The SLENZ Update – No 94, June 2, 2009

Yes Mildred, MUVEs do pay their way …

Another take  on  the  real value

of immersive technologies


Just what is the business value or ROI (Return on Investment) of using immersive technologies in the marketplace?

It’s not a question that would immediately spring to the mind of most educators and academics  but the answer to it will determine just how great the success or otherwise of the  burgeoning  virtual world environment  will be and  whether it is a flash in the pan like Videotex and Betamax  video cassette recorders  or a platform for the future.

Two highly skilled credible researchers in the immersive field, Erica (right) and Sam Driver (lower right), of ThinkBalm, have just endeavoured to answer the question in a survey of  66 organisations, including Microsoft, IBM, BP, BAE,  and government and non-government organisations, focusing on the value to businesses of adopting immersive internet technologies or virtual world environments.

Their detailed 36-page report, ‘Immersive Internet Business Value Study 2009’,  should give heart to promoters of the value of immersive worlds – although the critics will again be dismissive. It is available here for free download.DriverErica

They point out, however, that not everyone who’s been implementing immersive technology in the workplace can — or even expects to — quantify the business value of the investments they’ve made so far.

But, that  said, various data points collected via survey and interviews indicated that investments in immersive technologies in the workplace are yielding value.

“As just one example, BP expects to deliver tens of millions USD in business value from its investments in immersive technology,” they said. “The company has already recouped the cost of many of the Immersive Internet investments it made in 2008 and 1Q 2009, according to Brian Ralphs, a director in the IT chief technology office.”

They found that more than 40 percent of those surveyed (26 of 66) saw a positive total economic benefit from investments in immersive technologies in 2008 and first quarter 2009, and more than 50 percent of respondents (34 of 65) expected to obtain a positive total economic benefit in 2009.

“Quantification of this value was all over the map, ranging from less than US$10,000 to more than US$1 million,” they said. “The number of respondents who expect to obtain economic benefit of US$25,000  or more in 2009 is more than double the number who indicated they achieved this level for 2008 / 1Q 2009. “

On the other side of the coin they found though that many who had been implementing immersive technology in the workplace did not expect to achieve a return on their investment.

Other key findings included:

  • 94 percent of those surveyed reported some level of success  (” or feels like a success”).
  • 74 percent said they would or might expand their investment this year or next while almost  30 percent of survey respondents (19 of 66) said their organisation recouped their investment in immersive technologies in less than nine months.
  • Learning/training (80 percent, 53 of 66) and meetings (76 percent or 50 of 66) were the most prevalent uses.
  • The top motivation for preferring immersive technology over alternatives were enabling people in disparate locations to spend time together, increased innovation, and cost savings or avoidance of costs.DriverSam
  • Biggest benefit – enabling people in disparate locations to spend time together, followed by opportunity to show innovation and cost saving
  • Immersive technology won out over a variety of alternatives primarily due to low cost and the increased engagement it delivered. The level of engagement meant that “Immersive meetings are more like real meetings than they are like web conferences”.  The leading alternatives were Web conferencing and in-person meetings, followed by phone calls.
  • Work-related use of the Immersive Internet is in the early adopter phase. Before it can pass into the early majority phase, practitioners and the technology vendors who serve them must “cross the chasm.” The most common barriers to adoption are target users having inadequate hardware, corporate security restrictions, and getting users interested in the technology.

Erica Driver, a co-founder and principal at ThinkBalm,  is a leading US industry analyst and consultant with 15 years of experience in the IT sector. She is quoted in mainstream and industry trade press including the Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CIO, and Computerworld. The other co-founder, Sam Driver, is an inventor and entrepreneur whose take on the Immersive Internet is heavily influenced by science, game theory, and science fiction. At the University of Massachusetts Medical School, he was part of a team that discovered RNA interference (RNAi) which was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. He founded Qik Technology to develop intellectual property (IP) holdings in functional genomics as well as Evil Minions Games, an IP and product development company.