Thursday, November 27, 2008

Real Virtual Worlds SOS (State of Standards) Q3-2008

In the latest issue of the Journal of Virtual Worlds I had the opportunity to capture the essence of our work on standards for virtual worlds, why they are so important, and how we are going about it.

The purpose of this think piece is to call for inputs for an emerging worldwide effort to develop standards for virtual worlds. Such inputs will go into the build up of MPEG-V (Moving Picture Experts Group Virtual Worlds Standard) in the next three years. The MPEG group is part of the International Standards Organization (ISO). (This is a short summary of a presentation I gave in the Virtual Worlds London conference in October, 2008).

The entire paper is here.

Here are my assumptions from the paper:

1. Virtual worlds are destined to become big, in the sense of meaningful, influential, and making money for various current and new players. Every aspect of our lives will be affected by virtual worlds. Virtual worlds are not only going to be part of our lives, they are going to enhance, improve, and better our quality of life. Much like the Internet, virtual worlds will allow us to do “older” things more effectively, and do other things anew.

2. Real virtual worlds are defined as an integration of four factors: 3D view of the world, community, creation, and commerce (3D3C). The more we have in these factors the closer we get to real virtual worlds. In that sense IMVU, Second Life, and Entropia are more real virtual worlds than Club Penguin, World of Warcraft, and SIMS online.

3. Standards, as a concept and mechanism, are often misunderstood. People often link standards with competing concepts: open and free on one hand, propriety patents and limitation of creativity on the other hand. Like many other human constructs, standards are not inherently good or bad – it is what you do with standards that gives them value, be it good or bad. (see my model for standards).

4. Currently the virtual worlds industry operates more like the computer gaming industry than the Internet industry. Each developer, be it private (e.g., Linden, Forterra) or an open source (e.g., Sun Darkstar, OpenSim) is developing its own server, client, and rules of engagement. The inherent rationale of these efforts is a combination of “we know best” and “we will conquer the world.” While this may be the case (see Microsoft Windows, Apple iPod, or Google Search), the common public good calls for a connected system like the Internet where different forces can innovate in particular spots of the value chain.

5. On a personal note: I have a specific take on this work that should be disclosed. I am part of the EU based Metaverse1 project. It is a consortium of 35 organizations mostly based in Europe to set “Global standards between real and virtual worlds.” This work will feed into the previously mentioned MPEG-V effort. Having said that, the efforts to develop standards for virtual worlds are just starting. It will take time. At this point, we are defining the path. We have a long way to go.

The entire paper is here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Art of the day: Annie Ok: My Life as Avatar 06-08

Enjoy this unique movie about one avatar (see source):

Right Sizing Real and Virtual: Google Lively, Second Life, Lehman and AIG

Following the last weeks, we really need to ask ourselves what is real and what is virtual? (picture Source)

In the real world:
Here's one angle of the Lehman Brothers story (source):

... at the end of every trading day, the Asian and European operations [of Lehman] would remit their (very large) cash float back to Lehman Brothers in New York. That makes sense: it helped to strengthen the New York trading operations during a time when the cash would otherwise be sitting unused. Then, come the weekend, they'd get their cash float back, and continue operations.

Except ... before he declared bankruptcy, Dick Fuld decided that Lehman's Asian and European operations would not get their cash back. Instead, it stayed in the US -- where it was bought as part of the Lehman US operations by Barclays.

Maybe all this was necessary, like some kind of medical emergency triage where only one of the triplets can be saved, and you have to put all of your resources into that one. But it's still easy to see how the Lehman operations in Europe and Asia would be extremely unhappy about it. After all, they weren't the ones who loaded up on dodgy residential and commercial real-estate assets -- to the contrary, they were making lots of money, for themselves and for their parent.

This was just the beginning. AIG got $150 Billion (source), and other financial firms will need to be saved. Lehman was founded in 1850; AIG was (is?) the largest insurance firm in the (real) world.

In the virtual world: This week we also heard that Google is closing Lively -- Google's foray into virtual worlds. Google urges members to make videos and pictures of their creation, in their web page about the shut down. See Longer post here.

In addition, Second Life has lost 1025 islands (from Nov 1). That means the creations of 1025 island owners are gone forever. This is not the first time people shut down their islands. Some of the best creations in Second Life were wiped. (See the amazing Watch the world(s) - revisited story of the lost island of Starry Nights).

