Third Annual Virtual Worlds Trends Event

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FountainBlue’s held its Third Annual State of the Virtual Worlds Industry Event on September 30. Below are notes from the conversation.
We were fortunate to have a range of experienced panelists actively engaging in the range of virtual worlds activities. The discussion began with an overview of the industry trend, moving from more entertainment purposes to more serious applications, from text and 2 dimensional renderings to more 3D and web experiences. Drivers for richer adoption of virtual worlds solutions include:
• Technology advancements on the client side for everything from PCs to browsers, to mobile, TV, and headsets which allows users to experience immersive interactions with others dynamically, real-time;
• Increased networking, connectivity and performance, which allows users more options for dynamic, interactive, engaging experiences with others; and
• Diminishing development costs, which make it easier for companies to provide solutions in this space.
• Gen Y grew up surrounded by technology, and will push the immersion solutions and technologies and create the kind of demand that can help spark the industry. They are also fostering a social transformation with the convergence of personal and business life, which will impact the market need and technology direction.
Although there have been many technology advancements, some of the cutting edge applications, the ‘cool’ things are solutions we can do pretty much today. But the seasoned entrepreneur looks for the business model, the customer needs, the funding opportunities for these solutions. And many of these solutions are centered around immersive simulation, training, educating and connecting, especially as it applies to real-life needs in the area of healthcare, military and defense applications. In the corporate arena, virtual worlds are leveraged to filter information, make it relevant and engaging, and make it available real-time, with specific measurable results.
Our panelists were quite bullish for the opportunities ahead in the industry – see industry reports in the resource section below, and commented on the opportunities ahead:
• The rise augmented reality solutions like Microsoft’s KINECT motion detection input device has specific implications for virtual training and gamification.
• The rapid rise and adoption of social networks including FaceBook and Google+ will soon demand a net for virtual communities, where existing groups can connect more virtually, where platforms will allow trusted others or strangers with similar interests to connect.
• Hybrid events will become more popular, where there’s a combination of real-life, face-to-face meetings and virtual connections as well.
• Virtual events may facilitate more communities and conversations and connections on an ongoing basis, either online or virtually or a hybrid of the two.
• Virtual trainings will continue to be leveraged in critical situations where personal safety and expensive equipment might be at risk: in hospital care, in military training, in aerospace, etc.
• Virtual trainings will continue to be leveraged by forward-thinking companies to better connect with customers and partners and staff and other stakeholders, and to better prepare, train, measure, reward, communicate at all levels.
• Leverage the knowledge of subject matter experts from around the globe to solve real-world, real-time problems so that all benefit.
• Translate accepted standards of procedure into virtual worlds experiences and even certification and re-certification processes can not only increase adoption of virtual worlds solutions but also provide customers and practitioners with immediate benefits.
• The trend is to create generic platforms which can be adopted to the needs of specific customers, with their content, their functionality, their look and feel. There is a huge opportunity in making it easy for customers to customize these solutions for their own needs, or doing it efficiently for them.
The challenge today is not really around the technology, but around providing the right solutions to wow the customer and connect them with people more deeply and more easily than they thought possible. Our panelists provided the following recommendations for those in the space:
• As mentioned in Blue Ocean Strategy (see resource area for book information), rather than go directly against the competition, find and delight the customer, those who would benefit from connecting with others, deepening relationships, and/or training and educating key stakeholders in their network.
• Measure the solution you provide with data on whether they like it, whether they master the information, whether they use it, whether business outcomes come from the usage and communicate the results in terms of ROI.
• There is a lack of standard definitions about the industry, and a lot of hype and bad experiences from early adopters and users as well as lots of investment dollars lost on what-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time. These need to be overcome to facilitate deeper and quicker adoption.
• Find the business model around your virtual worlds solutions – how do different types of people make money in participating and what does it mean to him/her?
• Leverage social media and word-of-mouth to build your community and solution.
• If you’re transitioning from real-world to virtual world communities for financial or other reasons, work with your customers to deliver the knowledge, recognition and connections they seek, and also to find other opportunities for them to get that real-world connections. Don’t also expect to have the same feedback, knowledge and results immediately upon the substitution, especially if it was a last-minute, unpopular decision, but if you stick with it, it will continue to generate results.
• Because of these associations, it’s a matter of semantics, and you can speak more about working in a ‘visual social platform’ rather than in a ‘virtual world’ solution.

If Confucius if right when he said ‘I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand,’ and we can prove that virtual world solutions will help people to better understand, the adoption curve is likely to be swift and steep. And we are challenged to make the case that interactive online experiences around community can directly benefit the bottom line now and in the long term. And those who get that it’s more about the people and opportunities to educate, train and connect them real-time, virtually and in-person, and less about the technologies, as enabling as they are, will be more likely to succeed.

Resources:
• Avista Partners, Interactive Entertainment Summit 23 Nov 09, http://www.slideshare.net/pheydon/avista-partners-interactive-entertainment-summit-23-nov-09-main-pres
o Online as 70% of 106 billion dollar market cap
• Blue Ocean Strategy http://www.blueoceanstrategy.com/
o A bestseller across five continents, published in 40 languages with more than 2 million copies sold, Blue Ocean Strategy is based on a study of 150 strategic moves spanning 100 years and 30 industries, and provides a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant and creating uncontested market space.
• Forrester Research, Getting Real Work Done In Virtual Worlds, by Erica Driver, Paul Jackson, with Connie Moore, Claire Schooley, Jamie Barnett, January 7, 2008, http://www.forrester.com/rb/Research/getting_real_work_done_in_virtual_worlds/q/id/43450/t/2
o . . . it’s still early, pioneering days. You’ve practically got to be a gamer to use most of these tools — setup can be arduous, navigating in a 3-D environment takes practice, and processing and bandwidth requirements remain high. But within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today. Information and knowledge management professionals should begin to investigate and experiment with virtual worlds. Use them to try to replicate the experience of working physically alongside others; allow people to work with and share digital 3-D models of physical or theoretical objects; and make remote training and counseling more realistic by incorporating nonverbal communication into same-time, different-place interactions.
• Kzero Universe Charts http://www.kzero.co.uk/blog/slideshare-presentation-of-q2-2011-universe-chart/
o Virtual worlds, MMO companies by size, average user age and launch date
• Virtual Worlds Landscape, Barry Holroyd
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FountainBlue’s September 30 Third Annual State of the Virtual Worlds Industry Event featured:
Facilitator Barry Holroyd, CTO, Masher Media
Panelist Andrea Leggett, Senior Product Marketing Manager, EMC
Panelist Dannette Veale, Virtual & Digital Technology Strategist, Cisco’s Global Sales Experience and Virtual Partner Summit
Presenting Entrepreneur Parvati Dev, President, Innovation in Learning
Presenting Entrepreneur Raj Raheja, Founder and CEO, Heartwood Studios
Presenting Entrepreneur Nanci Solomon, Founder and CEO, Xulu Entertainment
Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to EMC for graciously hosting us for this year’s annual event.

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