How Mobile Video Changes Things

July 15, 2011

Photo credit: Tommyvos on flickr.

Note: This is a collaborative blog post authored by Jim Reilly (@oldantler) and me.

Introduction

In the first generation of web-based video calling, families could stay in touch (e.g. Skype), while companies could conduct business meetings over several locations (e.g. Polycom, Cisco Telepresence, etc.). Mobile-based video calling options dramatically changes things.

iPhone users can now call one another via the pre-installed Facetime app, as long as both parties are connected to a WiFi network. With Skype app (iPhone, Android and Symbian), Skype users can video-call one another from their smarthphone over WiFi or 3G. Let’s consider a few use cases to demonstrate how mobile video changes things.

Calling Home While on Business Travel

Let’s say Mom has gone on a business trip for a few weeks. In a typical scenario, Mom calls home each night to check in with Dad and the kids. If Mom has her PC with Skype installed, perhaps they do a video call every other night. Now, imagine Mom has an iPhone. She connects to her hotel’s WiFi network and dials up her daughter at home using Facetime. The daughter has an iPod Touch and is connected to the WiFi network at home.

Now, Mom and daughter can see and hear one another. And with mobile, they can now see their surrounding environments as they walk about. When Mom asks, “Are you taking good care of my garden?”, the daughter can walk to the garden and give Mom a close-up view of the vegetables. When the daughter asks, “How is your hotel room?”, Mom can give her a quick tour.

Buying a New House Before Relocating

When a family relocates to another part of the country, the husband or wife typically heads out before the rest of the family, to secure housing and get things set up. This can make home-buying a challenge, as both spouses are not able to see the house before making a decision. Mobile video changes that.

Now, the husband can land in the new city, make appointments with a realtor, then video-call his wife to view the houses together. He can take his wife through the family room, kids’ bedrooms and yard.  While the listing page (on the web) for the house may provide panoramic, 360 degree views of the home, the mobile video-call transforms the 360 degree view from an “on-demand viewing” to a live guided tour.

Repairing a Server in The Data Center

A server has gone down and the only engineer available is the most junior member of your IT team. Not to fear – have him initiate a video call once he arrives. From there, senior members of your team can provide direction on how to fix the server.

The junior engineer powers down the server, then pulls out the blade server in slot 2. He points his smartphone at the server as the senior members explain how to carefully extract the card. Note that in this scenario, mounting the phone on a tripod would be helpful, to free up the junior engineer’s hands!

Emergency Services

A member of the public comes across an unconscious person in the street, dials the emergency services and is not only sent animated instructions to their phone, but the trained medical staff taking the call gives advice based on video observation of the subject, not just vague description. Vital minutes are saved to administer the correct first aid and potentially saves the person’s life.

Turning Trade Shows into Hybrid Events

Video calling can connect trade show and conference attendees with remote users who were not able to attend in person. The on-site attendee can take the remote attendee on a walk down the exhibit floor.

Exhibitors can take prospects through a tour of their booth, showing them their latest product offerings (in the same way you’d do in person). If the remote attendee switched to a desktop (e.g. with Skype), s/he could even conduct interviews with on-site attendees and post the interviews on a web site or blog. Mobile video allows the physical event experience to be shared with anyone.

Enhancing the Experience with Augmented Reality

With the development of augmented reality (AR), the examples above become even more useful and compelling: in home buying the video tour is augmented with room dimensions, distances from local amenities and details of local crime rates; in repairing the server the nearest spares supplier can be identified and the replacement part purchased there and then; and with trade shows, the video of a stand or product is enhanced with background information, case studies, product specifications, availability and costs.

Further Thought

We are talking about delivering these services over the top (OTTP) of the mobile networks. Where the future possibilities get really exciting are when these services are delivered as an integral part of an intelligent, mobile network.

The network knows a lot about the customer and hence it can prioritise and contextualise the experience. Frightening? Too Big Brother? Or the best way to filter information when we are exposed to ‘way too much’ content and have less and less time to sift through it and consume what we select?

Conclusion

When video arrived on the web, it changed things. Mobile video has arrived in the form of smartphone apps that are “detached” from the “web.” While we’ve listed just a few examples (above), our belief is that mobile video will have a far greater impact on communications than web video. The world becomes flatter and flatter by the day.

