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Posts in category 'Virtual world'

28 June 2007

Yaniv Steiner launches Wikipedia in Second Life

Brunel University
Say a term or a word, and the ring will search it in wikipedia, getting the information directly to your second life ear.

Yaniv Steiner, Experientia’s director of R&D, has been working (together with some of our other collaborators) on Feedamass, a new application that can take information from Wikipedia, Google Definitions, and what not, and send it in a clear text format to almost anything. In other words, you ask a question and Feedamass answers it immediately, e.g. as a text message on your mobile phone. Now it has been implemented in Second Life.

Feedamass, the “know-it-all” sidekick that fetches information to nearly any device, is also eligible to function on virtual spaces as well. Second Life, for instance. Its services might be needed not just in the real world, but habitantes of online communities, and their aliases, might also find it useful to have answers “whispered in their ears”.

From word definitions to encyclopedic entries, from “what’s ‘Gesundheit’ in spanish” to “how to change my avatar’s hair-style”, Simulated characters will surely encounter the necessity to know stuff. And just as people employ Feedamass to retrieve content as SMS to their mobile-phones, as an example, web entities might also like to send out for data, without leaving the screen.

Feedamass can manifest itself on different interfaces. It can be part of a toolbar, or a HUD (Head Up Display), just like it is able to take the form of a chatting contact on an IM application, or an E-mail address to where queries are sent.

- Read more
View video

11 April 2007

How Second Life changes customer service

PA Consulting in Second Life
The virtual world could become the first point of contact between companies and customers and could transform the whole experience, writes Jo Best on Silicon.com.

“Some [companies] believe Second Life could one day become a first point of contact for customers.

Like many other big brands, PA Consulting has its own offices in Second Life and has learnt that simply having an office to answer customer queries is not enough. Real people, albeit behind avatars, must be staffing the offices – in the same way having a website is not enough if there isn’t a call centre to back it up when a would-be customer wants to speak to a human being. In future, the consultants believe call centres could one day ask customers to follow up a phone call with them by moving the query into a virtual world.

And hanging around in Second Life is more fun than being stuck on hold. [...]

However, currently Second Life and its imitators remain relatively niche in usage terms and have their own technology boundaries – not all consumers, particularly the older community, have the tech savvy or indeed the hardware necessary to make use of virtual worlds.”

Read full story (mirrored on Business Week)

12 March 2007

Next step for games: social networking [San Jose Mercury News]

Playstation@Network
“Running throughout last week’s Game Developers Conference was the theme that the industry wants to help create better social experiences for gamers,” writes Dean Takahashi in the Mercury News. “Developers are trying to mimic popular sites like MySpace, which enable members to express themselves in their own Web sites and create social networks with friends.”

“While I’m not sure any one company has this figured out, all the chatter clearly shows that everyone thinks there is a gold mine for those who can combine games and social networks. [...]

This is happening because people in modern society are suffering from the “lost village” syndrome, says Trip Hawkins, the CEO of cell phone game maker Digital Chocolate and founder of Electronic Arts.

Hawkins’ theory: We’re all basket cases because we no longer live in closely-knit villages. People reside among strangers in big cities far from families, work away from home, and don’t know their neighbors. To him, we’re all desperately using technology to restore or extend our social networks so we won’t be isolated anymore.”

In conclusion: “Game consoles have penetrated only about half the homes in the country. Maybe social networking will get everybody involved.” Remains to be seen, I might add.

Read full story

10 March 2007

Experiencing love in games [BBC]

Peter Molyneux
Veteran designer Peter Molyneux has said that he wants to put love into his next game, Fable 2, reports technology editor Darren Waters on the BBC News website.

“This is my bold claim – I need you to experience something in Fable that you as gamers have never experienced before,” he declared.

Gamers will be able to start a family and watch their child grow over time.

Emotional reactions to gaming, such as love, fear and even empathy, remain the holy grail for many developers.

“Everybody is talking about emotion, story, engagement and narrative,” Mr Molyneux said. “We have tried to approach it in a different way. We are going to explore love.”

