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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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2011 Predictions For Virtual Events

October 30, 2010

As we head into the final 2 months of 2010, it’s time for another round of predictions.  First, let’s review my 2010 predictions:

  1. The 2010 Predictions for Virtual Events
  2. The Mid-Year Report Card on the 2010 predictions
  3. A posting on the Future of Virtual Events

I assigned myself a mid-year grade of B.  And now, I’m designating a final grade of B-.  I hope to improve in this year’s predictions.  To assist with my predictions, I invited a few experts from the community to chime in, so I’ll be including their predictions with my own.

Market Expansion

To date, “market expansion” has meant a growing number of “pure play” virtual event platform providers.  In the US, we started with a handful of major vendors and we’ve seen new entrants into the market in 2009 and 2010.  We also saw the emergence of platforms outside the US, notably in Europe – and in 2009, in Asia Pacific as well.

For a large Requests For Proposal (RFP) in 2009 and 2010, the virtual event platforms knew whom they were competing against (each other).  Starting in 2011, it gets cloudier (pun intended), as the blending of virtual, social and Enterprise 2.0 means that a wider set of vendors are vying for the same business that virtual platforms got in 2010.

Consider the following vendors, each of whom has offerings that (in part) look, feel and smell like virtual events or virtual business communities:

Jive Software, Yammer, Pathable, Facebook Groups, Socialtext, SharePoint (Microsoft) and Lotus (IBM).

Virtual event platforms can expect to sell against some of these players in 2011 and some platforms may go the partnership route, to build a combined offering as a competitive advantage.

Service Level Agreements (SLA)

The virtual events industry is at a point in its growth where Service Level Agreements (SLA) make a lot of sense.  With a growing number of vendors, SLA’s help separate the contenders from the pretenders – if you’re offering money back (or a credit) if an event fails, then only the strong will survive.

I predict that one vendor will lead the way and proactively hit the market with an SLA – forcing others to follow suit later in 2011.  Expect SLA’s around availability and simultaneous users.

Later in 2011 (or perhaps in 2012), SLA’s will be defined around “quality”, such as response time.  This development helps the market – the assurance provided behind an event allows the market to expand, attracting new customer growth that exceeds 2010’s figures.

Market Upheaval

Market expansion and SLA’s mean the strong get stronger. But lesser platforms have a challenging year ahead. According to Cece Salomon-Lee, Principal at PR Meets Marketing, “some players will be bought by larger organizations, merging to bring together complimentary strengths or even some disappearing from the industry all together. No matter how, we will begin to see some consolidation within the industry.”

Meanwhile, Miguel Arias of IMASTE believes that US platforms will look abroad for acquisitions.  To “gain presence, customers and market knowledge” in Europe, Latin America and Asia, Arias believes US platforms will look to partner or acquire in-country platforms in those same regions.

In my mind, there is an enormous, (largely) untapped market within the US, which means that US-based platforms will continue to focus domestically in 2011.  Global expansion will occur in 2012 or beyond.  In addition, due to the “strong get stronger” phenomenon, I predict that one of the prominent US-based platforms will cease operations in 2011 – or, be sold at a below-market price.

Technology A La Carte


Today, virtual event platforms are “monolithic” – you enter an event and all of the functionality provided by the platform sits within that event.  You can’t experience the platform’s features outside of an “event”.  In my futures column, I predicted that virtual events “move closer to the end user”.

Driven by market demand, platforms will “break out” pieces of their technology platform in a la carte fashion. Customers who do not need a five course meal may opt just for an appetizer and coffee.  This may surface in a number of ways, including:

Thin desktop clients, mobile apps, browser toolbars, virtual booths embedded in banner ads, group chat embedded on a web page, etc.

Hybrid Innovation & The Year of the Hybrid

In 2009, some INXPO colleagues and I predicted that 2010 would be The Year of the Hybrid.  This was partially true – in fact, Cisco received the 2010 Grand Ex Award for their hybrid approach to Cisco Live and Networkers. However, the mass adoption of hybrid events (that we predicted) did not ring true.  But that’s OK, it’s always better to be a year early than a year late.

Event and experience marketing agencies have adopted virtual in varying degrees – 2011 is the year where they demonstrate the most aggressive push to date.  You’ll see strong adoption from the “big brands” in 2011 and it will come by way of these channel partners to the virtual event platforms.  2011 will set the foundation for growth – with “hockey stick growth” coming in 2012.

Another major adopter in 2011 will be associations. They’ve done a number of virtual events to date – in 2011, you’ll see 200%+ growth.  Local chapter meetings will continue to occur at physical locations, while the annual, national chapter meeting of the association will move to a hybrid event, with the virtual component serving those members who were not able to make it to the physical gathering.