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Trends In The Virtual Worlds Industry

September 28, 2010

How do you keep up with industry trends?  You hear from the people setting the trends.  On September 24th, FountainBlue held its annual virtual worlds conference on Cisco’s campus in Milpitas, CA.  The event featured a session titled “Trends in the Virtual Worlds Industry: An Update on What’s New and What’s Coming.”

The panel:

  1. Facilitator Jeff Pope, Founding Partner, Spark Sky Ventures
  2. David Helgason, CEO and Co-Founder, Unity
  3. Chris Platz, Creative Director and Art Lead, Stanford Sirikata Labs
  4. Eilif Trondsen, Research and Program Director of the Virtual Worlds @ Work Consortium at Strategic Business Insights, SRI International
  5. Mark Wallace, Conversation Manager, Linden Lab

Related News: From Virtual Worlds News, “Unity Launches Unity 3, Wins Innovation Award

Terminology

The panel agreed that the term “virtual worlds” may no longer be applicable.  Eilif Trondsen noted that many technologies (e.g. Teleplace, Protosphere), provide virtual spaces (for corporations), rather than an entire virtual world.  Interestingly, at a Stanford Media X event, IMVU noted that they’re “NOT a virtual world“, either.  Chris Platz noted that he refers to the technology as a “real-time 3D collaborative spaces.”

Adapting to a changing user community

Platz noted that many virtual worlds technologies were designed for an older audience – one that will soon give way to a younger generation (e.g. Gen Y).  The technologies will need to adapt to a user base who grew up in a “virtual world” – they will have a different set of expectations.  An audience member noted that for some kids, their first experience online is in Club Penguin (or a similar “world”) – before they experience the broader web.

Platz encouraged virtual worlds to tear down the “walled garden” (e.g. closed system) in favor of an open system that integrates with Facebook, Twitter and other systems.  Platz developed and experimented with a Flash-based MMORG (massively multi-player online role-playing game) that ran as a Facebook app.  He predicted that some time soon, someone would develop a fully functional 3D virtual world embedded in Facebook – one that users interact with while on Facebook.com.

Avatar or no avatar?

The panel had an interesting debate on the use of avatars.  The debate was spurred from a point made about someone’s notion of an “ideal corporate learning environment”, which listed the following attributes:

  1. Ability to give presentations
  2. Virtual whiteboard
  3. Document collaboration
  4. Desktop sharing
  5. Use of avatars is secondary

What the debate really boiled down to is not “avatar or no avatar”, but “immersion or no immersion?”  Mark Wallace from Linden Lab took the “avatar stance”, noting the deep association between a user and her avatar – and the resulting impact of that connection.  Wallace noted that Second Life residents whose avatars participate in virtual weight loss programs actually lose weight in real life.

Audience member Laura Kusumoto noted that Wallace’s example referred to “Club One Island” on Second Life – I wrote about Club One in a posting about a Stanford Media X event in which they presented.

For me, it’s useful in a group learning environment to receive signals about the other members of the group (e.g. are they paying attention, are they engaged, are they asking questions, etc.).

There are non-immersiveness tools that can be leveraged (e.g. webcams, text chat, message boards, etc.).  However, I do see the value of immersiveness for learning – I’d compare it to an in-person team meeting vs. an audio-only conference call.

Augmented social graph reality

David Helgason made an interesting prediction with regard to augmented reality.  Helgason believes that the future of augmented reality includes your social graph overlaid onto your AR experience.  In the near future, your smartphone may be able to perform facial recognition on a person – and overlay your social graph connections to that person (on your smartphone’s display).

Perhaps the more immediate opportunity is already happening – via location based services as opposed to augmented reality.  For example, I arrive at a restaurant and find reviews from people in my social graph.  Reading my friends’ reviews lets me know whether I should go in to grab a table.

Second Life Enterprise

Linden Lab’s Mark Wallace was asked to comment on future plans for Second Life Enterprise.  Wallace noted that Linden Lab is taking a holistic approach to the entire platform – looking to make improvements to the user experience that apply to all users.  Wallace would not comment specifically on Enterprise, noting that the improvements underway would benefit everyone.

