Sunday, July 01, 2007

Virtualisations get Second Life Second Wind...

A News Corp article has caught my eye today. Journalist Katja Gaskell discusses the emerging trend of tourism destinations in virtual worlds; either virtual renditions of real-world tourism destinations or new constructions from the imaginations of their creators.

This article reminds me of the first time we saw the emergence of "3D Virtualisations" online - a long time ago, perhaps almost a decade. The technology was called VRML and we all toyed around with the technology to try and create virtual worlds through which avatars could interact. Trouble was, this was pre-broadband and even the fastest modems could provide much else other than a jagged, jerky, low-res experience. (Maybe we watched the Lawnmower Man or Tron a few too many times and just wanted to make it real). We then tried to create the 3D experience through some clever photographic handling. Cameras on special tripods and some clever photo-stitching software created 3D views of houses, hotel rooms and so on.

All of this was driven by the same thing - the desire to break the mould of the traditional presentation of information in a "document based paradigm" of text and still pictures. Sure, the internet added the hyper-link (the ability to connect information) and of course, the store of information we could access would become boundless, but the delivery was still much the same as traditional media.

People though, are sensory beings, and while text and pictures do deliver information, we prefer to use our five senses to provide a more complete understanding of the information we are being presented. One of the "holy grails" of information delivery has been to try and find ways to transform information delivery to a more "sensory rich" form.

I am not suggesting that Second Life achieves this objectives, but it is certainly an interesting first step. The ability to interact with information (and offers of course) in a 3D virtual environment offers a different perspective on the information. To bastardise a cliche, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then an interactive 3D virtualisation might evolve to be worth a thousand pictures. A 3D environment allows us to create new connections between pieces of information and new ways to present the infromation itself. Applications of this concept through environments like Second Life are creating ways in which users can experiment with these concepts and as usual, users are constantly surprising us with their ingenuity and innovation.

I have had the pleasure of speaking at the Creative Exchange Network in Melbourne (and will again this week in Sydney) about Virtual Worlds. Consulting company Mindwerx facilitates regular meetings of the Creative Exchange Network in Australia. The topic of my presentation is not about Second Life itself per se, it is about the changing ways we present information and services. As the bandwidth, processing power, rendering tools and the ability to integrate these to databases and transaction systems continue to improve, the opportunities and applications of rich media and virtualisations will continue to evolve. And it doesn't stop with virtual reality ... get ready for ideas like mixed reality - using technology to augment real-world activities... but more on that another time.

The feedback was fantastic (we had about 45 people attend, so corporate interest in pretty high). Corporations are looking for ways to reach customers in light of the increasing variety of channels and options for entertainment and obviously they will need to understand how rich media and virtualisations will figure in this. It is time to start experimenting and working out how you are going to use these innovations to change the (virtual) world.

1 comment:

rookie66 said...


Glad I caught your CEN talk last night, thanks for a very informative and entertaining presentation.

Your discussion around concepts such as:

 “information in context” being more “valuable”,
 and the challenge of marketing in virtual environments, i.e. “self-presentation” v “real world data”

- provided real food for thought

(Note to other readers - if you get the chance to hear Richard speak – do so!)

Thanks again and sorry for crashing the snow mobile…bang go my chances of getting a job at Hyro!

Regards, Mark Rook