Read full story

25 February 2007

Mobile talk moves to Web 2.0 [BBC]

Mobile 2.0
“The social networking craze has seen phone manufacturers, network operators and big internet names announce various tie-ins to give users access to their own content,” writes Spencer Kelly, presenter of the Click Online tv programme, on the BBC website.

“Blogging on the internet is different from blogging on the mobile,” said chief executive Paddy Holahan of Newbay, a company that provides mobile networks with servers and back-end support for picture and video uploads. “The mobile user is more likely to take a picture or a video and upload it, because he’s got a cameraphone in his hands. The internet blogger is more likely to type because he’s got a keyboard in his hand. [Therefore] mobile tends to be much more about your lifestyle; internet blogging tends to be much more about your opinions, politics, things like that.”

The virtual world Second Life currently seems to represent the cutting edge of the idea of Web 2.0, populated as it is by user-generated characters, buildings and businesses.

IBM’s private Second Life play area is a kind of “thought lab” where the company is trying out methods to combine Web 2.0 and mobile devices in a more homogenous way. IBM’s master inventor Zygmunt Lozinski explained his vision does not simply involve accessing Second Life from your phone – it involves using your mobile as a bridge between the virtual world and the real world.

Read full story

23 February 2007

Business Week on user-driven innovation

Dell Ideastorm
Dell’s new IdeaStorm is just one example of how forward-thinking companies are making their customers co-creators or ‘prosumers’, argue Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams in Business Week.

Michael Dell recently launched IdeaStorm where he is “asking his customers for advice on how to improve Dell (DELL) products in hopes that their collective wisdom will offer some unique insights that will help turn the company around. [...]

Dell told us that he sees customer-driven innovation like this as the linchpin of his strategy for Dell 2.0. “We need to think differently about the market and engage our customers in almost everything we do,” he says. “It’s a key to us regaining momentum as a technology industry leader. [...]

In [this] new model, customers participate in the creation of products in an active and ongoing way. They do more than customise or personalise; they add value throughout the product life cycle, from ideation and design through aftermarket opportunities. Increasingly, customer-driven production is at the heart of some of the most innovative products and services around—from the user-generated content on MySpace, Flickr, and YouTube to customer-created advertising campaigns to virtual communities such as Second Life, in which “players” create all of the game content, own their intellectual property, and even provide volunteer customer support.”

Tapscott and Williams conclude that “the opportunity to bring customers into the enterprise as co-creators of value presents one of the most exciting, long-term engines of change and innovation that the business world has seen. But innovation processes will need to be fundamentally reconfigured if businesses are to seize the opportunity.”

Don Tapscott is chief executive of New Paradigm, a technology and business think tank, and the author of 11 books about information technology in business and society, including Paradigm Shift, The Digital Economy, and Growing Up Digital. His recent book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything is a New York Times bestseller. Anthony D. Williams is an author, researcher and former lecturer at the London School of Economics. He is vice-president and executive editor at New Paradigm and co-author of Wikinomics.

Read full story

22 February 2007

Social networking for 9-year olds [Newsweek]

MyFirst MySpace
“Club Penguin is a leader among a tidal wave of new community Web sites designed specifically for tweens and even younger kids: think of it as MySpace in braces,” writes Brian Braiker in Newsweek.

“At Club Penguin, which launched in October 2005 and had 4 million unique visitors in January, according to comScore Media Metrix, your 8- to 14-year-old can waddle through a virtual world as a flightless waterfowl, interacting with other penguins of her choice. Registration is free, but if junior wants to decorate her penguin’s igloo or use other advanced features on the site, you’ll need to pay a $5.95 monthly membership. And Club Penguin is just the tip of the iceberg.

A new site designed for the skinned-knee demographic seems to pop up nearly every day. Their potential market is huge: there are some 28.5 million kids between the ages of 8 and 14 in the United States, according to emarketer.com. A 2006 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey found that an equal 38 percent of both male and female teens aged 12 to 14 use MySpace (even though the site’s age cutoff is 14) or some other social-networking site.”

