In this online-only event, Mike Ziegenhagen shared his growing expertise–and most of all his enthusiasm–ror the expanding sector of virtual world applications. Many are by now aware of Second Life, but Mike documented an application from Forterra Systems called OLIVE ™, an “online interactive virtual environment” that offers the security sorely lacking in the standard, free version of Second Life (OLIVE can be seen as “Second Life in business suit”). His experience with the team was also a great opportunity to work with both artists and actors, to achieve the best possible renderings and life-like actions of the avatars. Verisimilitude is more and more critical to success. Mike also gave a brief tour of Blue Mars, a 3D social networking application, based on high-definition game technology, that is definitely worth exploring.
There are additional applications for hosting secure virtual meetings: Venuegen can be “rented” for under $100/mo. for ten people or so, and 3DXplorer offers an enterprise beta version. Both are browser based. Also, Second Life Work offers an application-based approach for those willing to buy.
Why bother? It turns out that business are seeing the advantages to hosting so-called hybrid events and conferences. Participants who want to meet in meatspace continue to do so, while those distributed around the world appreciate the advantages of entering the virtual world. Indeed, perpetual virtual environments are turning out to be profit centers. Not only that, but they can be really fun (as long as you don’t get lost in layers of consciousness, Inception-style, so to speak. It is actually not all that hard to get lost. But fortune favors the brave and the curious. With increasing bandwidth and video processing power for less and less money, it it not inconceivable to see virtual meeting places become more and more common. They can be used to unite family members, and they provide unique opportunities for training. STC is rumored to have a group (more detail to be provided when it is available), and you can always check out NPR’s Science Friday Second Life.
The NorthBay Chapter is looking forward to playing around with this new medium, so stay tuned and let us know if you want to test the virtual waters. It is almost as if the spirit of the early days of computing were back again.