And here’s Part 2 of my interview with Ian Hughes, Metaverse Evangelist at IBM:
- What do you see as the biggest opportunity for users of virtual worlds? For users, well we are all users. As a user there is the opportunity to gather the right people, the right resources and do what you want to do. This applies to web 2.0 as much as to VW’s specifically in my opinion. That means as a social user, connecting with friends, as a business user connecting with customers and colleagues. As a mastery of these environments lets people choose to lead groups and people choosing to follow, to gather the right people they need to complete some task it removes the need for many structures that add cost and overhead. Virtual worlds and the web in general lets people get things done, just by doing it. With a connection you don’t need to find property to have an office, you don’t need to all be in the same physical place at the same time, local becomes global. That leads to a new breed of entrepreneur, that already exists and that can be anyone. So there are a whole host of business problems that can be solved, and opportunities to be explored. In a sense it has made all business open source, not just the operating system, browser or software platform. That leads to innovation and opportunity. Or you can just have fun too 🙂
- What’s the best business use you’ve seen in a virtual world? Most of the best business uses I have seen really has been around internal communication inside the enterprise. To be able to seamlessly gather your colleagues for a meeting, to have a pre-event mingle as often happens, to then launch into the crux of the meeting with all the resources available to you, to action the decisions whilst in the meeting then to leave the virtual world and carry on. That is the best business use. That is done on all sorts of platforms, in all sorts of ways. It is not one application, not one use, but it does weave into general day to day workflow. The post event conversations, the serendipity, the memory of the meeting “oh when you sat opposite in Hursley house and you said….” are all fantastic secondary benefits to the one of not having to travel quite as much.
- What’s the neatest consumer application you’ve seen? One of my favourite consumer applications has to be Timeless Protoype’s multi-gadget in Second Life. In particular the fact that it has those wonderful multi-chairs. They indicate to people the dynamic nature of the spaces in virtual worlds. You simply drop a chair and table, or fire and log, and if you sit down, it creates another chair, someone else sits and the circle widens again. Its an instant meeting point of reference, chair and table a little more formal than log and fire. Those chairs are all over the place, in many meeting places and for us in eightbar also seem culturally significant.
- What keeps you up at night? Trying to figure out why everyone has not got the point of all this yet, why there is still a fear, or a suspicion about how these things all work. Why the heck people don’t share more information with colleagues and friends. The important thing is not that we have the perfect implementation right now, because that can’t happen. 1) This has to keep evolving 2) even if it was perfect people would still be scared as there is a huge cultural change in communicating on the web anyway.
- What’s next? We should keep in mind there could be a revolution waiting to happen to. A mode of interacting that is not the common model that 99% of metaverses currently use, of avatars and islands, rooms, spaces. The real what’s next though in my mind is 3d printing, or rapid fabrication. We have an increasingly cheaper way to make data come to life as a physical object. To make the virtual real. Virtual worlds then become a design and delivery platform for product. If you need something buy it online, don’t have it shipped, but print it out locally. Its taking the principles of long tail usually applied to data only products, like music and film and changing that to apply to mobile phone covers, cups and saucers, washers, toys almost anything. The 3d printers we have today are getting very much cheaper, the design tools for 3d have got more accessible with the rise of virtual worlds. We can have things designed, even try them out in the virtual world, buy them, use them virtually, but have them also brought into physical form. I had my avatar printed by http://www.fabjectory.com a few years ago now. The avatar is my design, my green hair, my leather jacket, my eightbar t-shirt and wearing the Reebok trainers bought and customized in-world. Imagine being able to print anything you need anywhere in the world, a local 3d printer in a remote village would allow an engineer to deliver a solution to broken water pump in seconds, not require mass parts built all over the world, shipped all over the world and packaged in non eco-friendly boxes. Just print what you need, when and where you need it. It’s not perfect, not there yet, but going the right way. The rise of the fabricaneur in virtual worlds is the next wave of manufacturing and design.