Sites featured: Club Penguin, Whyville, Habbo, Imbee, Tweenland, Webkinz, Nicktropolis, and Disney Xtreme Digital.

Read full story

16 February 2007

User research in a different world

Second Life
Adaptive Path, the US experience design consultancy, was recently contacted by Linden Labs, the creators of Second Life, “with a question about how they can improve certain aspects of the ‘in-world’ experience.”

But since Adaptive Path (like Experientia), starts each design challenge with a research and discovery phase, working with Second Life users presented unique and complex challenges.

The users here were “people in a different place and, quite literally, a different world.”

“So, how do we approach this project? Well, since our users are residents in this world, we think it will be good to work with them in-world. Speak with them in the environment in which they live. Ask questions and do research totally immersed in the surroundings that they care about and work hard at creating and maintaining.”

Read full story

10 February 2007

Europe takes lead in Second Life [Reuters]

Reuters Second Life
“Europeans make up the largest block of Second Life residents with more than 54 percent of active users in January ahead of North America’s 34.5 percent, according to new Linden Lab data,” as reported on Reuters/Second Life.

“U.S. residents made up only 31.2 percent of active Second Life users in the month. France has the second-highest number of users after the virtual world became a battleground for the country’s presidential election.

Although French residents had long been a part of Second Life, thousands more joined Second Life in January as demonstrators picketed the virtual offices of Jean Marie Le Pen’s far-right National Front party. Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal also established a Second Life presence.”

Read full story

(via Loic Le Meur)

5 February 2007

Internet boom in China is built on virtual fun [International Herald Tribune]

Pony Ma, whose real name is Ma Huateng, at Tencent's headquarters in Shenzhen
Instant messaging, game-playing and social networking online are major obsessions, now central to Chinese culture, reports The International Herald Tribune.

“While America’s Internet users send e-mail messages and surf for information on their personal computers, young people in China are playing online games, downloading video and music into their cellphones and MP3 players and entering imaginary worlds where they can swap virtual goods and assume online personas.

Another distinguishing feature is the youthful face of China’s online community. In the United States, roughly 70 percent of Internet users are over the age of 30; in China, it is the other way around — 70 percent of users here are under 30, according to the investment bank Morgan Stanley.

Because few people in China have credit cards or trust the Internet for financial transactions, e-commerce is emerging slowly. But instant messaging and game-playing are major obsessions, now central to Chinese culture. So is social networking, a natural fit in a country full of young people without siblings.

[This] is one reason America’s biggest Internet companies, like Yahoo, Google and eBay, have largely flopped in China. Analysts say the American companies struggle here partly because of regulatory restrictions that favor homegrown companies, but also because foreign companies often do not understand China’s Internet market, which is geared primarily to entertainment and mobile phones.”

Read full story

30 January 2007

Nickelodeon begins a web site focusing on interactive play [The New York Times]

Nicktropolis
“Nickelodeon, the popular children’s cable network, is pushing hard into the online world with Nicktropolis.com, a new Web site that will let its young users enter their own world of Internet activities,” writes Geraldine Fabrikant in The New York Times.

“The web site, which is to be activated today, is aimed at children ages 6 to 14, and plays heavily to their appetite for games, the company said yesterday.

Nickelodeon was prompted to join the surging world of online activities for children in part by research that showed that 86 percent of 8- to 14-year-olds were playing games online, more than 51 percent were watching TV shows and videos online and 37 percent were sending instant messages, the company said.

In virtual worlds like Nicktropolis, visitors create alter egos — termed avatars — which then interact with other avatars and the web site environment, like people do in the physical world.”

Read full story

21 January 2007

IBM launches MySpace-like tools for companies [International Herald Tribune]

IBM
“IBM is planning to introduce a set of social software tools Monday that will bring the kind of blogging, idea-sharing and war-story-swapping typically associated with sites like MySpace to the corporate world,” writes Laurie J. Flynn in the International Herald Tribune.

