On September 24th, FountainBlue held its annual virtual worlds conference. This year’s event was hosted on Cisco’s campus in Milpitas, CA. In the afternoon, a panel of virtual worlds entrepreneurs spoke about new developments in the industry. The panel was titled “Entrepreneur Panel: The Tools, The Goods, The Immersion Experience”:
- Facilitator Nina Gerwin, The NRG Group
- Michael Gold, CEO, Electrotank: virtual world & virtual games development platform
- Steve Hoffman, CEO, Rocketon: virtual world for tweeners
- Albert Kim, CEO, Zenitum: Augmented reality with 3D displays
- Jim Parker, President, Digitell: SaaS 3D immersive virtual events and virtual training
I covered some of these entrepreneurs’ businesses in a separate posting about virtual worlds technologies to watch.
Adapting your business
Each panelist was asked to describe the genesis behind their business. As is customary with web startups today, no one is working against their original business model or vision.
For Digitell’s Jim Parker, business began by assembling content for online libraries. Then, he was struck by the notion of allowing consumers of the library content to meet and collaborate in real-time.
Zenitum’s Albert Kim experiments with a number of different technologies. When one set of technologies differs enough from the core set, he looks to spin that out into an independent company.
Online and social gaming may be the hottest trend on the web today. So of course the topic arose with Electrotank’s Michael Gold and RocketOn’s Steve Hoffman. Gold and Hoffman highlighted technologies available to game makers today:
- Objective C
Note: Unity’s David Helgason spoke on the Trends Panel at this event.
According to Gold, HTML5 has its benefits, but you can’t yet develop a game using it.
Note: Michael Gold posted the following clarification:
“I just want to make a quick correction on a statement about HTML5 that was attributed to me in this blog post. What I said on the panel was that HTML5 is not yet practical for developing *virtual worlds* but has great potential in a few years.
Virtual worlds and MMOs present unique technical challenges that are distinctly different than those presented by the majority of social and casual online and mobile *games* Thus in my opinion it is completely possible to develop *games* using HTML5 at the present time. There are several developers focusing on these games right now. In fact, Zynga recently purchased one – Dextrose, a German development studio. I actually believe you’ll see a significant number of HTML5 games on the market a year from now. Just not so many virtual worlds or MMOs.”
Virtual worlds and engagement
An audience member asked how virtual worlds can track engagement – so that in a corporate setting, the meeting host can measure whether the content is hitting the mark. Digitell’s Parker notes his clients often use his system for accreditation. The system uses an idle timer – it renders a “click to continue” message and if the user does not click within 10 seconds, “you don’t get accreditation.”
Studies have shown that viewers of webinars often lose attention and multitask. A virtual world forces users to remain engaged. Parker notes that for some sessions, the instructor leads the “students” on a guided walk. “If Jim doesn’t follow the rest of the group, then you know he’s not paying attention.”
Believe it or not, it’s not a bad time to be a virtual worlds entrepreneur. As the panel demonstrated, the key is to be nimble and adapt to a changing marketplace. Next year, it will be interesting to see how these entrepreneurs evolved – and, to see what new entrepreneurs appear on the scene.