Fourth Age Communiqué - Leadership for the rest of us

Monday, January 05, 2009

Why "conventional" virtual worlds fail business

IBM and other companies have made a great first foray into the virtual space. But virtual worlds have yet to prove their full potential business value.

Note the self-expression vs. value of context conversation fits.

Five reasons enterprise virtual worlds currently fall short with respect to business usage:
  1. Real world redundant - Virtual worlds are almost exclusively "land on a grid": a 1:1 representation of the real world. We already have one of those, and we know enough people trade their first life in for their second one as an escape mechanism. And unless you work for MTV, that is hardly the kind of value your business cares about.

    And if we already have one of those, you are taking up business people's valuable time. And if you are doing that, you are causing someone's business to become ...

  2. Slow - Because they are redundant of the real world, one must traverse said world to find or engage others. If innovations in technology have taught us anything, it is that we want the world to be first person-centric: bring it all to me. Don't make me go find what you want me to see, or hear, or experience. Hand it to me, and do it fast. Such is the point of doing business in a 24x7 world: speed.

    And a world not focused on me is ...

  3. 3rd-person focused - Everything about business systems is first-person. From your browser to your instant messaging and email, it's a very me-centric tech world we live in. Only the HUD in SL is first-person.

    So you say, that's the point, stupid: real life isn't first-person. I say, it's still a pretty big paradigm shift for business people to get over. Especially if I can do everything I need to right now in a browser.

    And if all you do is replicate the real world experience in a virtual world, it becomes ...

  4. 2D web redundant - What they tend to offer for content is already available, in a much more effective form, through a traditional, 2D web browser. Think Circuit City in 3D; it just doesn't resonate. Second to the social connection, the most compelling feature of a virtual world is its rendering capability. So the value is not specifically in turning a virtual space into a 3D web page.

    And if someone is now trying to adopt a technology that doesn't help them do their job and they have to somehow get dressed up to use a redundant world, the process of making oneself presentable becomes a debate over ...

  5. Abstraction or distraction - An imbalanced perception of the value of hyper-realistic (or super generic) avatars.

    Q: what's the right balance?
    A: somewhere between South Park and Polar Express, where there's enough self-expression to give people creative license (and investment), and not so much that it's fails to be business-relevant.

    Be honest with yourself: how likely are you to do business in your avatar's current state of (un)dress? Until you can reconcile the two, I submit you are not addressing the potential of your virtual world of choice as a business platform.

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2 Comments:

  • Well constructed argument. Here's my response.

    By Blogger Rob, at 7:53 AM  

  • Taking the "Gee-whiz" aspect out of it, I don't think we have explored what 3d worlds can accomplish until we break the mindset of 1 to 1 ratio to the real world. Why do it at all if I am only to mimic the real world and then apply physics? I will stay out if that is the case.

    As for the avatars between the polar express and south park, I think you are hitting on the uncanny valley aspect. I wonder how people could fair if one had a photo-realistic avatar of themselves? Does the uncanny valley principle apply?

    By Blogger Singing to Jeffrey's Tune, at 6:22 PM  

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