“Called Lotus Connections, the new software, which should be available to companies this year, will let employees set up virtual worlds in which they can meet like-minded colleagues within the company and exchange ideas with them, all in the name of improving productivity.”

“The idea, said the IBM vice president for social software, Jeff Schick, is to ‘unlock the latent expertise in an organization’.” [...]

“Lotus Connections has five components — activities, communities, dogear, profiles and blogs — aimed at helping experts within a company connect and build new relationships based on their individual needs.

The profiles component, for example, lets users search for people by name, expertise or keyword. The program then not only provides contact information and reporting structure details, but also lists blogs, communities, activities and bookmarks associated with the person.

Inside IBM, employees have been using a prototype of the profiles feature for the past few years, and 450,000 profiles of IBM employees are stored there.

IBM Research, the company’s laboratory arm, has long had an interest in social networking, with several projects under way within Second Life, for example, the virtual world that allows people to communicate in a three-dimensional universe.”

- Read full story
Somewhat longer article in Reuters

UPDATE:
IBM itself seems to have already changed the name of this new tool. The press release calls it Lotus Quickr rather than Lotus Connections.

9 January 2007

Enlarging the Davos Conversation

World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum will be using new Web applications to extend the discussions at the Annual Meeting 2007 (Davos, Switzerland, 24-28 January – summary programme) to a much wider audience.

Held under the theme Shaping the Global Agenda: The Shifting Power Equation, the debates and discussions at the Meeting will be open to the general public via traditional broadcast channels, but also via webcasts, podcasts and for the first time, vodcasts.

Internet users can field questions to participants via blogs and videoblogs and selected participants will be interviewed live in the virtual world of Second Life. As in previous years, all participants are encouraged to take part in the Forum’s blog to participate in the Davos Conversation – and this year a range of bloggers will contribute their thoughts to the discussions.

“There’s much talk about the hype surrounding Web 2.0 and whether there really is a sea change in how the Internet is delivering to Web users – but what is for sure is how many new opportunities we are getting to enlarge the Davos conversation and to include a far wider group of people both at the Annual Meeting and in the wider world to a truly global audience,” said Mark Adams, Director, Head of Communications.

Read full story (also here)

14 December 2006

Philips Design on sustainability and the virtual world

Chulha stove
The January 2007 issue of ‘new value by One Design’ (what’s up with that name?), the quarterly magazine of Philips Design, is devoted to articles on sustainability and the virtual world. Some highlights:

Helping 400 million people give up smoking
The article provides background and insight on the design and development of the Chulha smokeless stove, a wood-burning stove primarily aimed at people living at very low income in India. Senior Product Designer Karma Lendup Bhutia reflects further on how Philips Design is striving to fully understand and address the needs of emerging markets.

Taking on a Second Life
Philips Design is entering Second Life, as reported earlier, to co-design new products and propositions with Second Life residents, testing virtual ideas and concepts to better understand what people may value. Justin Bovington of the virtual design agency Rivers Run Red, a Philips partner, shares his perspective on the partnership.

30 November 2006

Philips enters Second Life to co-create with end users

Philips in Second Life
Philips Design is entering Second Life, the imaginary, on-line community, “to gain feedback on innovation concepts, engage residents in co-creation and obtain a deeper understanding of potential opportunities in this virtual environment”.

From the press release:

“Philips Design will have a space on Second Life where virtual concepts can be tested and residents can participate in co-design projects. In this way, Second Life users can have a greater say in the kind of colors, ergonomics, functionality and other features of products they may wish to buy in this virtual world. This will allow Philips Design to find new ways of relating to end users. Having such direct feedback can significantly enrich the design process and lead to innovative and surprising end results. This fits with the Philips Design philosophy that design should be based around people and grounded in research. It also corresponds to Philips Design’s firm belief that the future of design lies in the co-creation of products.”

Philips Design has just signed a collaboration agreement with Rivers Run Read, the leading virtual world design agency in Europe, to establish a Philips Design presence within Second Life conceived as “a collaborative working space for the real and virtual worlds”.

