Alcatel-Lucent turns to Second Life competition for crowdsourcing effort2007-11-16
Marketers have been piling on Second Life, decrying its uselessness as a marketing channel. In general, they’re responding to their own efforts, or those of others that have generated some attention, usually characterized by the purchase of an island on which a building is constructed that nobody occupies and where nothing happens. When the investment fails to produce huge results, the marketers proclaim the 3D virtual world a barren venue.
(Related: Joe Jaffe has listed 10 reasons why marketers hate Second Life.)
While these marketers and their allies in the media dismiss Second Life, some companies have figured out that the virtual world can produce value. The trick is not to build a virtual edifice to the company’s greatness, but to figure out how to interact with Second Life residents in a way they’d want to be interacted with.
The latest company to take this step is Alcatel-Lucent, a provider of mobile voice, data, and video communication solutions. The company recently launched a contest in Second Life, inviting residents to dream up wireless devices and applications they foresee working in 2017. That’s when Alcatel-Lucent thinks access access to “virtually unlimited capacity” will be available on always-on networks. The bit in quotes comes from the press release, which also says…
Participants are encouraged to unleash their creativity and join Alcatel-Lucent on an exploration of the future of user-friendly devices and multi-media applications that deliver content and communications to people whenever, wherever and however they want to receive them.
Alcatel-Lucent has made a “sandbox” area available to residents, repete with application development tools and user interfaces residents can use to shape their ideas for the upcoming 4G services standard. Entrants are encouraged to submit one or more design prototypes for use in Second Life, such as gadtets, heads-up displays, wearable communications devices, and so on. The deadline for entries is December 1 and must be submitted at the submissions display at the Main Plaza of Alcatel-Lucent’s SL site. (The competition has been going on since late October, but I just learned about it.)
Yes, Alcatel-Lucent does have an island, but they’re using it for events and activities that some residents may actually want to attend. In fact, when I dropped by to grab a screen shot of the competition, an employee was there to answer my questions and offered to get someone to email an image to me. Smart!
Some may scoff at the competition as a way to get someone else to do Alcatel-Lucent’s development for them. In fact, co-creation and crowdsourcing are concepts that make a lot of sense for this kind of product development effort. Entrants, after all, would be showing Alcatel-Lucent what they want, giving the company a clear sense of what kinds of products might succeed in the 4G marketplace. And there’s something in it for the winner, too, although the prize of 50,000 Lindens strikes me as a bit light, especially compared to the 500,000 Linden prize Coca-Cola awarded in its Virtual Thirst design competition.
Still, it’s a far better approach to tapping into the virtual world’s potential than erecting a structure and waiting for people to visit. It also affords Alcatel-Lucent the opportunity to experiment now, while fewer people are watching, then five or six years from now when much of the World Wide Web will likely have evolved into a SL-like virtual world environment.