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January 01, 2007


Paul Richard

I've enjoyed your blog throughout 2006 and you always raise interesting points that encourage more thought. However, I can't see a virtual world as a place of business, unless the perceptions of avatars changes. Many people use an avatar to be something they want to be, instead of as a representation of who they are. While that does give us insight into a person it only does so if you know them in the real world and can contrast them with the avatar they create.
In a past role I spent more time on conference calls then I care to recall. However, I would always look at their BluePages (an internal IBM directory for those of you not associated with IBM) image to peronalize the interaction. Many people have a photo of themselves, some have photos of their hobby, family picture, or a new child. All give insight into who the person is, but you have to have a factual starting point. And that is something an avatar currently does not provide.



How can an avatar provide a more human touch than a phone call / IM?
Avatar in secondlife / virtual environment is one the person chooses and does this not indicate that the avatar choosen is more of opposite to his/her existing self?
how then can it be natural?

virtual world can provide immense growth / support for high tech simulations across industries and so is a very viable candidate to integrate it with school curriculum - like the MIT 100$ laptop to make education sans border. we can model science better and also help in doing virtual dissection rather than real animals based laboratories.

avatars as conference calls also doesnot pass requirements as its very artificial - you donot get the feeling of being integrated.

virtual technologies will first attract only areas where its easy to show off capabilities - like gaming before we can look for its disruptive application.

all said and experienced, virtual is virtual - you get a chance to redo!

Joost Bekel

Hi Irving, you probably heard of the tag-game, invented by Jef Pulver. I'm tagging you now! Hope you appreciate it! See http://bekels.blog.com/1422686/.

Steven Fink

I'm a principal with MessageBank, LLC.

We coordinate large "event" centric business meetings for the Investor Relations/Corporate Communications marketplace through the use of multimedia technologies (conference calling/webcasting).

I'm currently exploring and am very interested in the Second Life virtual world environment as it relates to hosting and coordinating these kinds of business meetings. If possible, I'd like to speak in detail about IBM's interest and involvement in this space. Thank you!

Best Regards,

Steven Fink
MessageBank, LLC.
p. (212) 333-9302
e-mail: sfink@messagebank.com

Paul Jones

Back in 2004, I saw a presentation and read a paper that has had me since reevaluating the idea of presence (as in avatars etc) in communications and productivity.

The rich media theory says we should be more productive with rich communications such as avatars, more personalization etc.

But Joe Walther, now at MSU, has studies that show otherwise (see http://ibiblio.org/pjones/wordpress/?p=88 for links to those studies).

Walther shows that projection -- not knowing much about the other you project likeness on them and work with them better -- is much better at explaining how to increase group productivity.

People will say that they "like" the rich media experience more but they are measurably more productive in a media poor environment (as regards to their collaborators' identities).

Interestingly enough, my experience in international open source projects bears out Walther's findings.

This in no way says that data visualization and imaging is distracting. That does enhance understanding and insight.

When visualization enhances simplicity then you have a win. I tell my students, simplicity is complex to achieve. Good visualization needs that kind of simplicity (actually another topic for another post).

Rita Turkowski

You are probably correct in the thinking that virtual worlds are an opportunity beyond games and entertainment. "We can apply these technologies and capabilities to a whole new range of applications beyond games and entertainment - not only in science, engineering and medicine, but increasingly in business, learning and training, and other disciplines." Yes! and this is all going on today, albeit quietly, very quietly within the development world of X3D, the ISO successor to VRML. X3D is used today in medicine, oil and gas research, military sim and training, geospatial --- the list goes on. VRML was about entertaining and marketing (hype?) but ended up being used simply for interchange, whereas X3D is all about visualization for real world problem solving. See www.web3d.org for more info and look at the Case Studies. Thank you Irving for shedding light on the fascinating topic of business in virtual worlds.

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