My picks of the Virtual Worlds 2008 New York show

Virtual Worlds 2008 has been a very intense experience, both from seeing just the sheer amount of growth in the industry, seeing all my colleagues as deeply immersed as I am and seeing some very cool new things emerge.
I have three picks of the show that stood out for me personally. As well as being virtual world technologies they also have two other things on common. Two are from Australia (an odd coincidence but I like linkages like this) the other is that they are middleware related, they represent a flexible and more diverse approach to virtual worlds that allows us to break some of the patterns we have already become used too.
Those picks are

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The first pick is Mycosm. This company came out of stealth at the show. I know they gave demos to a few colleagues and there was a general buzz. As I investigate more I will share what they actually do. In the demos and conversations I saw a very flexible system allowing for all sorts of objects and types to be treated in a uniform manner, 3d object import, painting with brushes that are also composite objects, meta data properties on objects such as friction, rag doll physics, rich avatars, a very rich rendering on the front end overall. All this is very good but also under the covers it appears to have a more modular approach to functions. Being able to run peer to peer or centralized (or a mix and match) due to the nature of the underlying services model. Being able to operate with web services which for me means being able to link with existing business systems as well as the web2.0 world.
Being able to take advantage of a richer game front end but drive it with services starts to fit more with mirror worlds and with simulations. I am looking forward to delving deeper and seeing where this one can go.

The second is Vastpark. This solution is also middleware. Its distinguishing elements are based around the consumption of services to create virtual worlds. The interesting elements around this are the use of a markup language to describe scenes. It is also interesting that its pulling of objects from other repositories appears to be more Service Oriented Architecture based(SOA). Delivering a markup can mean that assets are referred to elsewhere such as turbosquid. Being able to place function or data elsewhere and have it pulled together in a service compositional way opens up interoperability in the correct fashion, not just pure import export but live. The Vastpark site also refers to existing forming standards as being relevant to them, opensocial, metawss and imml. These to me are all good signs.

The third and final pick is the Multiverse proof of concept of a full 3d world and 2.5d flash client both interface to work talking to the same server. The ability to use different platforms, either through choice or through need, yet have people respond to one another and benefit from the virtual worlds is very important. To see Multiverse showing the blending will help people consider this path and not a generic one platform answer.

I also have to mention the IBM demonstrations, but it would be wrong for me to pick those as favourites.

  • Craig demonstrating the Second Life instances running on our blade servers
  • The IQ team demonstrating our Metaverse integrated with our enterprise services
  • Peter showing the lenticular 3d monitor running a Second Life client talking to OpenSimulator
  • Michael showing Activeworlds running on a 3g enabled mobile phone connected to other users on richer clients.

This is not to say there were not other significant things, the keynotes and panels surfaced a few things. Such as in Roo’s panel Christian from Millions Of Us mentioning that MOU are doing the builds for Sony Home and the backchannel and post conference party conversations which give another insight into the industry.
I hope that as we get more take up at these events we also start to move to representing them virtually too. Lots of people were not able to attend, but because there are so many diverse platforms and we don’t have interoperability yet we tended to stick to twitter as an information channel for people. Capturing atmosphere and buzz to mirror events is an interesting challenge, but I am guessing that the people attending and presenting at the show are best placed to solve it for ourselves and others.

Industry growth in Virtual Worlds

The Virtual Worlds 2008 conference here in New York was significantly bigger in exhibitors and attendees from last years one at the same time of year. Last year there were 2 small office rooms with about 10 exhibitors including IBM. This year the trade floor was somewhat bigger. This is a quick wander around just to help share some of the buzz and atmosphere.

Two years ago was my rez day for Second Life as epredator potato. I am still amazed at how quickly we have all progressed and the take up and interest is still growing. we know everything is not solved but evolution has to start somewhere. Some of the new things we saw at the show (longer posts coming on that) started to feel like a new generation or cycle was starting as VC funded firms come out of stealth. There are a few that need to turn off their predator hunting cloaks too.

Summary of social networks panel at VW08

I moderated a panel on virtual worlds, games and social networks at the Virtual Worlds 2008 conference today. I recently put out a request for questions here on Eightbar, and got a great response. Here are my (very poor and woefully incomplete) recollections of the event. I’m hoping to get a copy of the audio from the event organizers, which will help me flesh this out For now…

My three co-panelists introduced themselves

  • Christian Lassonde – President & Co Founder, Millions of Us
  • Susan Panico – Senior Director, Playstation Network, Sony
  • Sean Ryan – CEO, Meez

Susan described the attraction of worlds created “for gamers by gamers” so I pressed her on whether Home is going to include user generated content. (When Corey Bridges spoke at SXSW, he mentioned that in the late 90s, if you’d asked people who will be the biggest content producers on the web, people might have guessed ‘Disney’, or other big entertainment brands, and that this turns out not to have been the case. In quite a big way. The creators of the web are everyday people. Does the mentality of user-generated content have any space in the world of Home? (I also mentioned, in a hat-tip to timdp’s question that she should explain it in terms of what will make Home ‘sticky and compulsive’). Susan conceded that while the experiences would be participatory and social, the content is not going to be user-generated. Christian later revealed that Millions of Us are working with Sony on Home (which was new news to me!)

