Virtual Worlds introduction presentation

When talking about Virtual Worlds with customers and other IBMers, I often start with some examples of the state of the art in Second Life. They give a flavour of why integration between the metaverse and real life is both possible and important, and why people are paying attention. I usually find it helpful to put Second Life in the context of Web 2.0; pointing out that it’s really all about two concepts that have already been changing the shape of the web: user generated content and social networking.

I reasoned that I could save everyone some time by putting the highlights of my introductory presentation up here. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of projects, rather a taste of what has caught my attention (and that of the media) in the last few months.


Depending on the audience, I will usually start by visiting the Second Life website to show the interactive map, all the time reeling off some interesting stats – largely gleened from Google TechTalk video – to help
people realise this is not just a game:

  • A glance at shows us the number of residents, how many residents have logged on recently, and how many US$ changed hands between players in the last 24 hours.
  • Yes, people make and sell things for money. 25% of users are currently sellers, 75% are primarily consumers.
  • Easy to build and script (using Linden Scripting Language but moving to support Mono).
  • Rich scripting API includes support for email, XML-RPC, HTTP Request, …
  • Video and audio streaming are easy. Mozilla’s Gekko core (Firefox’s rendering engine) is eventually being integrated, so any surface will be able to be a web page.
  • It’s growing fast. According to Linden Labs, the rate at which new land is added exceeds how fast you could explore it.

BBC One Big Weekend event

  • The BBC, who are frequently early adopters, announced an event in Second Life in May 2006. The streaming video from the One Big Weekend event (being held in Dundee) was shown in-world to provide people with another means of following the action.

  • The key thing here is the party happening in the foreground. People are dancing, showing off and chatting.

  • More: Read about BBC Radio 1 ‘One Big Weekend’ island on BBC Online, and the announcement.
    Eggy Lippmann collaborated with Rivers Run Red on this one.
  • The BBC also did a Second Life session for Newsnight around January 2006.

American Apparel

Warner Brothers

  • Warner Bros, who promote Regina Spektor, are marketing her latest album within Second Life.

  • The New York loft apartment (also built by Aimee Weber) houses a tape recorder playing clips of Regina Spektor’s music, with the mood of the room changing with the music.

  • More: read the press release and creator’s blog.


  • Major League Baseball ( paid the Electric Sheep Company for a virtual baseball stadium to host the Home Run Derby event.

  • I’m not a baseball fan, but even I was hooked enough by the lively atmosphere that staying up until 2am UK time was well worth it.

  • More: Eric Rice has a great summary and Ian wrote up the event on Eightbar too.

Forbidden City



  • Eightbar readers can’t have missed the fact that Ian Hughes worked on a prototype build for the Wimbledon tennis championships.

  • It involved displaying the path of the ball (thanks to the ‘Hawkeye’ data captured on-court) as well as clothing and even flying towels.

  • Read the original Eightbar post on Wimbledon demo for more.

So there you go. Naturally, this list will be out of date almost instantly, as more things are happening all the time. Let me know if I’ve missed something important though.

7 thoughts on “Virtual Worlds introduction presentation

  1. Slightly off topic – feel free to delete so not to clutter up your great post. But being someone that has been investigating Second Life recently I have one BIG problem that to me could prevent take up of Second Life as a collaboration tool etc.

    This problem being network lag – with the servers being in San Francisco (I can’t see them doing much about that right now with how Second Life works). I have an 8 meg connection (but seems to run at 4) but I have to open and close the application every 15minutes or so as I can no longer walk etc. I’m always seeing people flying or walking into the distance obviously suffering the same problems.

    The packet loss between the uk and us routers seems to be the problem when I look at the network stats. My question (finally) – with you guys being in the UK what is your experience of this?

  2. Hi Steve

    Yes, lag can be a bit annoying. It’s usually not too bad for me (even from here in the sunny UK). Certainly not as bad as what you’re decribing, even in a busy sim. It’s not great, but it seems to be more usable than what you’re seeing. There may be some magic you can do to alleviate some packet loss.

    You might find this entry on the Second Life Wiki about packet loss helpful. I’m really not an expert in this stuff, but I wondering if tweaking your MTU and/or RWIN values might help. My starting point for this stuff is usually Enjoy, and let me know how you get on.

  3. Hi Steve, performance is certainly an issue as we get global involvement. I believe that this is one thing that Linden are looking at. I don’t get too much of a problem, bearing min mind this is a ‘slower’ oaced experienc than a game is.
    Given the massive growth in users of the past 6 months I am not surprised that there are some perfomance problems.
    As its not our platform though and we are just users all we can do is help to highlight things.
    With my official hat on I would say that there are lots of things we have as a company that may help with perfomance and provisioning, certainly my collegues over in events hosting who run might be able to offer a helping hand to Linden Labs.
    You user expereince though is very different from mine, there is lag sometimes in crossing regions, but in general on a normal line (mine is 4Meg at home) and in the office on a fixed ethernet line I seem to get very good performance unless a sim is loaded with people.
    It would be great to be able to host our own servers and be responsible for the performance at teh server end.
    I know that there are a lot of tuning resources, and wireless (in games anyway) can do some odd things. I know not everyone whats to be a network sysadmin, but as Roo say there may be tweaks your end.

  4. Thanks guys – I will try a few things out as my experience seems to be worse than it should be, which would indicate a local issue might be making it worse.

    I have a work 2meg broadband connection as well at home – so I will try that as a comparison etc

  5. As people who are so involved in virtual technology, specifically Second Life, I’d be truly interested in what you think about the social aspects of this incredibly cool world. I had the pleasure of talking with Linden Labs’ CEO, Philip Rosedale, for my podcast I of Innovation and we talked quite a bit about the ways in which Second Life is so much more than “just a game” … The interview is a four-part podcast series, part three of which I posted today. Would love to know what you think about it! Episodes are at

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