Virtual Worlds

All posts tagged Virtual Worlds

With the ringing in of the New Year it is once again time to recap the Top 5 blog posts from 2011, click on any of the below links for the full entry. Happy New Year to everyone!

Serious Gaming in the United States Military

In an article featured in the August 2011 issue of Military Training Technology the magazine asked, “What role(s) will your company best fill as the United States military turns more to the use of serious gaming in an effort to reduce the military’s training costs while maintaining the combat readiness of the warfighter?”

Virtual Worlds for the Defense Sector

The Department of Defense has been in the news on a number of occurrences in past months highlighting the use of virtual worlds by the organization. They are utilizing virtual worlds for a host of different applications, one of which deals with post-traumatic stress in our soldiers, see this story for more details. This project is called The T2 Virtual PTSD Experience and is based in Second Life. By being based in Second Life it does allow an extra layer of interactivity as the player/ trainee is able to interact with anyone else that is experiencing the simulation. It just goes to show that the immersive nature of virtual worlds make them a prime candidate for this type of training and much more!

The Uncanny Valley

The blog post title may have you scratching the top of your head a little bit…The “Uncanny Valley” is a phenomenon that leads to a reaction from an all ‘but-not-quite-right’ simulated human form, whether it be robotic or animated. The term was invented by roboticist Masahiro Mori to depict the negative emotional response ‘real’ humans exhibit when a robot (avatar) seems practically human. Appearance and action are the two biggest factors that could potentially lead to this phenomenon playing out while one is immersed in a virtual world. Thus the overall quality of the avatar is paramount in any type of training simulation, the worst thing you can do is lead the player to possess detachment from the training. The human brain never ceases to amaze me.

Virtual Learning Environments- A New Trend?

Elearning! Magazine recently came out with a report on Virtual Learning Environments: Trends and Insights. The report outlined that virtual learning environments are one of the fastest growing solutions for learning. According to the report “In a June 2010 study conducted by Elearning! Media Group, 64 percent of all corporate respondents have implemented virtual learning within their organizations, and 18 percent more plan to add them. The same study reports virtual worlds for learning will grow 250 percent over the next year to 21 percent of enterprises. At the same time, social learning and collaboration is exploding, with 77 percent of enterprise using or planning to use these tools for learning.” Let me summarize that for you in case you weren’t paying attention…64 percent of respondents have implemented virtual learning within their organizations!

What Role are you Looking to Play?

An often-overlooked critical aspect of simulation training is the best manner in which to train: individual or collectively. Visual Purple offers three modes:
1) Single Player, Single Role – The trainee will always play one role; synchronous interaction with live players not supported or desirable due to intelligent simulation world.
Available: Decision-Based, Virtual World, Hybrid, Embedded

My how time flies… We are quickly approaching the end of 2011 which reminds me that it is once again time to reflect back on a prediction that I have mentioned in past blog entries. Way back in 2007 Gartner predicted that “By the end of 2011, 80 percent of active Internet users (and Fortune 500 enterprises) will have a “second life”, but not necessarily in Second Life“, according to Gartner, Inc. Where do we stand now with this?

Multi-user 3D environments once held so much promise, the idea just may have been ahead of its time. Back in December of last year I wrote about the hype cycle provided by Gartner which shows a timeline of 5 to 10 years for mainstream adoption of public virtual worlds. Funny that three years after the fact of Gartner saying virtual worlds would have 80 percent of all active internet users that just last year they said another 5 to 10 years for mainstream adoption. According to a post on Hypergrid Business Virtual worlds gained 214 million new users in the second quarter of 2011“, according to virtual worlds research firm KZero Worldwide. It was the largest quarterly increase since the company began tracking these numbers in 2008.” Second Life has 27 million registered users, so they say. How many of them have actually logged in within the last 3 months is unknown to most.

I believe that since the growth of mobile computing and the sea of apps that 3D virtual worlds might just once again have a chance. So let’s not completely write them off- perhaps Gartner should extend their prediction and also expand it to include some other popular virtual worlds of today rather than yesterday’s world of Second Life. I believe that 3D virtual worlds (with purpose) still have a lot of unreached potential to capitalize on in the future.

