In-world lecture, Tuesday 13th March 2012

Another great in-world class today, this week’s lecture focusing on real-world business applications of multi-user virtual environments (and, to a lesser extent, virtual businesses in-world).

Starting off in the first half-hour with a review of how canny entrepreneurs have developed lucrative businesses within Second Life (and, of course, we looked at the phenomenal success of Anshe Chung, Second Life’s first real-world millionaire who, in 2008, made the front cover of Business Week) we proceeded on to the virtual business presences of multinational corporations such as Cisco, Dell, Adidas, IBM, Reuters, Sun Microsystems, Wells Fargo, Toyota, and Nokia.  I confess I focussed on the successes at the expense of those, such as Coca Cola, that failed and the reasons for failure (examined elsewhere on the LearningWorks site).

Nikki Herbertson, CEO of Hao2, a training, design and IT consultancy specialising in 3D social media technologies, joined us at 10:00am to present an overview of Hao2’s professional work both in Second Life and, very significantly, in the development of their own OpenSim grid.

I first met Nikki back in February 2010 and have been thrilled to have been involved with her projects since that time, in particular as an advisor on the company’s expansion into OpenSim, employing two graduates from my VR course of whom one continues to work for the company as the main developer and technical guru on the OpenSim projects.

This will be the third year in which Nikki has been able to offer projects to my students, giving students the experience of working to professional standards with a real client.

Following Nikki’s presentation, we went on to look at case studies of real-world companies using virtual worlds for global conferences, cost-effective training, virtual office working, virtual trade fairs, and in corporate communications.

In the final workshop session, students were asked to do a little brainstorming and ‘blue sky’ thinking about innovative business ventures; and to present these in the final 45 minutes of the class.  Some interesting ideas came out of this session; some less interesting; but overall I think the students found this a useful exercise.

As a closing note, while considering viable business ideas I was asked by a student whether it was possible to create avatars from real-world photographs.  Yes, I’d remembered that this was possible; and that there was a company that had been doing this … CyberExtruder, if I recall correctly.

A final word: although the majority of students were well behaved there was a mischievous minority who risked spoiling it for others.  During the time that Nikki was presenting there was chatter in the local chat in which one student used some Chaucerian quadriliterals; Nikki had noticed this and rightly advised students that such talk would not be tolerated in a real-life professional context.  And, secondly, some student (whom I eventually identified with the help of several screenshots given me by an observant member of the audience) was irritatingly childish in replacing Nikki’s video in the display panel with other random web pages and images.  I think I shall have to remind students of the Code of Conduct to which they have committed themselves in joining this class.

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About Christopher Hutchison

Museologist, cognitive dissident, political grouch, curmudgeonly bibliophage, and all round jolly nice chap.
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