Fourth Age Communiqué - Leadership for the rest of us

Thursday, January 08, 2009

IBM Metaverse in the News

My team's charter is to develop applications for use inside our firewall that facilitate collaboration. Since ours is a global company, most of the focus is on remote collaboration. Experimenting with emerging technologies, such as the nascent virtual worlds field, is a big plus; especially if we can deliver value and change paradigms along the way.

All anyone really knew about virtual worlds at the time is they make social connections visceral and gaming is serious business. But how do you translate social connection into collaboration? How do you make an effective business play out of learning and gaming when your business is neither?

Turns out, it's not so easy. There are parallels to selling operating systems circa 1988 or the rise of web marketing and e-commerce a decade later. But the comparisons end there. Sure, there is an obvious discussion about open source, but who turns a profit (or generates revenue, for that matter) packaging content for open source software with the install media?

This is a service play all the way. And by service, think SOA. Virtual worlds bring people and creative thought to the dance; business needs to bring its data in droves. If there is money here, it is to be found in the extension of your organization's mission-critical data into an immersive (a mystical, intangible metric if ever there was one), highly contextualized, 3D environment.

Some of our virtual world development progress in the press (from late 2007/early 2008) sounds rather naive now, but the promise was there:
When we started the project, OpenSim was still a twinkle in the Linden's eye, and Second Life was just starting to show its sex appeal to the masses. Since then we've (corporately) dabbled with Qwaq, ActiveWorlds, Forterra, Mycosm and Unity. There are probably more. Torque was the right choice (albeit a bit "Mr. Right Now" to Second Life monogamists), because it offered what no other platform did: cost-effective source code control and (minimal) documentation.

Two years later, it's still a grand experiment (it is also still funded). This year we offer dynamic meeting spaces, interactive tools for breakthrough thinking, 3D visualization of social networks and some very key intranet services that begin to show the promise of platform ubiquity. There is business value in them tha'r hills - and we will see it in 2009.



  • great to see these blog posts popping up in my Google Reader. Happy New Year! :)

    By Blogger Wonderwebby, at 2:10 AM  

  • How do you see video communication existing in these virtual worlds?

    By Blogger Daniel I, at 7:51 AM  

  • Daniel, I see it about as popular in virtual worlds as you currently see it now in businesses. In my company's case, its demand is relative to specific, global organizations. My team is global, and we do not use video communications at all.

    By Blogger Macker, at 8:24 AM  

  • Wonderwebby, backatcha. :) Thanks for dropping in.

    By Blogger Macker, at 8:25 AM  

  • I worked for years as a training consultant to IBMs LEU program bringing virtual team communication classes and presentation skills for techies to teams. The greatest challenge was that it was limited to those who had $$ in budget to travel to site hosting program. I have since started using virtual world platforms to bring that same expertise to those without the ability to travel and was so excited to hear when IBM launched things like the rehearsal room. I believe as organizations look outside the standard classroom or meeting room for creative and immersive learning solutions BIG and exciting things will happen!

    By Blogger Gina, at 9:58 AM  

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