All too often a client gets confused with all of the different types of training available, from E-Learning to CBT and Decision-Based simulations to Virtual Worlds (and now Hybrid Simulations)… the possibilities just seem endless. For those unfamiliar with the different styles of training available on the market today the task of choosing the right training method can be daunting. In the end it all comes down to utilizing the right tool to get the job done, in the most cost efficient and timely matter.

Let me highlight a few differentiating factors that an organization should consider when looking into employing a new type of training, you’ll notice that Visual Purple offers checkmarks in all of the below boxes.

Highly interactive
• 3D
• Intelligent World – trainees don’t have the luxury to just ‘play’
• Compelling storyline
• Character development and quests
• After Action reviews
• Aptitude screening
• Realistic scenarios
• LMS reporting
• Reduced cost
• Short development time
• Easily updateable
• Reference documents

The obvious choice here is a modern approach to workforce training whereby an organization can cost effectively build an efficient training tool that is proven!

Once again it is that time of the year for the hype cycle projections to be released by Gartner. At the beginning of this year I highlighted a few thoughts on what virtual worlds held in store for 2010, while looking back at 2009. Click here to look back at last years predictions.

While the year has yet to come to a close the graph below represents public virtual worlds coming out of the trough of disillusionment and towards the slope of enlightenment with an overall projection of 5 to 10 years for mainstream adoption. My thought is that they will take less time to become mainstream, but I guess time will tell.

It sure seems like Linden Lab was all the talk in the virtual world industry for a few weeks when they launched the much-anticipated Second Life Enterprise. Well the SL Enterprise glitz and glamour has fizzled out and now Linden Lab is even making more changes which has its user base up in arms. The pillar of the virtual world industry, who was the pioneer and stage setter has now gone even as far as increasing their pricing structure for non-profits and educators. Admittedly, SL is still granting Homestead and Open Space to qualifying organizations, but non-profits and educators make up a large part of overall publicity around SL and a 200 percent price spike is quite substantial to these already budget-strapped organizations. We also know they have had internal changes as well, so what does all this really add up to? Did they put the cart before the horse? Did they price themselves out of the market? Is the loyal SL user base still there? Are these really the best business decisions or is this the beginning of the end for Second Life? My projection is that many will now turn to OpenSim grids and give up on the high’s and low’s that has become common place for Second Life. Even fundraising efforts have declined within Second Life. SL’s 2010 Relay for Life only raised $222,804 for cancer research while the 2009 event raised $274,000. Maybe they will surprise us all but as of now the business decisions being made seem to have no real rhyme or reason behind them (at least not to us outsiders), but maybe I will be proven wrong in the future. Will Microsoft be part of the picture…I guess time will tell.

Here’s a link to a prior post on Linden Lab and the Future of Virtual Worlds:

Between new projects (sims and whole-cloth new technologies), vacations and additions to the family, we have been a little sidetracked to the say the least. But the good news is we will be launching soon a newly updated website to kick things off right! Stay tuned over the next few weeks for some exciting announcements around new technologies, one of which has been in the works for nearly 2 years. In a nutshell we are enjoying the summer, are well and ramping up for a very exciting fall…so, stay tuned for September goodies! A special thank you goes out to all of our loyal readers and clients.

Frustration abounds! Lately it seems as though the term “virtual worlds” has morphed to such a wide variety of meanings that it is nearly impossible to go back to “meaning zero.” No longer is one going to understand what I mean when describing a virtual world, instead most folks have fallen victim to confusing articles and experiences resulting in many different visions of what a virtual world is. It is a shame that it has come down to this and a few months ago I thought it would iron itself out…alas. The social gaming applications are overtaking the term/ meaning of virtual worlds (and no I do not consider Farmville on Facebook to be a virtual world). These social games are giving virtual worlds the wrong image in people’s minds, which is very unfortunate. These iPhone types of game applications are simplistic in nature, non-immersive and frankly just a graphically unimpressive experience. Sure, I could just settle on ‘serious virtual worlds’ instead, but compared to Farmville, what is considered serious nowadays?

