Despite diminished interest, Second Life keeps attracting business2008-08-25
You don’t read too much any more about Second Life in the communications corner of the blogosphere. Early clumsy efforts by companies to market real-world products in Second Life mostly bit the dust, leading pundits to dismiss it—and other virtual worlds—as a venue for gamers and the socially inept not worth investment or attention. The dismal failure (so far) of Google’s Lively hasn’t helped boost the profile of virtual worlds.
Many of those who used to participate in and even organize in-world events haven’t entered Second Life in months. I haven’t spent 90 minutes there myself this entire year.
At the same time, though, a growing number of organizations continue to find practical uses for Second Life. The most recent evidence came in the print edition of Business Week’s Small Biz magazine, which profiled several organizations that have tapped into attributes of the virtual world that can’t be duplicated through other channels:
- A toy designer created a 3D model of his proposed windup toy and showed it in-world to an engineer from a factory that might manufacture it. The engineer “rotated it, and took it apart piece by piece.”
- A husband-and-wife architecture team that designs senvironmentally friendly homes now creates its models in Second LIfe. Clients can see the model in real, not scale, size, and walk inside. “Moving a kitchen to gain a southern exposure or putting a stairwell in amore convenient location can be accomplished in just a few minutes.” (An example of Crescendo Designs is in the video below.)
- A company is working to sell its idea for video displays in high-traffic areas like airports and malls. Setting up demos in actual airports would be expensive and, in most cases, simply impossible. Now, the company’s founder is able to demonstrate how the system works in a number of locations.
- Another company is developing a people mover, doing much of its work in Second Life. Says the company’s founder, “Here’s a tool inb cyberspace where we can simulate an engineered system and see if it works.”
There were more examples in Forrester’s report, “Getting Real Work Done in Virtual Worlds.” And even marketing efforts—smart ones that leverage Second Life’s characteristics and honor its culture and economy—are working.
I remain convinced that the Web in general will become largely a 3D experience by about 2013, once key obstacles are overcome (such as portability of avatars and ease of creating objects). It makes perfect sense. Right now, no matter how many other people are at Amazon.com the same time you are, you’re there alone. Trying to find a book the title and author of which you don’t remember? Good luck. Now imagine a 3D representation of the world’s biggest bookstore. You teleport to the mystery section and ask others who are browsing the shelves if they know the book you’re seeking. If none of them are able to help, you can mosey on over to the information desk where you can interact with an Amazon customer service representative. Later, you can return to participate in a mystery book club gathering instead of a book club discussion forum.
But the intuitive experience of a familiar 3D world is less exciting than the uses to which people like those profiled in the SmallBiz article are putting Second Life. Don’t ignore virtual worlds; you’ll be living in one soon enough. Buying into the shrug-off so many others have given Second Life will keep you from helping your company prepare for the inevitable 3D web.