Rare audio of both metaverse evangelists on Voices in Business

Roo and I did a podcast the other day. It is a rare thing for us both to be recorded at the same time.
You can listen to it here on Mike O’Hara’s Voicesinbusiness blog.
Just in case you cant tell the difference Roo is the posh sounding one and I am the slightly less posh (or scruffy) sounding one.
We covered a lot in a single take and it was both where all this has come from where it is going and where it is now. So good stuff.
I am not going argue over the billing with Roo first as Mike actually came to see Roo but I had gap appear in the diary so joined in too.

(From mikes blog here is the run down of the timings)
00:12 – Mike O’Hara introduction
00:40 – Start of interview
01:01 – What is a “metaverse evangelist”? (Roo)
02:16 – What is IBM actually doing in virtual worlds? (Ian)
04:35 – Events for IBM’s partners and customers
05:32 – Customer builds and retail opportunities
06:48 – Why should firms take this seriously?
09:21 – The scale issue
11:15 – Human interaction in the 3D environment
13:10 – Mistakes to avoid
15:24 – Demographics
16:01 – Ian’s predictions for the future
20:10 – Roo’s predictions for the future
22:59 – Web 2.0 style of adoption
24:36 – End of interview
24:42 – The Eightbar blog
25:19 – Wrap-up

Grady Booch on Ugotrade

Over on Ugotrade there is a really detailed and interesting post and interview with the great Grady Booch. He is an IBM fellow and one of the most influential people in software engineering. Virtual worlds have become very important to him. The post covers things like Bluegrass, a software development environment using the torque engine and integrated with the Rational tooling.
I was lucky enough to end up at dinner with Grady at the VW San Jose as Eureka DejaVu was having a real life gathering.
Grady’s humble yet worldy wise demeanour reminded me of a post that Scoble made a couple of days ago in Davos where Bono turned up and said “I am a rock star… sort of”.
In the UK there is also an interview with Grady in the British Computer Society magazine entitled the Mighty Booch, which is reference to the comedy show the Mighty Boosh 🙂
We have not covered Bluegrass much yet on Eightbar though we are very close to the team given our shared interest in Torque. So expect more on here soon.

Artificial Life – Timeless style

I bumped into Timeless Prototype the other day in SL. It had been a while. I asked what have you been up to and he answered. Come over and have a look. So I TPed into Primula Risa on Delphic
Timeless (of Multigadget, multichair and the london eye fame) had started an artificial life sim in motion. Svarga is of coure the famous one but Timeless is doing some other interesting things.
The area is full of trees, mushrooms, ornate plants and flowers that all grow before your eyes, much of the flowere work is that of Spiderkitten Mirabeau and Timeless has worked with SK and brought them to life. The positioning and seeding is all in the hands of the weather and of the random flow of seeds that you see fluttering around the place.
The things that initially attracted my attention were the fish that Timeless has created. Not only are they fantasticaly articulated and organic in their swimming motion but whilst we were talking the fish took an interest in us and congregated around the jetty we were on. Timeless days he has seen all sorts of unprogrammed but interesting behaviour as the fish take an interest in their surroundings and each other. He got me to hover in the water and a fish decided to lift me up and ‘rescue me’ clearly not scared of the predator AV 🙂
Having spent a little time watching things grow and happen it is intriguing how much more involved you can feel as the environment changes around you. The fascination of both the simple patterns of nature with the uniqueness of each part of the landscape as things grow and then die to respawn elsewhere is really good.
I know that under the covers there are some intersting pieces of code, but like all good alife it seems simple, the rules are simple, yet it causes (just like simple flocking) a very complex looking and attractive feel.
I have been looking at putting a-life approaches into some of the things we have in our internal metaverse and we have all talked about the growth of plants and other elements. So it is good to be inspired by such a cool build by Timeless.
I am sure he will add some comments with more details and depth, but you can appreciate it this on so many levels, so go and enjoy it 🙂
I took a whole lot of photos and the odd bit of video, I will need to edit the video up and youtube it. In the mean time heres some pictures from Snapzilla.
primula risa
An overview
Mushrooms and flower
Orchid style flower
bell flower
A very pretty golden flower
Those smart fish
The fish
tateru and SK
Algernon and I also bumped into Tateru Nino and SpiderKitten Marabeau in a small valley on the sim too.
The trees grow in front of your eyes
Here is a large one
There are some nice touches like the mist over the lake too.
The entrance
The jetty
more fish
Surfing fish

Augmented Reality head on a platter

Artag has come up again recently in a few posts. I was just getting an older webcam working my laptop so I used Artag to see if it was working ok and did this little render test. In this case with a head model of me generated by cyberextruder from a 2d photo. It looses registration a bit but as I said it was an old camera.

