By: Amy Wohl (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Yesterday, I was at an IBM Analyst Briefing on Open Source and Open Standards. It was a very good meeting. One session was on IBM's forrays into virtual reality via Second Life (they own 24 islands and have options on more), which includes avatars of some of their execs and numerous meetings with customers, analysts, and press as well as internal meetings, Basically, they're trying to figure out whether there's a business opportunity in on-line virtual worlds and be ready for that opportunity if there is one.
They have had some success at creating meetings among geographically distributed groups.
I spent a brief one-on-one session with a researcher from IBM's research labs who has a focus on Second Life, debating about why I didn't find it exciting. Certainly, I've tried it (and more than once). I've also read and written about it.
My basic comment was there's nothing going on here that I haven't seen before. It's just doing a reasonable job of exploiting current technology and that isn't enough.
Basically, I want to be thrilled. I want to feel that something happens when I'm playing in virtual reality that is different and more exciting than what I can do elsewhere. Otherwise it isn't worth the trouble.
And then, this afternoon, I came across Alan Graham's article
(http://blogs.zdnet.com/web2explorer/?p=343&tag=nl.e539) on why he isn't thrilled, either, comparing Second Life to Myst. It's a good article. I was much amused (and mainly agree) with what he said. FOr me, the previous graphics experiences I had enjoyed and compared Second Life (unfavorably) to
(1) A Mac immersive game (more like a trip) called Kyoto, which took you through the ancient city;
(2) An attempt by the Paragraph people to build a history game where your avatar and those of other gamers would meet game-created avatars as you lived and experienced a historic place and time;
(3) All the VRML conferences I had written about in the past, including all the attempts to mimic shopping on line with avatars in stores where books could be read and music played as well as public buildings duplicated on-line so that your avatar could meet with and enjoy its facilities with both other avatars and real people in the physical environment.
Compared to that, Second Life seems less than innovative and a little boring. I confess I haven't visited the porno part, but then that isn't an interest of mine. Maybe I should go look at it for research purposes?
In any case, I wanted those of you who, like me, are puzzled about what people are so excited about to read Graham's article. Maybe we need to think of Second Life as a platform where we don't just build places, but we create immersive experiences that like Myst or Kyoto completely involve the participants. Please. I'm waiting.