Conclusion

This isn’t your father’s virtual world any more.  From hearing this panel, I’d say that virtual worlds technologies (or, real-time 3D collaborative spaces) will continue to morph and blend immersive experiences with the social graph, social gaming and augmented reality.  As facilitator Jeff Pope noted, it will be interesting to gather again in 12 months to re-assess where the trends have taken us.


What I’ve Been Tweeting (Edition 1.0)

June 25, 2010

Because tweets are temporal, while blog postings are permalinked…

Selected musings and sharings, all done in 140 characters or less – for a full subscription (at absolutely no cost), follow me at @dshiao.

What I’ve Been Tweeting

Virtual Events

  1. #Telepresence In #Virtual Events With @G2Events: http://bit.ly/bcALWq #eventprofs
  2. Lots of #virtual events this month – see calendar: http://bit.ly/6IYdC5 | just added CSCO Summit & Retail Marketing events
  3. @VirtualEdge highlights @CiscoLive 2010, with thoughts from @dveale: http://bit.ly/bSjeJw
  4. Let’s collaborate on the evolution of #virtual events – info: http://bit.ly/brNUGE & wiki: http://bit.ly/9AF7JU #eventprofs
  5. 5 Tips For A Successful Virtual Trade Show by @funnelholic: http://bit.ly/ciApcx
  6. Maximizing the #ROI of #Virtual Trade Shows – Tips from the Trenches: http://bit.ly/9nBATP (by @ellehwoulfe) #eventprofs
  7. A @Focus discussion on #virtual events & what works: http://bit.ly/drin3W (via @funnelholic) #eventprofs
  8. Making Virtual Event Connections”: @dveale on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn integration into @CiscoLive Virtual: http://bit.ly/ao0Ibm

Social Media

  1. #socialmedia will shift from specialized machinery in hands of few to Swiss Army knife in hands of many (my take from #ragancisco)
  2. Just noticed: @Yelp now has “Follow This Reviewer”, a “Compliment” button on each review and a type of badge (“Elite ’10”)
  3. Expect @Groupon to ramp up on social: “Most people who use Groupon don’t realize it’s a group purchasing site” (said CEO in @NYTimes)
  4. RT @samueljsmith: Free Report: #SocialMedia in the New Event World http://ow.ly/1YOg4 #eventprofs #mpi RT @ericlukazewski
  5. YouTube Gets a Cloud-Based Video Editor: http://bit.ly/9z3BFS (from @RWW – good stuff, @YouTube)
  6. Fabulous: Inside @Gatorade’s Social Media Command Center from @Mashable: http://bit.ly/9Ma4d8
  7. “8 Interesting Media Offerings on LinkedIn”: http://www.clickz.com/3640716 (by @HarryJGold) – @LinkedIn has a white paper program

Cloudforce 2010

  1. Salesforce doing demo of Chatter app for iPad – planning to release later this year #Cloudforce #Cloud2
  2. Dell is on stage doing demo of Chatter running on the new Dell Streak (Android tablet) – 5 inch form factor #Cloudforce
  3. Neat things from #Cloudforce keynote: #Chatter demo on web, iPad; Jigsaw integration; Service Cloud 2 demo
  4. My learning from #Cloudforce: the cloud can move business “chatter” from a backchannel to an always-on channel
  5. Salesforce using 40-50 percent less email since they enabled #Chatter internally #Cloudforce
  6. #Chatter used to collaborate and share docs within a business – who’s thankful? The Exchange Administrator

Product Ideas

  1. Idea to promote businesses: design floor tiles with embedded QR codes – some patterns I see already look like them 😉
  2. Product idea: Twitter Funnel Server. Why? Because without one, companies would feel like they’re drinking from a firehose

General

  1. How iPhone 4 Could Change Augmented Reality: http://bit.ly/cbgxw8 (via @RWW) #AR
  2. RT @ojchiang: Watch The World Cup Through Your Video Game Console « Velocity – Forbes.com http://bit.ly/diu67X #worldcup
  3. A click is like a first date – it may be your only chance to make a first impression (via @ClickZ article)
  4. New term for startups who do not invest capital wisely: they operate at “broke-even” 😉
  5. Over breakfast, my first grader was talking about bloggers. Asked her to define “blogger” – her answer, “someone who blocks the road”

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