I asked a very summary version of David Orban’s question (I probably didn’t do it justice, but I pointed out that virtual worlds and games are generally synchronous and realtime, while web based social networks are largely asynchronous. What implications does this have for the future of virtual worlds and social networks?) Everyone agreed that social networks are generally asynchronous, and games are generally synchronous, and all predicated that virtual worlds were bound to become more like social networks in the future. Giff Constable ask a question to clarify that synchronous things don’t tend to happen in asynchronous spaces (not currently many examples of this in existing social networks) but hinted that increased presence information (“currently online”) might gradually augment what we see now (replay, ghost data to simulate synchronous activity in an asynchronous space). I should have pushed harder on this point, because there was a big gap between where everyone agreed we are now and where they all agreed we would obviously end up.

I asked about walled gardens.
(My friend kybernetikos wanted me to ask this question: Walled gardens have failed (spectacularly and famously) on the web. Yet people are making walled gardens in the fields of games, social networks AND virtual worlds?)
Christian said that he didn’t expect this to chance in the near future (though mentioned that perhaps in the long term things may be more open). In the short term, he described a business reality in which people have no incentive to help people migrate into a competitive.

Question from the audience re virtual worlds for learning and education.
Both Sean and Christian agreed with each other that education was not a big sector at the moment. I chipped in with the point that education and business are not mutually exclusive, and that there are lots of ongoing projects with education and training for business.

Question from the audience about networks which extend beyond one world/game, in which you register your avatar/user for multiple social spaces and share reputation and status in multiple places (including
Christian pointed out that these had been around for a while, and most have fallen away.

Final question from the audience on where is this stuff going in 5 years.
Christian says 5 years is particularly hard (1 year is easy. 50/100 years isn’t too bad. 5 years, someone will hold you to it.)
Pretty much consensus from the panel that virtual worlds are going to be big. Maybe we won’t talk about social networks and virtual worlds as separate things. I predicted that 2D content will still be around for a very long time (in addition to much more ubiquitous 3D stuff where it makes sense), and also mentioning that I’d been surprised not to see more Augmented Reality at this conference and to look out for it in the next few years.

Virtual Worlds 2008 – Reuben’s Pitch

Today started with a keynote from Reuben Steiger from Millions of Us. There was an important message in it that I felt worth iterating in a single post rather than a mass roundup. That is one of not fixating on the difficulties, not to obsess about the tools in virtual worlds, but to think about people. Making work more interesting and dare I say fun for people is what we can do with virtual worlds. All of us in this industry know that this is work, but it is enjoyable work. Surely we can appeal to the masses by actually making their day to day drudgery better.
It may sound mad, dreamer talk but I do think that as virtual worlds and metaverses are primarily about people (usually the first slide of any pitch I do). Helping people feel better about what they do is a worthwhile investment. I think we have been doing that inside IBM, having 5,000 people gathered and focused on virtual worlds has been beneficial to the entire company and people want to be involved.

Yes thats correct second life behind the firewall

As much of the press is out there now the VW 2008 announcement of Linden Labs and IBM working together to get an intranet portion of the Second Life grid running on our own blade servers and installed behind the firewall.
There is a lot to this and one key thing is that it is not the only thing we are doing still. Interoperability is still key, having various instances of virtual worlds and intergrating them to one another and to the enterprise are key. Services Oriented Architecture is the industry word for the pattern.
None the less it will be exciting to work out how to persists and share services across an internal Second Life grid and Active Worlds and IQ Metaverse and Forterra and OpenSimulator and …..
Likewise the flow of how we transition from being on an intranet grid to a public grid and back again.
There are lots of us here in NY from eightbar and IBM so please come and chat about this if you have concerns. If not then twitter, blogs etc happy to chat and explain.
I have to say its all good 🙂

‘Evolution of Games and Social Networks’ panel at VW08 – call for questions

I’ll be moderating a panel at Virtual Worlds 2008 on Friday, entitled ‘The Evolution of Games and Social Networks’. To give you an idea of what we’ll be talking about, the abstract for the panel describes it thus:

“With the planned introduction of Sony’s Home for the PlayStation3 and multiple virtual worlds providers now creating widgets for Facebook, Bebo, and other social
networks, we’re seeing virtual worlds reach out to every part of the Web and consumer life. This session offers a detailed understanding of how virtual worlds are taking advantage of these emerging distribution formats and how you can leverage Virtual Worlds Everywhere.”

