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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Why PlayStation Home will revolutionize gaming

„PlayStation Home gives you a neutral space where you can really get to know someone. Even in the real world now if you’re a gamer and you want to get to know other gamers, there really is nowhere left to go.“
[Sony PlayStation Home Director Jack Buser]

I am not a gamer or at least I was never a gamer before. Although I am having fun in Second Life, the 3D virtual world built by its own residents, I see my time in-world mostly as part of my normal workload, because I am a Metaverse expert and need to experience virtual worlds first hand to be a useful advisor and trainer. But this year two things happened: I got myself a Wii console with Balance board (to stay fit and have my very own bowling alley in the living room) and for a couple of weeks now I am seriously considering buying a Sony PS3 console just because of PlayStation Home (ok and the Blu-ray player is nice, too). I probably won’t do it because I still don’t like playing video games but what strikes me is that after all that I’ve seen from the PS Home beta version I want to meet people this way!

pshome

The avatars look great, they’re highly customizable (albeit human – well I can be a flying dragon in Second Life anytime) and the body movements look much better than in SL. And it doesn’t seem to be as difficult to meet people because the area doesn’t stretch out over thousands of square kilometers (like the huge SL grid). It’s like a bar that’s never deserted – 24/7. And you get to meet people from all over the world, too. Ok you have that in SL all the time; but it can be difficult to find everybody. And who wants to look an armless Mii figurine or one of the new cartoony Xbox LIVE avatars? Let’s face it, we like looking human.

Easily customize your avatar. You don’t need to be a Photoshop expert and don’t have to pay extra (like in Second Life). Ok, you do have to pay for fancy cloths in Home as well – that’s the same in any virtual world.

Jack Buser says gamers don’t hang around in arcades (in real life) – that’s just not the way we do things today. Gaming is entertainment, like watching TV – it is a way to beat boredom. If we don’t have anything better to do and there are no friends around, we like to hang out with others nevertheless – be it (in the games) with NPCs (Non Player Characters), who are only software-controlled extras, or with other gamers, known to us only by their handle and score records (or in case of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft by the actions of the roles they’re playing).

The whole point seems to be that people more often than not like hanging out with other people. We are a social species – we even die if we don’t have contact to other human beings, after all. And if we have the opportunity, we very much like to play together. More than one study revealed:  Gaming is not for loner’s and gamers are more social than non-gamers. Oh, and we sure do like decorating our own apartment and invite our friends.

And so I guess that’s what’s so intriguing about Home:

  • we can hang out virtually anytime we don’t have anything better to do
  • people we meet have the same knowledge about the game we do (no newbie challenges)
  • if we’re up to it we can play with people we actually got to know a little, because we didn’t just shoot each others brains out but laughed or danced together (see the video below)

That’s what people do if you give them the opportunity…

It’s hang out on-demand. And it’s definitely a social virtual world – a shared virtual environment.

I think all other consoles will follow and offer similar hangouts for their users. And I hope that we’ll find a way to have a meta-friendlist some day: a buddylist with friends from all kinds of virtual worlds, game consoles and flat web social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed and the likes). Some kind of interoperability, so we can at least communicate (IM) with all our friends, in whatever world or network they prefer to hang out. I am not talking about data portability here – Pixelsebi blogged his detailed thoughts about that here – just about a standardized mechanism that automatically collects all my friends/connections from all platforms/networks where I have a public account (like Google’s SocialGraph).

And I am going to get me a PS3 – what the heck. It’s X-Mas after all 🙂

You can subscribe to this blog: It’s about the Metaverse – 3DWeb, social web, virtual worlds, Artificial Intelligence and whatever relates to those.

Talking Avatars is a good thing [Future of Artificial Intelligence]

Traveling Windfairy in Meez

Traveling Windfairy (my alter ego)  in Meez

Talking avatars  instead of flat still pictures in IM, representing our real persona while conversing with others, will soon be rather the norm; enhance the animated figurines with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and you can survive the economic downturn by hiring 24/7 employees that never sleep and never complain: Talking Avatars with pre-scripted knowledge or even self-learning skills are in the works all over the worlds (post about it coming soon) and they can help out as greeters, talking FAQs, virtual trainers, sales representatives, entertainment characters or automated teachers and tour guides. Their workspace will be wherever real people go wearing an avatar – virtual worlds, virtual learning environments, 2.5 and 3D chat rooms and the 3D Web.

Freddie McMahon lists some of the movers and shakers for talking avatars in his blog.

via The Future of Artificial Intelligence: Competition for Talking Avatars Benefits from More Venture Capital Funding >>

See 17 virtual worlds in 3 minutes

Some Snapshots and Screenshots of current and upcoming virtual worlds and chat rooms. 3:40 minutes. More to come.

UPDATE: Gary Hayes just tweeted that he published his travels through the metaverse in the summer. Since I didn’t favorited it back then I thought I’d lost it – Gary, I’m so glad you contacted me! His video is covering far more worlds and is a must see:  2008 Metaverse Tour on YouTube>>

Ray-Ban offers Augmented Reality service to sell glasses online

Ray-Ban Virtual Mirror

Ray-Ban Virtual Mirror

Augmented Reality steps into our living-room with this new web service from Ray-Ban: All you need is a webcam and their software (PC only). Then you pick some glasses from the online catalogue and see yourself in a virtual mirror. Works especially great with sunglasses, since you see yourself just like others do for the first time. This I call a successful implementation of innovative technology for business purposes.

via Ray-Ban Official Website (click on „Virtual Mirror“ on the banner in the middle)

Arts & politics, anyone? Not only teens in Google’s Lively

There’s not only rampaging teenagers and dirty sex in Lively, Google’s virtual world of cartoon-like chat rooms. Or would you have thought that you’d find an art gallery with the title „Captured fractions of human history“ here?

Lively Gallery

This room belongs to Yaniv, a 36-year-old Jew from Israel who decorated walls and floor of his room with animated slideshows covering politics, art and history. The pictures in the background are constantly updating themselves. We talked about religion and problems between fundamentalist Arabs and Jews and I learned that I would have been treated differently if I hadn’t told him I was married. Since you can pretend to be anything in a virtual world, carrying any name you choose, it is a good example of how important it is to take „virtuality“ seriously – social conventions are in the backpack of anybody logging into virtual worlds.

Because once you feel immersed you act like you would in the „real world“ – even if you’re just displayed like a cartoon-like Avatar.

If you use Windows you can have a look at the Exambitions Gallery right now (yeah I know that’s lame – Google doesn’t love Mac users):
www.lively.com/dr?rid=7746274979763050908

P.S. naturally I’ll never know if Yaniv isn’t, in fact, a teenager anyway (although I’m pretty sure because of our conversation)…nevertheless he created something interesting with that simple platform. Oh by the way here’s my „virtual meeting & presentation room“ in Lively, just in case. Here’s a picture of it (for Mac users – blame Google, not me):

Consiliera’s (that’s me) virtual meeting room in Lively