people invading their virtual eden, but take it as a sign of positive acceptance that virtual worlds are here to stay! Now this doesn't mean that residents don't have a say in the matter, lest we forget the sign waiving protests in 2004, leading to the realization that traditional marketing in SL just doesn't work. We've seen the hype raise, companies that try to ride that wave, and then ultimately leave tail between legs. But my goal here at Linden is not about bringing corporate marketing and advertising to SL, no, I'm all about enabling change in the enterprise, to utilize virtual words as mean for bringing rich social dynamics into a workplace that is growing more sterile and globally distributed each day.
But I digress, first an introduction is in order. Previous to joining Linden at the end of last year, I've only ever had one employer. It just so happened to be 18 years of work, which took me from East Coast to West Coast, and filled with wonderfully smart people that all had a passion for innovating inside the enterprise. Of course I'm speaking about IBM, as where else in this day and age can you find someone that has worked in a single company that long? ; ) My last two years there were the most exciting, being one of the founding members of IBM's Virtual Worlds EBO, and leading an internal charge as the first elected "Guildmaster" to over 3,000 employees (since grown to 5,000) who entered Second Life. So I have a bit of history when it comes to running into every conceivable roadblock trying to deploy and gain acceptance of virtual worlds inside the enterprise.
Speaking of deploy, this is where I'm just as excited to now be working at Linden, as we are preparing a behind the firewall solution for the enterprise! So as you can see, corporate types are not necessarily invading en-masse to the main SL grid, but will likely find value in both these scenarios where it suits there particular needs best. Either way, we will continue to learn and grow together, as a virtual community, taking heed to not trample any virtual roses along the way.
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