I’ll be joined on the panel by some very smart and interesting people, including

  • Christian Lassonde, President & Co Founder, Millions of Us
  • Susan Panico, Senior Director, PLAYSTATION Network, Sony Computer Entertainment America
  • Sean Ryan, CEO, Meez

(Mark Limber from Google was supposed to be joining us, but I understand that he won’t be able to make it.)

What would you like me to ask them?

The intersection between virtual worlds and social networking is a pretty big and (hopefully) interesting topic, and should be a well attended session. I’ve been preparing some discussion points and questions for the other panelists, and I’d love your input. If you won’t be there in person, here’s a chance to let me know where you’d like to see the discussion go. Specific questions for specific panelists or general topics for discussion are both welcomed. Leave a comment on this post. I’ll be posting the results after the event (audio? text? video? at least one of those anyway), so think of it as a way of participating remotely and asynchronously. Alternatively, think of it as a blatant lazyweb request to make my own life easier. 🙂

Eightbar on tour

Well this is not quite a neon light for eightbar on tour, more pipecleaners, but we make do.
Pipecleaner eightbar
Some of the eightbar crew, name Roo and I are on tour to the east coast of the US.
Monday is a mass summit of IBMers upstate New York.
Tues, Weds is an in depth gathering of the CIO Innovate Quick Metaverse team in Connetticut.
The we move base to the big apple for the final two days of the Virtual Worlds 2008 conference. There will be much more on that in a post soon.
Roo is chairing a panel and there a whole statck of fellow IBMers going to be there.
Come and find us at the IBM booth or just look for my striped leather jacket and say hi.

IBM Virtual Worlds 1Q 2008 roundup

A brief summary of what’s been happening with IBM in virtual worlds in the first quarter of this year. It’s an impressive list.

Mike Rhodin, General Manager of IBM Lotus software, recently made five predictions about the future of collaborative working. They included open standards, increase in IM and other real-time tools. The number one prediction was

The Virtual Workplace will become the rule.  No need to leave the office.  Just bring it along.  Desk phones and desktop computers will gradually disappear, replaced by mobile devices, including laptops, that take on traditional office capabilities.  Social networking tools and virtual world meeting experiences will simulate the feeling on being their in-person.   Work models will be changed by expanded globalisation and green business initiatives that reduce travel and encourage work at home.

“The definition of “meetings” will radically transform and become increasingly adhoc and instantaneous based on context and need.  3-D virtual world and gaming technologies will significantly influence online corporate meeting experiences to deliver more life-like experiences demanded by the next generation workers who will operate more efficiently in this familiar environment.”

Bruce Morse (IBM VP of Unified Communications and Collaboration) and Steve Mills (IBM Senior VP, Software Group) are both quoted in a recent eWeek article, which discusses a major investment in UCC, as well as an announcement about a partnership with virtual worlds company Forterra Systems. Specifically,

Sametime development manager Konrad Lagarde gave a demo during LotusSphere this year. He demonstrated some early integration between IBM’s internal Metaverse and Sametime.

During the presentation, Lagarde text chatted with a participant, also a 3-D avatar, who shows his enthusiasm by jumping up and down. Lagarde also showed a conference call feature for the Sametime client with pictures of invited attendees arranged around a two-dimensional drawing of a conference table. Those that are already present are shown around the table, while at the bottom of the screen are shaded photos of those who are invited but have not yet arrived.

Dan Pelino, General Manager, IBM Global Healthcare & Life Sciences Industry announced the IBM Virtual Healthcare Island in Second Life in February.

“We believe that the use of our new virtual world provides an important, next-generation Internet-based resource to show how standards; business planning; the use of a secured, extensible and expandable architecture; HIE interoperability; and data use for healthcare analytics, quality, wellness and disease management are all helping to transform our industry.“ IBM’s Healthcare & Life Sciences (HCLS) Industry will continue to develop the new island in months to come.  The island can perform as a virtually “always on” demonstration tool for IBM’s sales personnel.

Michael Osias of IBM Research is quoted in an announcement about a 3D visualisation of a data centre, which was implemented using OpenSim.

Implenia, a Swiss construction, building services and real estate company, used the IBM virtual data center solutions to extend its existing virtual operations center which was previously used mainly for the facilities management processes. Adding the data from datacenter equipment allowed Implenia a finer control of the HVAC and security system. The virtual data center is a tailored 3-D replica of servers, racks, networking, power and cooling equipment that allows data center managers to experience real-time enhanced awareness of their dispersed resources.

