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.
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!