More generally, 2011 will see innovative technologies that blend the virtual/online world with the real world.  And these same technologies will be integrated into hybrid event experiences, blurring the lines between physical and virtual.  I’m referring to location based services (LBS), mobile, augmented reality and QR codes.  Expect to see a lot of hybrid events innovation, which benefits everyone.

Miscellaneous Predictions

From Miguel Arias, “After some virtual events vendors, marketers and event organisers have shown in 2010 with successful case studies what are the benefits of virtual events we will see much more events and movements in Europe and South America specially.  I expect a 250-300% growth of the total market size in those regions.”

From Cece Salomon-Lee, “I believe the players that will remain on the landscape will begin building out an ecosystem of services to plug-and-play on the platforms.”

From Miguel on vendor specialization, “With more vendors in the space and more clients asking for more tailored solutions we will probably see a leader in the corporate events environment, a leader in the generic trade show market, other for hybrid events, for virtual career fairs, etc.”

Conclusion

I’ll sum up this piece by using a number of nouns to describe what I expect to see in 2011: innovation, shake-out, growth, change, adaptation, expansion, excitement.  Check back here in 6-8 months for my mid-year report card!


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.


3 Virtual Worlds Technologies To Watch

September 26, 2010

On September 24th, FountainBlue held its annual virtual worlds conference.  This year’s event was hosted on Cisco’s campus in Milpitas, CA.

The event was attended by entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, investors and virtual worlds practitioners.  Several virtual worlds entrepreneurs spoke on the scheduled panel discussions and a few set up stations to demonstrate their technology.

I’d like to highlight 3 virtual worlds technologies that caught my attention.

RocketOn: A virtual world layer on top of the entire web

Presenting executive: Steve Hoffman, CEO

RocketOn takes my “Best in Show Award” for most innovative virtual worlds technology.  While Facebook and Twitter have propelled social networking to mainstream adoption, surfing the web is still a solitary experience.

While many web sites have added community features (e.g. membership, comments, Facebook social graph integration, etc.) – it’s still the case that when I browse my favorite content sites, I have no idea who else is reading the same page at the same time.

RocketOn seeks to change that.  Using a Flash layer placed on top of web pages via an i-frame, RocketOn users can create their own avatar and have them walk atop any web page.  They can then see other RocketOn users who may be visiting the same web page.

Perhaps you’re reading a movie review and happen to bump into a friend, who’s reading the same review.  You decide to visit a site that hosts a trailer for the movie, so you both navigate to the trailer site, watch it there and continue your chat.

A Foursquare for the entire web

One of the captivating features of Foursquare is the ability to see who else is at the same physical location as you.  RocketOn has built a similar feature for the entire web.  While the service is focused on a consumer audience initially, imagine how this technology could be used in a corporate setting.

Browsing your company’s intranet could become much more productive and engaging.  Now, water cooler conversations could occur online, as you bump into colleagues at the employee directory page (rather than the kitchen).

Additional Information

  1. The “About Us” page for RocketOn
  2. More details on the RocketOn platform
  3. Neat 2-minute video about the RocketOn service

Zenitum: Bringing virtual worlds into the real world

Presenting executive: Albert Kim, CEO

I admire technologies that flip conventional models upside down.  While we visit virtual worlds from the real world, Zenitum seeks to have virtual worlds elements visit us in the real world.  CEO Albert Kim receives the “Jetsettter Badge”, having attended the conference from Zenitum’s home base in Seoul, Korea.

When publicly released (later this year), Zenitum’s technology will be supported on iPhone, Android and Symbian.  Zenitum will provide their app and an SDK (software development kit) for free.  They are encouraging widespread adoption of their technology – consumers use their app and device manufacturers develop services using their SDK. Zenitum will monetize their service via advertising (“augmented advertising”, perhaps).

Our reality will forever be augmented

When you run the app, your smartphone scans your surroundings, attempting to recognize images.  If it finds a match, Zenitum overlays a 3D animated object on top (or around) the real world object.  For example, let’s say a comic book publisher is running a campaign and loads an image of a comic strip into the Zenitum platform.

The same image is on a billboard on a city street.  When I walk down that street with the app running (and my smartphone positioned properly), Zenitum detects the comic strip image.  It then inserts animated 3D objects (perhaps other characters from the comic strip) around the real world object.  As I move my phone left, right, up and down, the animated objects adjust their positions accordingly.

Possible use cases

Imagine the use of this technology at a museum – as you walk past a painting, its “virtual artist” could appear on your phone and speak to you about the inspiration behind the work.  At a trade show or conference, walking down an aisle could cause executives (virtually) to spring up and give you a brief pitch about their product.

Neat stuff – I hope we’re able to keep the distinction clear, though, on what’s real and what’s virtual!