Welcome to right sizing. Both in the real worlds and the virtual worlds.

Both the real and the virtual is readjusting to what is really needed and wanted. We will focus on the core things: food, shelter, family, fun.

Firms that create real value will survive and thrive. Google will probably re-focus their "virtual" energy in Google Earth (see for example Google's work on Virtual Rome). And Second Life?

Well, we will get better user experience with better islands. Hopefully Linden (the God's of Second Life) will be able to correctly right size -- commit their energy's to a solid virtual worlds experience.

While I may be too optimistic, I see the latest right sizing as good. It will allow the good players to blossom.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Second Life has lost 1025 Islands since Nov 1, 2008

Nov 13, USA time (post from original) -367
Nov 15, 23:00 Israel Time: -608
Nov 21, 19:36 Israel Time: -1025
Nov 25, 21:43 Israel Time: -1420
Dec 9, 18:51 Israel Time: -1977 (this is the final number for November 2008).

OMG OMG OMG... I am really unhappy today. Wagner James Au from the blog New Worlds Notes is reporting that Second Life is loosing private islands.
To those unfamiliar with these statistics, Linden has added 1045 island in October, and dropped -367 island in November (and this is Month to date! - and we are in the middle of the month.

See Linden Page.

There is a lot on anger in the community around land pricing + the economy is taking its toll on Second Life. People and organizations do not even bother re-selling their island. They are simply dropping it. If it continues -- we will probably see this item go away from the official stats pages.

This is -- yet another -- call for action for Linden. I hope -- and pray -- they will listen.
"You have something very good... don't kill it."

Discover Ancient Rome in Google Earth

In my last talk I spoke about Google Earch as a platform for virtual worlds. The following sample demonstrates this. We now miss some Gladiators. have fun.

see the video or jump to this address:

Friday, November 14, 2008

New issue of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research on: Consumer Behavior in Virtual Worlds

I am happy to report on the release of a new issue of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research ( on the theme of "Consumer Behavior in Virtual Worlds" with 5 peer reviewed articles, 3 non-peer reviewed research papers, and 6 brief think pieces. The second issue was edited by Natalie Wood and Caja Thimm.

Editor's Corner

Guest Editor's Introduction
Natalie Wood

Peer Reviewed Research Papers

Consuming Code: Use-Value, Exchange-Value, and the Role of Virtual Goods in Second Life
Jennifer Martin
Abstract | PDF
Virtual World Affordances: Enhancing Brand Value
So Ra Park, Fiona Fui-Hoon Nah, David DeWester, Brenda Eschenbrenner, Sunran Jeon
Abstract | PDF
On the Relationship between My Avatar and Myself
Paul R Messinger, Xin Ge, Eleni Stroulia, Kelly Lyons, Kristen Smirnov, Michael Bone
Abstract | PDF
The Social Construction of Virtual Reality and the Stigmatized Identity of the Newbie
Robert E. Boostrom, Jr.
Abstract | PDF
The “New” Virtual Consumer: Exploring the Experiences of New Users
Lyle R Wetsch
Abstract | PDF

Research Papers

Ugly Duckling by Day, Super Model by Night: The Influence of Body Image on the Use of Virtual Worlds
Enrique Becerra, Mary Ann Stutts
Abstract | PDF
Symbolic and Experiential Consumption of Body in Virtual Worlds: from (Dis)Embodiment to Symembodiment
Handan Vicdan, Ebru Ulusoy
Abstract | PDF
Demographics of Virtual Worlds
Jeremiah Spence
Abstract | PDF

“Think pieces”

Surveillance, Consumers, and Virtual Worlds
Douglas R Dechow
Abstract | PDF
Second Life and Hyperreality
Michel Maffesoli
Abstract | PDF
Having But Not Holding: Consumerism & Commodification in Second Life
Lori Landay
Abstract | PDF
Metaverse: A New Dimension?
Yohan Launay, Nicolas Mas
Abstract | PDF
Virtual Worlds Research: Global X Local Agendas
Gilson Schwartz
Abstract | PDF
Real Virtual Worlds SOS (State of Standards) Q3-2008
Yesha Sivan
Abstract | PDF

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Video: Real-time Satellites in Google Earth

This collection by Analytic Graphics Inc. shows real-time positions of 13,000 satellites around the Earth in Google Earth.