Read full press release

26 November 2006

Participatory media and the pedagogy of civic participation

Howard Rheingold
Participatory Media And The Pedagogy Of Civic Participation – The Transformation Of Education And Democracy: A Presentation by Howard Rheingold

“Participatory media is changing the way we communicate, engage with media and each other and even our approaches to teaching and learning.”

“The generation of digital natives – those that have grown up immersed in digital media – take all of this for granted. There is nothing strange, new or even transformative about the interactive, participative landscape of blogging, social networking and Web 2.0 Read/Write media for them. This is the very starting point, the background canvas on which they live their lives.”

“The promise of participatory media is a democratic media, and a media that strengthens our democratic rights in concrete terms. Howard Rheingold has written extensively about the very real uses people have put mobile and digital media to in fighting street level battles over concrete issues. In his 2002 bestseller Smart Mobs, he writes about the ways that these technologies have been put to use in online collaboration, direct political action and the lives of young people across the planet.”

“But can the use of these emergent socially networked technologies transcend entertainment and personal expression, and push us forward towards an engaged, empowered democracy?”

In his recent lecture The Pedagogy of Civic Participation, which took place in the 3D virtual world Second Life on the NMC Campus, Howard Rheingold asks this very question.

In this special feature, which was published on the blog of Rome, Italy-based Robin Good, Good has divided Howard Rheingold’s presentation into several audio files, and brought together the key points and questions discussed. You can listen to the original verbal presentation delivered for each key point or browse through the summary notes he has posted next to each.

Rheingold’s lecture was part of the MacArthur Foundation‘s series on Digital Media and Learning, a ”five-year, $50 million digital media and learning initiative to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialise and participate in civic life.”

Read full story

6 October 2006

Schools and universities setting up shop in Second Life [USA Today]

Universities in Second Life
“Some 60 schools and universities have set up shop inside Second Life — most in the past year,” writes Gregory M. Lamb in USA Today. “They join a population that includes real-world business people, politicians, entertainers, and more than 800,000 other ‘residents’ of the virtual world.”

“For the first time this fall, a Harvard University class is meeting on its own ‘Berkman Island’ within Second Life (SL). ‘Avatars,’ visual images that represent the students and teachers, gather in an ‘outdoor’ amphitheater, head inside a virtual replica of Harvard Law School’s Austin Hall, and travel to complete assignments all over the digital world.”

“Some 90 Harvard law and extension school students taking the course, called ‘CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion,’ can receive real college credit. But anyone on Earth with a computer connection can also take the course for free. Students are participating from as far away as South Korea and China.”

Read full story

1 October 2006

Living a second life [The Economist]

Second Life
“Second Life is not a game,” writes The Economist this week. “Admittedly, some residents—there were 747,263 as of late September, and the number is growing by about 20% every month—are there just for fun. They fly over islands, meander through castles and gawk at dragons. But increasing numbers use Second Life for things that are quite serious. They form support groups for cancer survivors. They rehearse responses to earthquakes and terrorist attacks. They build Buddhist retreats and meditate.”

“By emphasising creativity and communication, Second Life is different from other synthetic online worlds. Most ‘massively multi-player online role-playing games’, or MMORPGs (pronounced ‘morpegs’), offer players pre-fabricated or themed fantasy worlds. Second Life, by contrast, was designed from inception for a much deeper level of participation.”

“Unlike other virtual worlds, which may allow players to combine artefacts found within them, Second Life provides its residents with the equivalent of atoms—small elements of virtual matter called ‘primitives’—so that they can build things from scratch.”

“Because everything about Second Life is intended to make it an engine of creativity, Linden Lab, the San Francisco firm that launched Second Life commercially three years ago, early on decided that residents should own the intellectual property inherent in their creations. Second Life now allows creators to determine whether the stuff they conceive may be copied, modified or transferred. Thanks to these property rights, residents actively trade their creations.”