Additional Information

  1. Zenitum’s “Company” page on their web site

Digitell: Bringing a global audience to your next meeting

Presenting executive: Jim Parker, President

Digitell uses the ActiveWorlds 3D platform to bring you hybrid meetings, virtual events, virtual communities and webcasts.  Jim Parker, Digitell’s President, notes that a common client of his service is associations, who want to extend the audience for their annual meetings.  Parker notes that the immersive experience of Digitell makes attendees “feel like they’re there” (at the physical event).

Parker’s clients who run these hybrid events often charge the same amount on virtual attendance as they do for the on-site event.  In this way, the common objection of cannibalization goes away, as the virtual component generates additional audience – and additional revenue for the meeting organizer.

Dispelling the notion that virtual worlds are for the younger generation, Parker notes that the average age of a Digitell user is 44 (wow!).  Users are so passionate about the experience that they often comment, “when’s the next event, I want to use my avatar!”.

Parker has created 3D replicas of museums, which allows students (across the globe) to visit and experience the museum’s works, without having to be “bused” to the physical building.  Imagine how easy it would be to have a virtual guide take students on a tour of the museum’s main works, any time of day, with students participating from all over the world.

Additional Information

  1. More info on Hybrid Meetings from Digitell

Conclusion

While the term “virtual worlds” has a negative connotation in the minds of many, it hasn’t stopped innovative entrepreneurs from developing new and exciting services.  It will be interesting to watch each of these technologies to review their adoption, growth and monetization.


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”

The Future Of Virtual Events

February 1, 2010

There’s no time like the present … to think about the future.  I previously wrote about predictions for the virtual event industry in 2010 – those predictions were based around a short-term outlook and have a reasonable chance of coming true.  Now, I’d like to weigh in on 2011 (and beyond) and discuss where the industry (and the technology behind it) may be heading.

Virtual Event technology moves “closer” to the end user

To spur increased adoption, the virtual event experience will move closer to the end user.  To move closer, the browser-based experience of today will be complemented by numerous apps that live outside of the browser.  A relevant analogy is Twitter, which could not have achieved its place in the world on twitter.com alone – its power is broadened with desktop clients such as TweetDeck and Seesmic.  Possibilities include:

  1. Browser toolbars that encapsulate a subset of virtual event functionality (OK, we’re still within a browser here – so consider this an initial step only).
  2. Desktop applications – initially, these apps may provide a real-time dashboard for attendees, exhibitor or show hosts.  You’ll get to keep tabs on activity within a virtual event without having to be logged into the event (from your browser).  Subsequently, the apps will become more sophisticated and take on more of the virtual event platform’s features.
  3. Asynchronous alerting services – attendees, exhibitors and show hosts will be able to configure alerts that inform them of important activities.  The alerts will have numerous transport mechanisms – email, SMS text message or social media notification (e.g. a direct message on Twitter).

Virtual Events Go Mobile

Related to “getting closer” to the end user, mobile is the “elephant in the room” for virtual events.  The mobile apps will start off quite simple – think again of the dashboard app, which provides a real-time view of what’s going on within the event.

Building onto the dashboard will be basic interactivity (e.g. text chat) – allowing attendees and exhibitors the ability to chat with others.  An exhibitor, for instance, can now staff her booth “on the go” from her iPhone.

As we look to 2011 and beyond, I see a clear shift in the computing landscape, whereby more and more “computing” moves from the desktop and laptop and on to mobile devices.  In this decade, the smartphone becomes the PC of the past decade.

The challenge for virtual event platform providers is to determine where to place their bets (investments) across iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile and Palm.

Tighter Integration Inside The Firewall

Virtual events see major adoption from multinational corporations, who leverage the events for internal-facing communication and collaboration (e.g. sales kick-off meetings, human resources programs, learning programs, executive briefings, team/departmental meetings, etc.).  Corporations will begin to request the following:

  1. Integration with other enterprise applications (which often sit inside the firewall)
  2. Tighter security measures

This drive from corporations will cause virtual event technology to morph a bit, shifting from a 100% software as a service (SaaS) model to a hybrid model that combines SaaS with on-premise software.

At first, integration points to a company’s enterprise apps may reside “on premise” on corporate servers – subsequently, corporations may require the underlying virtual event platform be hosted inside the firewall – a model that mirrors Linden Lab and their Second Life Enterprise.

Augmented Virtuality

Virtual events and in-person events meet augmented reality – resulting in “augmented virtuality”.  I previously wrote that 2010 is The Year of The Hybrid Event.  There will come a day when every in-person event has a virtual component.  With existing smartphone technology and the emergence of augmented reality – we’ll soon hit a sweet spot whereby in-person event attendees will wield enormous power in the palm of their hands.

Physical event attendees will begin to experience an event through the lens of their smartphone – holding up the smartphone at any location and seeing overlays of relevant information.

