Really effective: There’s nothing virtual about virtual meetings

voiceoverip meeting

Amanda Van Nuis, Enterprise Marketing Director at Linden Lab, wrote about her first virtual meeting experience with her colleagues in Second Life and about how she „wasn’t 100% convinced that working in virtual worlds really works.“ It sounds like an authentic record of her experiences and some commentators have contributed little stories about how valuable immersive environments for meetings and brainstormings are for them. While it seems natural that people working in the virtual world industry use their own products in their everyday office life many people from the most innovative industries still don’t „see“ how virtual meetings with the third dimension add any value.

Dennis Shiao posted a list of efficiencies he’s seen with virtual office meetings (please read his article where he elaborates on every point):

  1. Lower overhead to start a meeting
  2. Facilitates ad hoc, spur of the moment collaboration
  3. Material related to the meeting is at your fingertips (or a mouse-click away)
  4. Immediacy
  5. True facial expressions

I’d add another two points to that list:

6. Social bonding (by having fun)

7. Inspiration & motivation (by having fun experiences)

Karl Kapp listed some advantages of 3D environments for learning the other day and we had a discussion about the „fun“ factor that’s an important ingredient in any learning situation. I believe this is true for meetings in an immersive environment, too.

In addition to the social „water cooler effect“ 3D environments (and in some cases even 2.5D) add value because people are having fun with it. Here’s why.

Laughing together not only builds a better rapport and therefore improves the corporate climate, but it also motivates and inspires people. Since people tend to loosen up in virtual meetings (try not to if you’re sitting across a giant turtle – your graphics designer – or the Wizard of Oz, who happens to be your technical director) and things get a little more playful if you’re able to „magically“ materialize anything you have in mind (or on your desktop). Psychologically speaking those are the basic ingredients for new ideas, group inspiration and motivation.

What’s astonishing even for me is that these effects also happen in 2.5D spaces.

Just yesterday I evaluated the Meetsee.com beta again and I invited a colleague of mine, who is working in another city. Meetsee is a virtual office solution with 2.5D or isometric views. My colleague is no geek and she refuses to use Second Life; a web browser is as far as she would go.

Usually we Skype (with and without video) but now I tried the web-based Meetsee solution with her. She was in-world within seconds after I sent her the link and scribbled a note on the virtual blackboard before we even said a word. So we have zero accessibility issues here (in stark contrast to Second Life or others). We had one of the most productive meetings in a long time. It was almost as effective as our face-to-face meetings but without even leaving our desks and driving for 6 hours. And that was no thanks to Meetsee’s technical features because the most basic stuff like a whiteboard, voice- and video conference didn’t even work (it’s still in beta).

UPDATE: Their staff has seen this post and in fact fixed the video conferencing and whiteboard feature – thanks to Nikki Santoro (Meetsee CEO)!

The reason was that we both had the sense of being there together, pointing at important information like we’d do in a real meeting room and having fun by using the emoticons to get our message across. At one point we even discussed a new layout of chairs (by moving them around together in the virtual room and try-sit on it) for our next workshop. Now that is something you can’t do in WebEx or Go2Meeting. The only thing that would have topped this would have been the true sense of proximity that you only get in 3D environments with real individual avatars and real three dimensions. Well, like in real life 😉

Meetsee

Simple virtual office solution for classrooms, meetings, web conferences or panel discussions. If video, audio and whiteboards would work, that is. Meetsee still has to work on its technology and become much more reliable and stable. If you want to meet me in my offices to try it out please IM me at LaConsiliera on Skype.

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Advantages of 3D for Learning – And the Secret Ingredient

Karl Kapp’s listed today some of the advantages of 3D environments (virtual worlds) for learning. Take a look at this list if someone (your boss, client) asks you why they should allow you to set up the next employee-training or any other course in a 3D world.

Although Kapp, one of TrainingIndustry.com’s 2007 „Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals“, sums the advantages up pretty nicely, I’d like to add the following two aspects that in my experience had the most impact on successful and sustainable learning situations:

1) One of the most important aspects in any learning environment: fun. Having fun is the most emotional engagement you can get (and that secures sustainable learning). Students have fun in 3D environments, especially if they’re designed to include casual games or playful training situations. But the three dimensional, immersive online environment is already so much fun for youth that this alone works to your advantage.

UPDATE: Jacob Everist has a background in dealing with East Asians from living in Korea Taiwan and China and writes in his blog that „Particularly in East Asia, education is considered hard work. If something is fun, it is not taken seriously. “ Interesting aspect that could also be said about some „typical“ Germans (I am German, but lived abroad a lot) 🙂

2) The water cooler effect. This is true for business trainings or meetings; studies show that the informal socializing in-between or after sessions is as important in virtual worlds as in the real world. Only that you don’t need to pay for airline tickets, hotels and catering.

My Sky Campus in Second Life: Example of a 3D learning environment with extensive multimedia capabilities (YouTube screen, 10 m high presentation screen, interactive web displays) and a recreational area with bean bags, cocktail bar and many fun features you can’t experience in real life classrooms or seminar settings

If we still missed some aspects (I added some in the comments) please comment here or in Karl Kapp’s blog!

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Augmented Reality is all over the place – is that a good thing?

GE Superbowl ad with Augmented Reality


Wikitude: Very useful application, available for G1 Android phones:

Sony’s virtual EyePet, living in your living room (coming soon)

UPDATE: I forgot another great business example: Ray-Ban offers Augmented Reality to sell sunglasses online