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Posts Tagged ‘second life’

BETT 09 education show lifts spirits with Second Life school and sign language software

January 16th, 2009

BETT – everyone’s favourite education technology show – rolls to a close at London Olympia this weekend.

Still recognised as the biggest and most influential event of its kind, BETT delivers a combination of jaw-dropping developments, together with rock solid applications and kit that deliver genuine advances to education practitioners.

Highlights for me (watching from a busy distance this year) include the use of Second Life to show off a Middlesbrough School that is still being built. The idea is to let parents, pupils and staff to “test drive” the school and flag problems in good time. Construction work on Acklam Grange School has only just got underway, but developers at Middlesbrough City Learning Centre have created an exact representation of what it will look like in Second Life.

The idea is for teachers, pupils, and governors to see exactly what the new school will look like, familiarising themselves with the layout and spotting any potential problems before the building goes up.

There’s a good video on the virtual school on You Tube.

Second highlight of the week – support for the UK’s fourth official language – BSL (British Sign Language) in the stunning form of Phoneme Machine 6 software.

The Phoneme Machine uses human lips to pronounce the sounds (phonemes) in hundreds of frequently used English words and in the Cued Speech option, which can be turned on and off, the shapes, positions and movements of the hands are displayed alongside the moving human lips, with the cueing for each of the 500 basewords of English demonstrated in a video box. Utterly brilliant! It was launched at BETT by Malcolm Bruce MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness.

So, there we are… right in the midst of a Winter of Dismal Downturn, uplifting evidence that at least part of the future is in safe hands.

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Google Lively shuts as there is no second life for flat virtual worlds

November 25th, 2008

So farewell, then, Google Lively. Six months into development and soon (December 31) the virtual world is to be no more.

A deluge of news and opinion, and not a few blogs, have followed the announcement this week and from my scattered reading focussed on the economics and cultural reasons for the search company’s decision.

Google has made so many good calls in its 10 years that it’s weird to think it could make a bad one. But in the case of Lively, it does appear to have burnt considerable cash and resources on the construction of a useless product.

In the few times I ventured into Lively, there was an overpowering sense of pointlessness, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t a manifestation of mid-life crisis because my mood lifted as soon as I exited the virtual world.

Maybe at the root of this is an indication of what virtual worlds must have to thrive – a sense of belonging, of purpose, of achievement and, whisper it quietly, a sense of fun. I don’t think that these are easy elements to conjure up in a virtual world (and I did try to build one commercially some time ago) but without them, there really is no point in construction.

The knives are out now for Second Life but at least that environment does offer some of these key elements, albeit in a clunky, steam-punk style (without the Gothic class). We can watch SL fight for survival and keep an eye out for Sony’s Home - and gaze with mild disenchantment at the XBox Experience… but also remember that virtual worlds are still very little to do with state-of-the-art 3D and much more about a gentle ecstasy, joy or something close to that.

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Second Life and second coming for virtual worlds

November 17th, 2008

I was trolling around a couple of old-fashioned virtual reality worlds over the weekend – the print versions of Guardian and Observer newspapers. Sometimes I really enjoy the different pace and mindset of reading print. I’ll be careful not to stretch the virtual world simile too far with these newspapers, though it did feel a little like that, wandering through editorial constructions of the worlds we live in.

Anyway, virtuality has surfaced again in press agendas with the Second Life divorce story that Mark Lawson commented on in Saturday’s Guardian. and Victor Keegan’s full-page Observer Focus on the “virtual revolution”  the next day. Lawson warned about the emotional damage that could be caused in the real world from actions taken in a fantasy environment. Keegan wrote on the explosion of virtual worlds and the potential impact on real economies.

It was good to have the views of these two significant commentators so close together, with Lawson’s edgy assertion that popular culture needed to come to terms with the fact that fantasy actions have real emotional consequences balanced with Keegan’s economic perspective. Keegan warned that developing economies, particularly China, were building truly massive online 3D environments with the aim of luring customers in the developed economies to try then buy goods cheaply at source – collapse of middleman markets. A scary prospect but one that still has to wrestle with the realities of sub-prime service delivery, leading to lag, crashes and “unforeseen effects” (hardly conducive to making a sale, or for that matter, a “positive brand experience”) .

While Lawson confined his view to Second Life and reality TV, hooked around the suicide of an X Factor contestant in the US, Keegan named the usual suspects (SL, Entropia, Runescape) in his top picks, along with newcomers Twinity and Football Superstars. Keegan also made much of the European innovation and entrepreneurial spirit embodied in all the above, with the exception of SL and also doffed his cap to the Euro brilliance of Habbo, even stretching the Eurozone to include World of Warcraft (owned by French company Vivendi!)

At the risk of being unpatriotic, I could also mention Metaplace. I think this virtual space has everything – except an opening for me as a beta tester! It’s an open platform (world first?) that people can use to build their own virtual environments. The vision is to build a network of worlds, an ecosystem of business, education and pleasure. And the visionaries are Raph Koster, who you may know as former Sony Online Chief Creative Officer and author of one of my favourite manuals, “A Theory of Fun for Games”. He has easily completed his 10,000 hours required to become a Master in a given discipline (Malcolm Gladwell). Co-founder John Donham (also qualifying as a 10,000-hours Master) has helped to bring to fruition, among others, Everquest and Star Wars Galaxies. And investors include Mark Andreesson – another of my heroes. To cap it all, one of the advisors is Dr Richard Bartle, one of the most astute commentators on virtuality I’ve met.