Augmented virtuality will blend augmented reality with the virtual event platform – elements of the virtual event appear as overlays on the smartphone (e.g. the virtual booth is layered on top of the smartphone’s view of the physical booth – and virtual staffers are displayed as being available [via the smarthphone] if the in-person staffers are busy).

Bye Bye, “Virtual Events”

Based on the trends I’ve outlined, by 2011 (if not sooner), we’ll no longer refer to “virtual events”.  Instead, they’ll have “grown up” and migrated into a broader category of business or collaboration application.  Virtual event technology becomes a toolset in a larger ecosystem – or, they’re integrated into a broader suite of tools (rather than being a standalone solution).

Conclusions

In a few years, these will no longer be your mother’s virtual events!  The industry and technology will change, morph and adapt to suit the needs of the market.  Let’s all be thankful that we’re along for the ride.

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How Location Awareness And Augmented Reality Can Be Leveraged For Events

November 24, 2009

Photo source: Layar.com

With the addition of a compass, GPS and associated software, the PDA/smartphone has become as powerful as ever.  Services are emerging that blend social networking and location awareness (e.g. Foursquare, Google Latitude) – in addition, augmented reality has received a lot of recent attention.  Amsterdam-based Layar has interesting technology that they call Layar Reality Browser – Version 2.0 (a mobile, augmented reality browser).

How could location awareness and augmented reality apply to events and trade shows?

Event Check-In

Source: flickr (User: Buckeye Beth)

Event planners could partner with location awareness providers to determine which registrants have appeared on site.  Attendees would need to register and opt-in to the location awareness service – but once they do, the technology can determine who’s on site and provide automated check-in.  Imagine arriving at the event, skipping past the long check-in line and going straight to a self-service kiosk, where you can print your event badge.  Once you have your badge printed, perhaps the event planner disables the location service, to give attendees the reassurance that they’re not being watched, a la Big Brother.

Eco-friendly maps

Photo source: Layar.com

You’re at the main lobby of the event – imagine holding up your PDA and having a map appear of the venue.  You no longer need to ask where the keynote session is being held – your PDA can map it for you – and perhaps guide you right there via its GPS function.  Such a service would make support overhead more efficient (less staff required to direct attendees) and be eco-friendly, since the printed event guide (and map) may no longer be required.

Augmented Reality at Exhibitor Booths

For trade shows that include exhibitor booths, augmented reality provides for some interesting possibilities.  I’m standing at the event’s most popular booth – the event staff is swarmed with visitors and I have to wait in line to speak to the exhibitor and/or get my product demo.  While I’m waiting, I bring up the augmented reality app on my PDA – it shows an image of the physical booth (right in front of me) with the following information overlaid:

  1. Related content from the exhibitor that I can view (right now) from my PDA – documents, white papers, on-demand videos, etc.
  2. Bios/profiles of event staffers who are in the booth right now – so I know that the most popular demo is being given by the exhibitor company’s Senior Product Manager for Mobile – I can view his LinkedIn profile, so that when my turn comes, I already know that we have a connection in common.
  3. An option to view the demo – perhaps the physical booth demos are being streamed out to the web – e.g.  into a hybrid virtual event.  With a click, I’m able to view the live stream of the demo via my PDA.  I’ll admit, it’s an odd thought to watch a live demo that’s occurring a few feet from you – but sometimes at events, it is truly hard to see the demo from the back of an assembled crowd.
  4. An option to join a text chat with a virtual booth staffer – again, in a concurrent virtual event, perhaps the exhibitor supplements their physical staffers with online staffers in the virtual environment.

Social gaming and following friends/colleagues

Events could incorporate a gaming aspect, with points tied to actions – and activity tracked via location awareness.  Exhibitors no longer need to scan an attendee’s badge – instead, the location awareness service tracks which booths they’ve visited.  Safeguards need to be established, of course, to ensure that a booth visit was real/substantial, as opposed to a “drive by”.  To use a Foursquare analogy, perhaps exhibitors offer a grand prize (e.g. HDTV) and award that to the attendee who holds the title of “mayor” (of that booth) at the conclusion of the event.

In a sales meeting, on the other hand, you often have colleagues who want to attend sessions together – instead of texting or IM’ing to coordinate meet-ups, a location awareness service (think Google Latitude) can allow opted-in attendees to track one another’s location on the show floor.  If your colleague is spending too long on line for coffee, go grab him so that you’re both not late to your boss’ presentation.

The important stuff – food!

Photo source: Layar.com

Layar, Yelp and Urbanspoon have all released augmented reality apps related to restaurants.  Whether it’s lunch during the event or dinner afterwards, you’ll always be a few augmented clicks away from knowing where’s the best burger, steak or burrito.

Perhaps what we need is a conference on augmented reality and location awareness – where all of this becomes reality!


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