According to a session on virtual worlds, 9 out of 10 virtual world projects within organisations fail. The most popular virtual world is Second Life, but there are others. An area where VWs have been successful is education - I mentioned in an earlier post some examples, but they can also be used for Can be used for teaching social skills, training and simulations.
Role based and scenario driven training exercises are well understood and to do them in a virtual world can save money and reduce danger. For example, a multi agency exercise – fire, ambulance, police – simulating an incident in a city centre can be very expensive and disruptive - a lot less so in a virtual world. They're also being used for training military personnel how to
survive in an urban environment and to simulate large scale evacuations.
IBM have built a virtual data centre display information from many remote data centres
Most virtual worlds can import 3d information so buildings etc are easy to create
Avatar enabled collaboration is an area which is growing and is proving successful if the scope is kept small - for example on projects. Examples include Sun's Virtual Workspace and qwaq forums.
User interfaces will develop and become simplier (anyone who's tried Second Life will know that it's not easy - my avatar definitely has a mind of her own!). The type of intertial sensing used in the Wii will lead to a different generation of user interfaces. Alpha brainwave sensors are apparently just coming onto the market, enabling you to move a cursor or an object just by thinking about it. Even more scarily - these are already priced at only $299!
There may be a use for virtual worlds in social networking - for example replacing the coffee room and water cooler for remote workers.
Some interesting discussion on demographics - I was suprised to learn that the average age of active SL user is over 40. Other VWs are targeted at younger audiences eg Habbo Hotel for young teenagers. A new VW called Barbiegirls went from 0 to 1m users in 6months – guess who that was targeted at! The child and sub teen market is the huge success story of virtual world and 9 out of 10 virtual world residents are under 14. But - they don't have spending power, eCommerce in virtual worlds therefore hasn't taken off the way it was predicted to.
Legal matters are still one of the biggest issues. Apparently the police aren't interested if someone steals your virtual property because it's virtual, and doesn't exist - but if you sell some virtual property, then the tax office is interested.....
Some interesting discussions on avatars - can you have a sensible business discussion with a pink rabbit for example. And as avatars get more realistic they get less believable and enter the Uncanny Valley.
All in all a good, thought provoking session on how we might think about using VWs.
The last session was on context aware computing and intelligent objects. A definite theme of the conference. I just found it scary!