I was also intrigued to see whilst looking for a newer webcam that Logitech have some avatar webcam software. i.e. it responds to your talking movements but overlays or replaces you with a rendered object. I must try this. It would let me use seesmic more as I have not got the hang of small clips to camera yet.

Metaverse Evangelist in a top ten of jobs to have

I was trying not to post too much today and let the discussion run on Roo’s points about the TV ad. However this was both cool and funny as well as shameless self publicity.
The metaverse evangelist role listed with 9 others 🙂 Flavourist, Brewmaster, Sensory Brander, Carbon Coach, Sleep Instructor, Interaction Designer, Roller Coaster Engineer, Animator and Travel Writer
It was interesting that Metaverse ended up in “enhancing life and the bottom line” especially given the recent dicussion on money and that TV ad.

"The point of innovation is to make actual money…"

If you live in the US, you may have seen an IBM advert recently which has been raising a few eyebrows. People are saying things like “the company implies that virtual worlds are a fad and, as a result, a waste of both time and money” and even “The ad is an obvious dig at Second Life“.

I’m not sure. I can see why it looks like that, but I’m not prepared to be annoyed with IBM for damaging its influential position in virtual worlds just yet.

Before I go any further, I should make it clear that I had nothing to do with the making of this ad (if it’s not perfectly clear already, I don’t get asked about things like this <grin>). Additionally, I have not even seen the ad yet, I’ve only read transcripts, so I may be missing some subtle undertones here.

Since I have not watched it, let me allow someone who has watched it to describe it for us

The commercial starts with an employee showing off his avatar to someone else, presumably a boss. The employee is all pumped about how he can conduct business in this virtual world and how he owns an island there. The boss asks if he can make money. The employee responds with something like, “Virtual money or real money?” This sets up the boss’s response that “The point of innovation is to make actual money.”

I’m not sure what to think. Who is the fool here? Is the boss even right? Isn’t innovation about far more than just making money? (Would training and rehearsal count? What about collaboration, recruitment, developer relations, …)

Based on the transcript (tell me if I’m wrong), I think there’s another way of looking at it. What about that ambiguous question: “virtual money or real money”? The implication is that the ’employee’ character can’t use the virtual world to make real money, but everyone who reads Business Week knows that there is real money to be made in virtual worlds. What if the boss actually “gets it” and (unlike the hesitant employee?) knows that real money can be made in virtual worlds, and is pointing this out to him, and us? Suddenly the ad takes on a new perspective.

I’m not at all sure it justifies my broadminded interpretation though, and I’m as annoyed as anyone that the ad might be interpreted as “look. aren’t virtual worlds silly” and perhaps risk undermining IBM’s amazing position in this area. What do you think?

Update: since this post went up, Ogilvy have posted the ads from this campaign to YouTube. Here’s the avatar advert:

More connections, more possibilities

Someone recently showed me this BT advert from 2002: “The more connections we make, the more possibilities we have”.

It’s interesting for many reasons. It nicely sums up the internet of course, but it increasingly reminds me of a popular misconception about virtual worlds.

Yes, the internet is a bit like an auditorium which seats millions of people, and in which we all get a chance to talk to any (and all) of them. But it’s not exactly like it. If we were creating a 3D digital social space (with ooh, let’s say, avatars to represent people) would we actually create a great big auditorium to bring them all together at once? Probably not, no. For the same reason that although large numbers of people may come together for specific events in the real world, the number of connections you can make inside a huge crowd doesn’t scale with the size of the crowd. How many people are you likely to talk to at a sports event, or a music gig, with a thousand people around you? Tens? Hundreds? If the crowd was a million rather than a thousand, would your experience be any better?

The advert itself highlights how ridiculous (though naively adorable and even romantic) the idea of bringing millions of people in one physical space would be, so why is it so easy to obsess about doing the exact same thing with virtual worlds?  IBM is not immune from this, and when the 12 IBM islands were first launched you’ll remember the three large auditoria, capable of holding around 200 people each.

