Virtual Worlds Conference at UT Austin

mccombs

I had the good fortune of keynoting the Virtual Worlds conference at UT Austin. The conference was broken into two days: Academic and Enterprise. You can see the agenda here.

On Thursday, the winning papers submitted to Management Information Services Quarterly (MISQ) special edition on Virtual Worlds. Over 60 papers were submitted to this special edition – a significant number to be sure. The papers spanned both MMORPG and Virtual Words and explored issues of indentity, place and space, and virtual trading/commerce.

There is some GREAT academic working going on in the Virtual World/MMORPG space and I would encourage you all to get a hold of the special issue when it comes out.

Last night Eilif Trondsen and I had the chance to walk around the campus and check out the famous bats in Austin. It was certainly a sight to see. Here is a shot of the tower at UTA. I just love campuses so much energy and curiosity. Wherever I go I always try to walk the campus to feed off that energy.

ut-tower

On the enterprise side, Craig Becker form IBM addressed a very large audience at the Business School yesterday evening. He did a great job of sharing the IBM story. Most notable to me, however, was when Craig asked how many people had an Avatar in SL, less than 10 folks raised their hands…and most of them were faculty not students.

This morning I addressed the group and worked hard to tie the research papers to the Seven Sensibilities of Virtual Worlds that I talk about a lot. Turns out that there was a very good mapping.

Here are the charts:

Panel 1: Virtual Worlds as a Platform for Commerce and Collaboration
Right now, listening to a great panel that includes Dell, Cisco, American Cancer Society, and U of Stockholm.

Laura Thomas from Dell mentioned how she leverages twitter to drive spontaneous virtual world interactions around emerging news. She simply tweets that she will be in the Virtual Cafe on Dell island and those who follow her on Twitter show up if available.

Anne Lange from Cisco, following on Laura’s theme, brought up some great points about Virtual Worlds being but one component of the emerging digitally enabled Human Network. I think she is right on. I have written on this before in this post where I ask “What is the Uber Web 2.0/3Di Mash Up for the Enterprise”.

David Neff had a great talk on how the American Cancer Society is leveraging virtual worlds and seeing significant value. In building their environment on a community model, ACS generated $2,000 in charitable donations in 2004. In 2005 that number rose to $5000, In 2006 it jumped to $41,000, in 2007 they were at $118,000, and in 2008 that number rose to $215000. David’s talk was truly inspiring and a GREAT example of how they are able to leverage the virtual world for a very noble cause. As he says Cancer never sleeps and neither will we.

Robin Teigland from University of Stockholm is talking about the commerce in Entropia Universe from Mindark. Entropia does not get near the visibility of Second Life but they are certainly worth checking out. Entropia is very much oriented around virtual commerce and they are now a real Sweedish bank, having secured a license in March 2009. Entropia is different in that virtual assets deteriorate. If you are a digger and you use a shovel, it wears out and you need to buy a new one.

Mindark is partnering with CHINA (yes China) to create a “Virtual Economy District – A Virtual World where millions will work, communicate and be in love.”

Robin’s View of the she explores two key uncertainties to set up a potential set of scenarios:

    In 2012 how advanced will the usage of virtual worlds be? Very Advanced or Less Advanced

    How integrated will virtual worlds be? Integrated or Fragmented

This analysis sets up Four Scenarios for 2015: Integrated Worlds versus Fragmented Worlds and Advanced Usage versus Less Advanced Use.

Scenario 1: In one converged universe (Integrated and Advanced)
You have a gigantic market of consumers. High penetration, easy avatar mobility, High scalability and Security and Business Transformation.

Scenario 2: Digital Divide (Integrated, Less Advanced)
Ease of mobility, self governance, dominance by gaming, traditional versus virtual biz.

Scenario 3: Virtual Silos (Advanced, Fragmented)
Many competing limited worlds, Difficult Avatar and Asset Mobility, Limited Scalability,

Scenario 4: Wild Worlds (Less Advanced, Fragmented)
MMORPG like context. More grassroots and not a lot of business traction.

Key question for panel, if Virtual Worlds go behind enterprise firewalls for legitimate security and privacy reasons won’t we be further fragmenting the VW space? This speaks directly to one of the key issues I see in terms of what kind of business model virtual world providers will use: Software as a Service or Enterprise License? If it goes enterprise license, we will end up with a lot of enterprise islands of collaboration but not an overall virtual market within which people participate wholesale in a 3D virtual economy.

Keynote: Eilif Trondsen – Virtual Worlds for Work and Learning

Eilif gave a great overview of enterprise applications and again echoed that virtual worlds are but one of many collaborative technologies. Business people do not like to bring in disconnected tools. They need them to be connected and integrated. Eilif also mentioned that there are 100 lawyers holed up in Silicon Valley working on the IBM/Sun deal and that could set up a lot of opportunity (or threat) for enterprise virtual worlds.

Eilif also had some very good analysis of the different platforms available. I will ask him to post the charts. In looking to the future Eilif proposed five possible futures: Grand Unifying Theory (Habbo and Disney say no), Balkanization (Where we are today), Semi-Unified Theory (Sun and IBM), De-Facto Standard (Microsoft), Web as a hub (sending data back and forth between worlds via the web).

All very interesting stuff and I leave the conference pumped up for 3DTLC!

Hope to see you all there!

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HBR: Leadership’s Online Labs

I was in the Houston Airport today and saw that the May edition of HBR has finally hit the stands.

Byron Reeves, Tom Malone and I have an article in the issue that talks about two research projects we conducted looking at the application of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) and their application to Leadership. I have talked a lot about his research in previous blog posts that you can read here.