“Viewing information about your data center in 2-D text — even in real time — only tells a data center manager part of the story, because our brains are wired for sight and sound,” said IBM Researcher Michael Osias, who architected the 3-D data center service. “By actually seeing the operations of your data center in 3-D, even down to flames showing hotspots and visualizations of the utilization of servers allows for a clearer understanding of the enterprise resources, better informed decision-making and a higher level of interaction and collaboration.”
see also

PowerUp ( is an educational game created by IBM, using the Torque engine. It teaches teenagers about engineering as well as environmental issues. PowerUp is

a free, online, multiplayer game that allows students to experience the excitement and the diversity of modern engineering. Playing the game, students work together in teams to investigate the rich, 3D game environment and learn about the environmental disasters that threaten the game world and its inhabitants.
see also

Emotiv ( and IBM announced a partnership in February around a headset which “interprets the interaction of neurons in the brain” and is due to go on sale later in 2008.

“It picks up electrical activity from the brain and sends wireless signals to a computer,” said Tan Le, president of US/Australian firm Emotiv.

Emotiv is working with IBM to develop the technology for uses in “strategic enterprise business markets and virtual worlds”  Paul Ledak, vice president, IBM Digital Convergence said brain computer interfaces, like the Epoc headset were an important component of the future 3D Internet and the future of virtual communication.

Bluegrass was discussed in January 2008 in the Virtual Worlds News blog

IBM Research is working to solve the digital divide in the workforce with Project Bluegrass, a project that integrates three key factors in motivating Millennials — collaboration, communication and visualization. Project Bluegrass takes the IBM Jazz technology and creates a virtual-world environment where software developers can work, chat and brainstorm around a virtual water cooler while “seeing” their teammates alongside interactive visual representations of ideas, data from the Web and from Jazz-based sources.

Metaverse object creation

For a while now our CIO Innovate Quick team have been busy on the Torque based Metaverse. As we have explained before this is primarily aimed at having a set of resources we can delve a bit deeper into the code of. The aim is not to create an all encompassing platform, as personally I dont think there ever will need to be an all encompassing one.
The team creating and writing and enhancing what we have has grown recently. This has meant some of the things we were missing, but wanted to put in are now getting done.
The biggest of these just went live, that of object manipulation. We tend to develop the Web 2.0 way and put things out there for people, fellow IBMers, to experiment with and break at will. This principle has been used for lots of things under out Technology Adoption Program(TAP). Applications get floated out under this banner and successful ones get adopted in a more serious fashion.
Torque as a game engine already had a live editing function and interface, but this was only really for the server, not for each client to interact with.
Now we have the start of the ability to create objects from the pallette in real time. The strange thing was that despite having been able to do this as a server for some time I felt different rezzing and moving an object as an avatar. I knew that I missed the ability to do this, having been spoilt in that sense by Second Life, but to be able to enter a world and just Rez, even if you are not going to do it all the time seems to have a different psychological impact (at least on me!) to more static virtual worlds where it is merely your participation that is allowed.
Of course as soon as you can create then a power mad spark fires up and you want to build lots of things, more and better. However for now we are able to investigate what this will mean for our colleagues entering this environment, for a comfort factor and then move to start to examine the business value to creation and manipulation in our own environment.
penguin ball
So yes this is not a complex business object that we are interacting with, but I was able to build this live (from the objects we have) and so that is an interesting start to another part of the journey.

All change at Linden Lab

Well it is all over the blogs, so it has to be here too but Philip Rosedale is stepping down as Linden’s CEO to become Chairman of the Board. I got to hear this on twitter first and it seemed worth a bit of perspective from where I am sitting as we have been part of this journey in some way or other.
Second Life is growing, the business and social side of virtual worlds and metaverses is growing, for a visionary and creator to have cope with day to day operations is quite unsuprisingly not something that someone in that position should plan to do.
The CEO runs/leads the day to day organization in some form, even in a libertarian organization like Linden Labs. Philip states in his personal announcement “I am not going anywhere! I will focus on product strategy and vision, continuing to design the right kind of company, and being an effective communicator and evangelist about Second Life.” Props to New World Notes for pointing this link out
I can see the problem. Having a passion to get things going is very very different from ongoing projects. It seems a very sensible move to let give him the space to do what he does, very much in touch with the company. Chairman of the board is not exactly standing down is it?
I also twittered that this helps to get around founders syndrome, which as the Reuters article indicates tends to be avoided by most passionately led startups with this sort of move.
So I really dont think this is something for people to get worried about, if anything it shows a maturing of the general metaverse business and the success that it needs this sort of move to happen.
So good luck Philip and good luck to any successor as CEO.
Ren Reynolds and I just agreed over twitter to had a Spud(potato) gun duel at dawn to win the right to make the decision for Linden Lab.