Second Life’s total devotion to what is fashionably called ‘user-generated content’ now places it, unlike other MMORPGs, at the centre of a trend called Web 2.0. This term usually refers to free online services delivered through a web browser—for example, social networks in which users blog and share photos. Second Life is not delivered through a web browser but through its own software, which users need to install on their computers. In other respects, however, it is now often held up as the best example of Web 2.0.”

“Second Life is also attracting the attention of corporations and advertisers from the real world hoping to attract the metaverse’s residents. Publishers now organise book launches and readings in Second Life. The BBC has rented an island, where it holds music festivals and parties. Sun Microsystems is preparing to hold in-world press conferences, featuring avatars of its top executives. Wells Fargo, an American bank, has built a branded ‘Stagecoach’ island, where avatars can pull Linden dollars out of a virtual cash machine and learn about personal finance. Starwood, a hotel and resort chain, is unveiling one of its new hotels in the virtual world.”

“Toyota is the first carmaker to enter Second Life. It has been giving away free virtual vehicles of its Scion brand and, in October, will start selling all three Scion models. Toyota really hopes that an ‘aftermarket’ develops as avatars customise their cars and sell them on, thus spreading the brand ‘virally’. Toyota will be able to observe how avatars use the cars and might, conceivably, even get ideas for engineering modifications in the real world.”

Read full story

5 September 2006

How computer gamers experience the game situation: a behavioral study

Doom, one of the games that defined the first-person shooter genre
Very little is known about computer gamers’ playing experience. Most social scientific research has treated gaming as an undifferentiated activity associated with various factors outside the gaming context.

This article considers computer games as behavior settings worthy of social scientific investigation in their own right and contributes to a better understanding of computer gaming as a complex, context-dependent, goal-directed activity.

The results of an exploratory interview-based study of computer gaming within the “first-person shooter” (FPS) game genre are reported. FPS gaming is a fast-paced form of goal-directed activity that takes place in complex, dynamic behavioral environments where players must quickly make sense of changes in their immediate situation and respond with appropriate actions. Gamers’ perceptions and evaluations of various aspects of the FPS gaming situation are documented, including positive and negative aspects of game interfaces, map environments, weapons, computer-generated game characters (bots), multiplayer gaming on local area networks (LANs) or the internet, and single player gaming.

The results provide insights into the structure of gamers’ mental models of the FPS genre by identifying salient categories of their FPS gaming experience. It is proposed that aspects of FPS games most salient to gamers were those perceived to be most behaviorally relevant to goal attainment, and that the evaluation of various situational stimuli depended on the extent to which they were perceived either to support or to hinder goal attainment. Implications for the design of FPS games that players experience as challenging, interesting, and fun are discussed.

- Read comment by Nicolas Nova
Go to article download page

16 August 2006

The Serious Games Initiativew

Serious Games
The Serious Games Initiative is focused “on uses for games in exploring management and leadership challenges facing the public sector. Part of its overall charter is to help forge productive links between the electronic game industry and projects involving the use of games in education, training, health, and public policy.”

The website, which is really a blog, was developed by David Rejeski, director of the Foresight and Governance Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., and Ben Sawyer, president of Digitalmill, Inc. a Portland, ME based consultancy.

On the Wilson Centre website — which strangely enough doesn’t provide a link back to the Serious Games Initiative website — you can read an interesting article by David Rejeski where he argues that there should be a public sector body to make video games in the same way that PBS or the BBC makes radio and television. This body, which Rejeski calls “Corporation for Public Gaming”, “would operate on a model similar to its broadcasting equivalent, providing grants to develop a diversity of games for the public good.” In other words its goal would be “to provide high-quality games, which ‘inform, enlighten and enrich the public.”

Sawyer was also the volunteer producer of the first Serious Games Summit held at the 2004 Game Developers’ Conference. The 2006 Serious Games Summit is “the premier professional conference for the creators and commissioners of serious games, [focused on] the use of interactive games technology within non-entertainment sectors”. The Summit is organised by Jamil Moledina of the tech marketing company CMP. Moledina and CMP are also in charge of the Game Developers’ Conference.

(via my business partner Jan-Christoph Zoels and Anne Galloway of Ottawa’s Carleton University)