This is a big day for those of us who study learning, leadership and virtual world technologies ; )

A very well respected business journal talking about gaming and learning. I must say that I am very proud to have been part of this effort. On that note, credit is due to a number of folks who made this article happen. This research could not have happened without the foresight of David Yaun, VP of Communicaitons at IBM who leads the GIO project among other key innovation initiatives. Furthermore, beyond David’s insight, without the ongoing support and guidance from Kris Lichter, Director of the GIO program, it would never have been realized. Finally, when it came to the running the internal survey with IBMers who were also gamers my colleagues Eric Lesser and Michael DeMarco were instrumental in driving this work to completion.

18 months ago I shared with Tom Stewart the research we were doing and suggested that HBR readers might find it of interest. He put us in touch with Paul Hemp who was wonderful in helping take our research and helping us craft it into a piece worthy of publishing in HBR.

Today, a year and a half later, I see the article in glorious technicolor print in Houston. It has been a long journey, kinda like getting to level 70 in WoW, but we made it!

Thanks to all. Publishing in HBR truly is a collaborative, co-creative sport!

The i-web Singularity Redux

Virtual Worlds III is in full swing up in New York and around the blogosphere. The big news is that IBM announces a development deal with Second Life to bring their platform to the enterprise. This is yet one more piece of the puzzle that falls into place for a vision for what I am calling the i-web singularity: A technological black hole at the apex of four technological vectors that is moving forward at an exponential pace and integrating across vectors at the same time.

I have noodled on this topic before, but this time I think the focus is getting sharper.

Vector 1: Flatland 2D Learning applications integrate with Knowledge sharing repositories. The outcome here is that truly NETWORKed Virtual Spaces emerge. These spaces will integrate Synchronous Sharing with Asynchronous Storage so there is finally a one stop shop for storage and sharing of content. Since MS owns Sharepoint and Live Meeting they could create a slam dunk in this arena. Cisco bought Webex for 3.2Billion dollars (Austin Powers comes to mind) recently so they must be looking for some kind of value-added play here too and I know that know that my students would love nothing more than more jumping back and between Illuminante to Vista (Blackboard) and Yahoo Groups to get their work done.

Vector 2: Web 2.0 meets Knoweldge Sharing Spaces. I won’t go over well trodden ground on how Blogs, Wikis and Social Media sites like Facebook and Myspace are revolutionizing real-time interactive KM concepts. However, the true transformation lever in the Web 2.0 revolution for me is is the one least discussed: Tagging/Folksonomy. Pretty much everyting created and stored in the Web 2.0 domain (people,profiles and content) is TAGGED. This means that contextually relevant knoweldeg through people or content is much more easily or even serendipitously encountered. More tagging means more knowledge accidents of both the people-to-people and people-to-information kind. In the attention economy, information is the currency, people are the transport mechanism and conversation is the transfer mechanism. The mash-up between real-time tagging and NETWORKed Virtual spaces will jack up knowledge accidents and drive the immediacy of access to key information and interaction with key people around a given task or activity. In this emerging virtually afforded, contextually relevant matchmaking world, knowledge discovery and expert encounters becomes like air, it just happens and people don’t give it a second thought.

Vector 3: The 212 degree point for for both Trend 1 and 2 is when the web enters the next dimension, literally. With the infusion of 3Di technology, it is only a matter of time before 3D Social Networking taking off. The 3Di space is a different kind of cottage industry. It is the first one I have encountered that is run on blogs. The time between idea and actualization is tending towards zero. Case in point, at Virtual Worlds II in Christian Renaud’s Keynote introduction Ruben Steiger predicted that one of the key Social Networking sites (Facebook or Myspace) would go 3D in 2008. Later that SAME AFTERNOON the Active Worlds booth was demoing a 3D Facebook page mash-up that someone had sent them. When you think about it it just plain makes sense. Look at MySpace. They will truly become MySPACE (and not MyPAGE as it is today) and actualize their brand promise by integrating 3D technology. It is just too obvious an outcome for it not to happen. This social movement will, in turn – like its more stripped down relative instant messaging – will then force corporate CIOs to develop enterprise grade 3D Facebook/Myspace mash-ups for their for corporate citizens. Forterra is already playing with integrating sametime into their platform and Proton Media already has enterprise grade 3D Myspace built into its archtecture. So from both the consumer, enterprise and vendor side of the equation we are seeing convergence here.

Vector 4: Last , but by no means least we see how Synchronous 2D learning platforms will enter the third dimension. As is the case with social media, it just plain makes sense that flatland distance learning systems like Webex, Adobe, Citrix and Illuminate will be pulled into the 3D realm, particularly given the activity in the other four vectors. Karl Kapp and I have written extensively on this and I have a summary of our notion of learning applicaitons escaping flatland here.

These four vectors are on a collision to creat the i-web: Immersive, Interactive, Immediate and Intuitive. When this world-wide, three-dimensional, avatar-mediated Cognosphere emerges we will truly reach a singularity: a point where technological progress reaches infinity as it relates to leveraging and enabling human capital.

The i-web will become a worldwide virtual platform that allows people to exercise their skills and abilities passion around endeavors that matter most to them (and get paid for it too). The i-web will be like e-bay for trading work rather than second-hand products. No one will work for the i-web. Instead the i-web will work for them. Providing i-web dwellers the opportunity to find both work and people to work with on endeavors that they share a passion around. e-Bay allowed people to sell their personal items in a world-wide yard sale, the i-web will allow people to sell their personal skills and abilities in much the same way.

Free agent nation – nay virtual planet – here we come! If you think the i-phone was cool, wait until the i-web consumes us (or our avatars).

Here is the 2minute 30 second romp through the model on YouTube: