Ian Hughes is a Metaverse Evangelist (at IBM) and blogger at eightbar (http://eightbar.co.uk/). Ian and I connected to discuss virtual worlds and I posed a few questions to him. In the first of a two-part series, I’ve posted the first five questions, along with Ian’s answers.
- So tell us a little bit about yourself? I am 41 year old forever tech geek. I started programming around 14. I grew up in a seaside town and watched the explosion in video games in the arcades. I wanted to know how they worked – I loved playing but was intrigued by the workings of them too. This led me to understand programming, my first Eureka moment. Oh! that’s how it works. I also look at the various combinations of tech and usage including coding as an art form, relying on intuition and flowing patterns as much as running it by the numbers. I joined IBM in 1990 as a full timer and have been here ever since, though explored lots of emerging technologies in various places, the arrival of the PC to a green screen world, client server models, web in the early days and into dot com, then that has led through web 2.0 (before it was called that) to where I am now with virtual worlds and metaverses.
- So you’re a Metaverse Evangelist – can you explain what that entails? An evangelist attitude is one that is not always obvious to people. Seeing and feeling a use for something, embedding it into your life and work and helping others see why they should do the same is tricky. It is a mix of sales, pr, marketing and in my case tech, delivery and understanding. By its very nature an evangelist is of no need to people who don’t know what the the evangelist is explaining, once explained, as it is so obvious the evangelist is again of no need. Metaverse is the generic term for virtual worlds from the book Snowcrash. A few years ago I would have been a web 2.0 evangelist.
- What are virtual worlds platforms doing right? In my personal opinion virtual worlds are helping people understand that there is more to communicating electronically at distance than just email or telephones. They all tend to tap into the human patterns of understanding of space, proximity, visual and audio feedback. Most of the important things in understanding one another from non verbal communication. Virtual worlds can be a much richer version of a smiley 🙂 in a piece of text.
- Where can virtual worlds platforms improve? It tends to be people refer to usability and those first experiences people have in any virtual world, which applies to any software product, or hardware product. The experience will of course evolve, the ways of interacting will evolve, our tolerance and understanding of how to interact, the social language of virtual worlds will also evolve. So evolution is the main improvement. Also, as with the web we need to try and solve the interoperability problems, both technical, social and legal. There are clearly opportunities to explore ways to interact with various environments, this is not about a Warcraft character turning up in Second Life, it is really about people having the things they need where they need them at the time, in a suitable form.
- What do you see as the biggest opportunity for virtual worlds platforms? The opportunities span all human communication needs. Clearly gaming has been the growth, a multiplayer console game is as much a virtual world as a the current crop of non gaming environments. The mode of operation, of people gathering together to achieve and objective, communicating live, seeing the results, acting to deal with problems is as valid in a quest in WoW as it is in dealing with an order for a stack of goods from a customer in an enterprise. Clearly the toolset may differ, but to be able to manipulate business models, see what is going on the in the enterprise, bring the right people in to help visualize and solve the problem, live. Is a massive opportunity. It needs to be smooth for business, but its already smooth for gamers. Most gamers wont play a game if its bad, if they cant quickly do what they need to do, if they cant connect to servers etc. The same applies for business. So a combination of the needs of the gaming world, with the business world, with the social media world and we have some really interesting opportunities.