I’m pleased to say that although these spaces are useful, they’re used rarely in comparison to the rest of the IBM territory in Second Life. We rarely even attempt to fill these spaces, perhaps because of a realisation that an even bigger and more scaleable approach is needed. We need to (continue to) concentrate on what works on the web: the idea of multiple ongoing and concurrent conversations, with people picking an area (or even environment) which is most appropriate and interesting to them.

Ian just highlighted this very point in a post about the recent NRF (National Retail Federation) show, in which a custom shopping experience can be dynamically created. I find the idea of small social environments which can be dynamically created much more interesting than huge social environments which attempt to cater to crowds of unmanageable and unlikely sizes.

VR Cave, Second Life and Retail at the NRF

All things virtual featured in the latest NRF retail show. I spent some time talking to my collegue in Second Life a fellow member of eightbar Siobhan Cioc about the Dallas based GSC demo centre.
There is a background story to this that is also of interest to the Web2.0 community trying to establish the value of both blogging and virtual worlds.
I had seen a press release about IBM at NRF. Now that the metaverse acceptence has spread there are too many things and spin off for even us tuned in metaverse evangelists to keep up with. So here is what happened….
I saw the press release and the mention of a CAVE demo. I blogged internally about it to see if anyone had anything. Of course many of the people involved were at the show so that was always going to be a slow burn approach. However the question was out there, what are we doing? Then an article about NRF appeared on our intranet with a link to … yes an NRF blog. I tracked back on the blog entry asking the question again about the SL/Cave piece to try and connect the threads. Sobhan Cioc’s real life presence both replied on my blog and also sametime instant messaged me. We then both dived into our public SL islands where she explained what the project was all about. I listened and also took a small snap of film which I just put on youtube.
Now we have connected, discussed who we know in common, worked out some ways to help one another becuase we both used all the available technology and approaches to connect with one another. Why blog inside a company firewall….. Well there is your answer. We get people connected and questions answered. Some instantly.
I digress (I think I may have turned into Ronnie Corbett)
So the cave project. You may be able to see this here though I am not sure how well the link will work to the fox news item I will post a better one when I find it, this is hot of the press after all.
So just in case here is the explanation with some SL footage.
The team have created a configurable room in SL. The room is HUD controlled. The HUD allows elements in the room, in this case TV’s, Speakers and even the starlit sky above it to be adjusted. This approach has been shown before in various ways, the Circuit City couch and the Sears kitchens over on IBM 10. The difference here though was that the demo was built to specifically integrate with a head mounted display and the booth was build for this sort of interaction to occur.
Yes we have seen 3d rooms in VR before, but the difference here is this is on a public multi user platform. Much of what we saw with VR before was single user or just very expensive. This example was at a general retail conference, mainstream.
Being able to configure an room or a product experience and be able to share it with others, whether they are friends, other people with a vested interest and/or experts from the store or business is a very significant point.
Having a booth with a single SL or metaverse experience is good, but in some ways having multiple headset stations to help people see that someone else is going to join them may have made this more obvious to people that others need to be involved in the process.

I think we will see lots more concrete examples this year both of additional interfaces into virtual worlds, but more importantly interaction with existing enterprise systems such as product fulfilment.
Another thing to consider is scale here. People often worry about how many people can you get in one space, Roo has a good post on the way very soon. Here we have an example that if you are having a personal shopper experience you do not want a huge crowd of thousands around you?

Reality Augmented, Virtually

Wagner James Au has a brilliant post on New World Notes about a project at Georgia Tech called AR Second Life, which integrates Augmented Reality features into the open source Second Life client.

Last summer, Ian blogged here on Eightbar about an experiment with running the ARTag system alongside Second Life, and augmenting SL with additional 3D content, like this…

The Georgia Tech project goes the other way, augmenting the real world with live content from SL. Like this…

It hints at a future in which the lines between virtual worlds and real world will be crossed by more than just the use of a keyboard, mouse and monitor combination. The ability to see and interact with other people in virtual worlds is one of the things that has allowed interest in 3D environments to expand far beyond what we ever saw back in the days of (largely single-user) ‘virtual reality’. Being able to go beyond clunky user interfaces and blend those interactions naturally and intuitively with the real world is something I expect we’ll see a lot more of this year.