I just begin to sense that the virtual universe has expanded again and moved out of the darker side that saw SL sign-ups fade away and investors lose their taste for these types of projects. And that is going to be good news for brands who want to find more routes to engaging with customers – and great news for those of us who love the sheer joy of a virtual world that connects and clicks.

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Pulic Relations in Virtual Worlds

May 27th, 2008

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As part of the social media mix, how do PR agencies engage in virtual worlds?

Text100’s optimistic, if slightly aged, view is that virtual worlds are an essential part of the social network – and will grow in importance over the next few years.

A more sanguine views from brand communications agency Cow suggests there are opportunities but also current issues that make engagement in virtual worlds like Second Life problematic for agencies.
We’ve seen a few PR companies working in SL including: Text 100, Leo Burnett, crayon, Edelman, GSD&M, Lewis PR and Press Dispensary. Measuring the effectiveness of their engagement is a fuzzy process.

Recently, senior Second Life residents voted to ban PR from their environment (over-zealous marketers) but are still discussing exactly how to do that!

However, management consulting firm McKinsey & Company reports that virtual worlds are on the cusp of a major expansion – particularly as a way to reach younger customers – and that companies were “ignoring them at their peril.”

I wonder if there will be a second coming for worlds like Second Life – and with that, opportunities for PR agencies to engage. My experience of them has been largely negative – and recent upgrades in Second Life have not changed that view. But Second Life’s in-world economy is growing at 15 percent annually with user hours, concurrency, and economic transactions all showed robust growth.

Against that there’s been a recent slowing in Second Life new account sign-ups. In March only 408,000 new accounts were created, the smallest gain in absolute numbers since September 2007, and the smallest monthly percent gain since Second Life’s debut in April 2001. Second Life shed 1,656 paid accounts in March, the fourth month in a row more people got out of the land trade than entered it. Total premium accounts stand at 89,875, below last summer’s 94,607 peak.

Estimates of active users also vary from 500,000 to 11.7 million (total accounts: 13million).

Right now, there may be up to 20 virtual world companies developing in stealth mode. They may see the light in the Autumn at the Virtual Worlds shows in San Francisco and London. Multiverse has just released a platform upgrade that gives developers the choice to build worlds in 3D or 2D Flash.
And Apple’s iPhone games initiative opens up the potential for 2D/3D mobile social spaces.

At the younger end of the market, Habbo Hotel remains the benchmark. There are currently Habbo communities in 32 countries on six continents. To date, more than 94 million Habbo characters have been created globally and 9.5 million unique users worldwide visit Habbo each month (source: Google Analytics). The average Habbo user spends nearly 40 minutes on the site per visit.

In-game advertising company Double Fusion signed up recently to manage interactive brand campaigns with retail, fashion and sports companies in US. Over 200 advertisers have used Habbo globally – in-game billboards, contests, interstitials and instant-console messaging, customized brand rooms, sponsored quests.

Right now, I think that my advice to brands would be to watch and wait for Web 3.0, where hopefully the current technical and cultural dislocations in virtual worlds will have been resolved. Meanwhile, we could be thinking through exactly how to advise and engage when the time is right.

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Second Life resource list – is it still a good place to build brand?

April 15th, 2008

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As you know Liberate Media is a big believer in sharing, and today we will be passing on our in-depth Second Life research and resource list to you.

You will find enough resources here to decide weather Second Life is a legitimate and effective way of highlighting your company’s profile or not. Leading brands like Coca Cola continue to have a presence in this virtual world, but this doesn’t mean that they’ve got it right!

For me I’m still not sure, and you hear very little about Second Life these days! However, having said that Reuters has a Second Life news centre which is bang up to date.

Overview

Second Life on Wikipedia

Starting your Second Life

My Virtual LifeA journey into a place in cyberspace where thousands of people have imaginary lives.

Second Life Businesses

7 tips for real-world businesses in Second Life

Second Life: It’s not a game – Tech leaders think Second Life could be a gold mine

Five Rules For Bringing Your Real-Life Business Into Second Life

Armani in Second Life

Second life Brands map

Coca Cola Launches Second Life Contest for New Coke Machine

Dell Island in Second Life

Other Second Life posts

Lots to do in Second Life – events board

Reuters Second Life News

Mashables Second Life Tool Box

Virtual Worlds Poised to Become Valuable Work Tools

Video Tutorials – Second Life Wiki

Second Life Education Wiki

SecondLife.com – 5 Worst Websites – TIME

Second Life Herald – virtual world news blog

C4 Second Lives – Find out more about the people living in Second Life

Twitterbox – a Twitter Client for Second Life

Second Life Profiles, the ONLY dedicated online community for Second Life players

We are always looking to add good research or resources to our research/resource archive – please let us know of other any other useful Second Life posts we can add.

We would also be interested to hear how your company is using Second Life and if you think it is still a useful brand building tool…


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