Yes they are more fantasy like virtual worlds- not too much mimicking of the real world going on here folks. Oh yes and unrealistic avatars too. YoVille compared to Second Life is like comparing apples to oranges. Social gaming has taken over the real meaning of virtual worlds, more and more users are signing up daily for the likes of World of Warcraft and Habbo. The technology bar has officially been lowered. Facebook and 2D games take things back a few steps in some respects, but that’s where the users and the money are fortunately or unfortunately. Virtual worlds have now gone social and there is no turning back to redefine the term. Immersive, 3D environments must now take on a new name, other than the virtual world term. So maybe it’s virtual training or perhaps even a virtual collaborative environment, time will tell. Regardless, much opportunity abounds for users and producers across training and social gaming/media.

Back in February Linden Labs released a new Second Life 2.0 Beta Viewer. With all of the talk about the recent Second Life Viewer 2.0 Beta release, I figured I would give it a whirl. After I download and install the viewer upgrade, I am in. Well my experience was that I was now a bald avatar… no auburn color hair to blow in the wind. Not to mention just random talking and music at the location I entered at with some vulgar language mixed in. Those not familiar with virtual worlds and not knowing that SL actually has much more to offer may be tempted to exit the new Beta viewer. I on the other hand decide to stay and give SL the benefit of the doubt. Some type of annoying rock music is playing in the background- so I decide the fastest way is to fly in order to get out of the current environment and go explore wherever I was teleported into. Now you’ve got to remember that when I test out virtual worlds I want to approach the experience as a complete newbie to the virtual world- the less I know about all the new bells and whistles of the Second Life Viewer 2.0 Beta the better. I want to see if I really notice a difference, and be surprised by the cool things I might find rather than looking back at the SL blog or any other of the publicity that the Beta viewer had ramped up. Oh now I just ran into the yellow tape asking for age verification- my mind already feels tainted for the party I walked into when entering Second Life so I decide not to even go there. So my quick observations of my 20 minute test drive of the new Second Life Viewer are as follows:
• Ability to share (web content)
• Cleaner and more user friendly navigation menu
• A viewer as 3D browser for the user interface
• Movement away from strictly Linden scripting language (i.e. Flash, PHP, etc.)

In my opinion these changes won’t lead to a stampede of people signing up for Second Life. For regular SL users the new bells and whistles probably don’t even impress all that much, kind of like getting a newer version of your web browser- not too many noticeable changes although may now be happening behind the scenes. However, I can see more potential with the new viewer for companies and educational outlets to utilize SL. Although it is prettier than the prior releases, it doesn’t really take a giant step for Linden Labs, nor virtual worlds for that matter. A little more intuitive, perhaps a little bit better of a user experience. Improvement of overall work applications and use in SL. Who knows what the future holds with Linden Lab’s recent purchase of the social network, Avatars United, is the next step to go more social?

A recent report from GameIndustry stated that 83% of the United States population plays games; averaging 10.5 hours spent playing per week.

Percentage of US Population Playing MMOs/Virtual Worlds
Image courtesy of Game Industry

More and more leading companies are adopting games for learning. Perhaps ‘game’ has a negative connotation for some. And I am sorry to say that in some instances I know why, some so called “serious games” look like really bad jokes to even the untrained eye.

According to a 2008 study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which works to further understanding of entrepreneurship, the economic impact of a great lecture can improve learning outcomes by 17 percent, while switching to a different delivery mechanism such as serious gaming can improve learning outcomes by 108 percent! Yes that is a 91 percent difference between a lecture vs. a different delivery method (such as a serious game).

Situated Research recently posted a blog entry entitled “Study shows that virtual worlds can influence real-world decisions”. Hummm….really?!

“A group of scientists at Cambridge University has conducted a study that shows that associations in videogames transfer directly to the real world. A group of volunteers played a (rather basic, from the look of it) cycling game, where they would be given a slurp of fruit juice if a cyclist from their team passed them, but a slurp of salty tea if a rival cyclist passed them.

A few days later, the participants were invited back and given the choice of two chairs in the waiting room, one with the logo of their team, and one with the logo of the rival team. Three quarters of participants picked the chair with their team’s logo, despite most people claiming not to notice the design.

The scientists’ conclusion? “Whatever you’ve learned in the computer game does have an effect on how you behave toward the stimulus in the real world” says the leader of the study, Paul Fletcher. For those of you who play computer games on a regular basis, you’ll know that virtual worlds can be just as ‘real’ as the real world, but I suppose it’s nice to have that confirm by science.”